Get an authentic taste of Cuba by eating your way through the streets of Old Town Key West.
Just 90 miles from Cuba, Key West has been a haven for Cuban immigrants for centuries, infusing plenty of spicy food and flavor into the laid-back Keys lifestyle. Here’s our guide to the best food, culture, and things to do in Key West for those looking for a Havana fix close to home.
The corner of Southard and Grinnell is one of the first places to visit if you’re looking to eat true Cuban jama (slang for “food”) in Key West. And it doesn’t get better or more authentic than the silky café con leches this family-owned Old Town eatery and grocery store has been brewing since the late ’70s. The thick Cuban espressos are as intense, sweet, and inviting as the locals who sit outside and swap stories every morning – even when Five Brothers isn’t open.
Cole’s Peace Artisan Bakery & Sandwich Shop
When Key West’s only Cuban bakery closed, this palace of crusty handmade treats stepped in to ensure restaurants had a daily source for fresh-baked Cuban bread. That’s because the lard-based, baguette-like white bread goes stale quickly due to its lack of preservatives. It’s hard not to get visions of a sultry Havana night as you bite into the flaky, paper-thin crust, especially when it’s buttered and pressed into a gooey Cuban cheese toast sandwich.
Looks can be deceiving at Sandy’s Café. Tucked in the corner of a laundromat and sporting a small, unassuming outdoor counter, this 24-hour eatery’s hulking Cuban mixto can put Miami’s star Cubanos to shame. Whether you’re enjoying one during a late night of bar hopping on Duval Street or while recovering the next morning, each saucy bite is packed with enough layers of ham, spicy pork, lettuce, and tomato to make you question why other sandwiches even exist.
Stepping into this small Catherine Street restaurant is like sitting down for a home-cooked Cuban meal. You won’t find touristy fare or crowds here; instead, expect one of the best and most unique dinner menus on the island. Traditional Cuban favorites, like oxtail and roasted pork, really shine at El Siboney, but the absolute must is the perfectly balanced homemade sangria (good luck ordering just one pitcher).
It’s hard to believe something so simple can be so good, but like the food on this list, these hand-cut, locally made Cuban shoes are the real deal. Thick-soled and leathery, all 17 styles of Kinos cost under $20 and are made with the same Cuban techniques the company has used since opening in 1966 out of the factory just two minutes from legendary Mallory Square. And the best part is you can watch the company make them while trying on pairs and leather handbags at the sales-pitch-free factory store.