American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Waterfront Dining at Coconuts Restaurant in Key Largo
Last week, I recommended Rock Reef Resort – where my husband and I stayed during a recent research trip to Key Largo – as an idyllic, budget-friendly spot for a romantic getaway. Well, if you ever choose to visit Key Largo, rest assured that you'll find several memorable restaurants in the area.
While gathering research for the upcoming Moon Florida Keys, I had the opportunity to sample a number of area restaurants, and one of my favorites was Coconuts Restaurant and Night Club (528 Caribbean Dr., 305/453-9794, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily, $8-27) on the oceanside of the Overseas Highway, near mile marker 100. My husband and I had last visited Coconuts in April 2007, and we remembered enjoying a pleasant (if somewhat expensive) meal on the outdoor patio, where we'd had a clear view of the adjacent marina, which is anchored by three resorts: Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn, and the pet-friendly Marina Del Mar.
In the intervening years, however, we'd heard some bad reviews about this waterfront eatery. Though many diners praised its tempting location and friendly service, others had complained of weak drinks, tasteless appetizers, shabby decor, and high prices – the kind of tourist trap that locals avoid. Yet, our most recent experience belied such negative opinions, which still mystify me.
While the restaurant might not look particularly stunning from the parking lot, the covered outdoor patio – the principal dining area – is a relaxing place to sip cocktails and sample local delicacies. In fact, although it was unseasonably chilly during our visit (which could partially explain why there were only a few diners on the patio and a handful of happy-hour leftovers at the outdoor bar), we were quite comfortable – due, in large part, to the outdoor heater near our table. Of course, given the few holes that I noticed in the canopy above the patio, we might have felt differently during a rainstorm, but as it was, we enjoyed the breezy, open-air ambience and background calypso music.
Shortly after being seated by Roger, the general manager, we took his advice and each ordered a mojito, which turned out to be an ideal blend of lime, mint, sugar, and rum, not too strong but strong enough – the best we've ever ordered in a restaurant – and considering that mojitos are popular in the Martone household, that's saying something indeed. As for the appetizers, the ones we tasted were all delicious – from the fresh ahi tuna sashimi ($11.95), festively seared with white and black sesame seeds, to the crispy coconut shrimp ($6.95), accompanied by a sweet Malibu rum sauce, to the stuffed artichoke ($8.50), which was even better than I expected. Being from New Orleans, I anticipated a traditional stuffed artichoke, the layers of which are typically filled with a seasoned breadcrumb concoction, but instead, we were served two tender, chilled artichoke hearts, packed with crab meat and drizzled in a creamy dill sauce. While I usually tire of a New Orleans-style stuffed artichoke halfway through eating it, I was reluctant to share this tasty dish with Dan (but, of course, I did anyway).
For dinner, Dan had the fried seafood platter ($26.95), which can also come grilled or blackened and includes fresh shrimp, mahi-mahi, and mini-lobster, plus rice and a medley of steamed zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Although it's a bit pricier than seafood platters in New Orleans, the addition of lobster and mahi-mahi make it more unique. Still, while Dan liked his meal, it's safe to say that I enjoyed mine even more. Also served with rice and steamed vegetables, the yellowtail Largo ($25.95) features a fresh snapper sautéed with shrimp, capers, artichoke hearts, lemon, garlic butter, and white wine – and I thought it was so yummy that I took a minute to compliment the owner, Colleen Mountain, who said she stands by her recipes. When I was too stuffed to finish, I decided to take my leftovers back to the hotel (where the dish reheated nicely the following day).
Despite everything we'd sampled, we couldn't pass up a chance to taste the key lime pie, which Lauren, the banquet manager, highly recommended. Now, as I've mentioned on this blog before, key lime pie just happens to be my all-time favorite dessert, so it's surely no surprise that I tasted a lot of it while traveling through the Florida Keys. Happily, Coconuts' version of this quintessential Florida treat was delightful indeed – tart, sweet, and enhanced by whipped cream and crisscrossing lime and raspberry sauces.
While we weren't able to try everything on the extensive menu – which includes soups, salads, sandwiches, steaks, seafood, appetizers, desserts, a raw bar, and plenty of beer and wine selections, tropical drinks, juices, and sodas – we're eager to stop by on our next trip to Key Largo. Although some dishes (such as the coconut shrimp entrée) are more expensive than they should be, the prices are actually comparable to those of other places in the often-expensive Florida Keys, from Mrs. Mac's Kitchen in Key Largo to the Cracked Conch Cafe in Marathon. As with most places, lunchtime at Coconuts is considerably cheaper.
Of course, you'll find a more lively atmosphere after dark, when the restaurant's interior space, which contains a separate bar, large television screens, and a roomy dance floor, becomes a nightclub. Besides offering nightly entertainment and a late-night menu, Coconuts is the site of many spirited events, from the Lingerie Love Parade on Valentine's Day to the Naughty Santa Parade at Christmastime – not to mention the annual Coconuts Dolphin Tournament, a corporate-sponsored fishing competition in May.
For information about other restaurants in the Key Largo area, consult the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce (MM 106 Bayside, 800/822-1088, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily) – and enjoy your next stay in the Florida Keys!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
© 2010 Laura Martone