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Key West Key Lime Shoppe (Key West, FL)

It’s hard to find a good Key Lime pie. Seriously, while the city of Key West is choc-a-bloc with stores making and selling key lime pie, often with “factory” in the name, there’s a lot of bad pie out there. A lot of it is chalky. The crusty is soggy (although that is a well-known hazard of the climate). The lime and sugar levels are off, leaving you with something that’s acidic and metallic, or sticky sweet. Really, the best key-lime pies aren’t the ones the tourists easily find, they are made by local residents in their own kitchens, for their own consumption. However, there are a number of places that do decent mass-produced pies. One I found (on a recommendation from a local kayak guide) was the Key West Key Lime Shoppe, which was recommended with a simple “There are better pies, but this is one of the best ones on the tourist strip.” Located across from Conch Republic’s bar, it’s pretty much one of those “all things Key Lime and/or lime green” stores, but they do have good pie.

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Conch Republic Seafood (Key West, FL)

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the problems with cruise ship tourism is that you get off the ship with several thousand other people, which really tends to swamp the local economy. And it also allows all sorts of lousy t-shirt shops, bad bars, and really bad restaurants to flourish. We were looking for a place to eat that (a) wouldn’t be overly busy, and was (b) good. We asked a few locals, including our kayaking tour guide, and they recommended Conch Republic.

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The Daily Creative Food Company (Miami, FL)

Before our cruise, we spent a few nights at the Doubletree Grand Biscayne Bay Hotel, which is located just north of the Venetian Causeway. However, this part of town is being redeveloped, and there just aren’t a lot of restaurants. However, one notable place we did find was The Daily Creative Food Co on Biscayne Avenue, about two blocks from the apartment. The Daily is a breakfast and lunch joint that sports an exhaustively large menu of sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items, most named after various newspapers. They also have a nice assortment of juices, smoothies, and coffee drinks.

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Latin American Bayside Cuban Cafe (Miami, FL)

One of the highlights of a trip to southern Florida is the ability to get some good Cuban food. Up here in cold New England, Cuban food is so far off the culinary radar (Boston proper doesn’t even have a vaguely authentic Cuban restaurant for example) that most people up here are of the mistaken impression that Cuban food is like Mexican food, which is really unfortunate, since Cuban food is very distinctive, and very delicious in it’s own right. Indeed, if I had to characterize Cuban food in terms of other cuisines, it’s basically a fusion of Spanish, French, African and Caribbean cuisines, drawing many distinctive flavors from each of these, with heavy influences of garlic, citrus, and sugar cane. Unfortunately, the downtown tourist areas (Port of Miami, Bayside, etc) are definitely not the center of Cuban cuisine in Miami, for that sort of action, you’re best heading to Calle Ocho and Little Habana. But in Bayside Marketplace (the big outdoor mall right on the Bay) is one little gem of a Cuban place, Latin American Bayside Cuban Cafe.

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