Best Food Stop On The Drive To Key West (2000)

Green Turtle Inn

The drive to Key West can be grueling, especially when you're hungry and stuck in weekend traffic. Resist the urge to succumb to a quick fish-sandwich-and-fritter fix and instead hit the brakes in Islamorada. The Green Turtle Inn, a delightful old-fashioned eatery where great food and just the right dose of show biz meet, will ease your weary traveling bones. The dark paneled walls covered with yellowing photos lend a cozy feel to this institution, which has sat oceanside since 1947. You'll relax the minute you walk in; song stylist Tina Martin is at the piano nightly, flipping through her massive songbooks, belting out breathy numbers, and greeting the masses with her trademark "turtle wave." The moderately priced fare is simply prepared yet delicious: steaks, chops, seasonal stone crabs, fresh catch of the day, surf and turf, lobster. The house specialty, turtle steak, is a savory treat that's always recommended by the waitstaff. (Don't feel guilty about sampling this delicacy: The Turtle assures the creatures no longer are harvested in local waters. You'll get the freshwater variety.) "Full-course" meals also are available and include soup (conch or turtle, from the restaurant's own cannery) or tomato juice, salad, rolls, and entrée with choice of potato and vegetable. Save room for key lime pie with five-inch-high meringue, "the original way it was made," according to a crusty waitress. If you have some time to spare before check-in, catch host/master magician Bastille's act on Friday and Saturday nights. The "world-famous illusionist" will dazzle you with his stellar mind-reading abilities. Before you hit the road, guzzle a cup of coffee and give Tina an appreciative turtle wave. Hop in your ride and you're halfway to paradise. Open every day except Monday.


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