Last week I visited Islamaroda for my pre-MBA fishing trip with my Dad. With how busy I'll be over the next couple of years I wanted to spend some quality time with the Pops before heading to UVA. After scouring the boards I sampled some of Key Largos and Islamarodas offerings; reviews are below:
Day 1 -
On the drive from Ft. Laurderadale to Islamaroda I satisfyed the hunger pains with a Clif Bar so I could try out Mrs. Mac's both for the food and the Key Lime Pie I've read so much about on this board. I ordered the T.J. Style fish which was one of the most delicatley preparred fish with a tremendously simple salsa that may have created the culinary highlight of the trip. Simply grilled fish with a somewhat spicy salsa, great beans and well preparred rice was perfect lite fare for a humid day. The Key Lime Pie at Mrs. Mac's was also my favorite of the trip, the gelatin like consistency, tartness and thiner crust all was exactly what I look for in a great Key Lime Pie.
For dinner that night we ate at the Island Grill where I simply had to try the inventive Tuna Nachos. The Tuna Nachos are less Nachos and more a crostini topped with seaweed, raw tuna and a wasabi sauce. The tuna was incredibly fresh and the cripsiness of the "toritlla" was a perfect contrast to the softness of the raw tuna - without question this app lived up to the hype. I also had the Island Grill's fried Grouper sandwich which was well preparred but not a stand out.
Day 2 -
We wanted a solid breakfast for our first day of chasing Bonefish and Tarpon so we headed to the Islamaroda Bakery/ Bob Bunz I; please avoid this place at all costs. My Dad and I sat down at a table at 6:40 am, thinking we'd be served and finished with our meals no later than 7:10 am. It wasn't until 7:15 that we were served (the guys sitting next to us had a similar problem) and the food was totally lack luster. I ordered the breakfast burrito which came with chicken (instead of bacon or sausage!?!) and my Dad had the pancakes, neither dish was preparred well and we would have been better served hitting up McDonalds.
Bentley's was the establishment of choice that night; the kitchy decor led to a real Keys feel but I was dissapointed in the food offerings. I really felt like I was ordered a seafood special from a Greek dinner here in NY. Everything was covered in some sort of sauce which seemed to mask the true flavor of the fish. We had the crab meatballs and sampled their 3 styles of cooked oysters as apps - the oysters were all very good but the amount of toppings prevented the flavor of the oyster from being enjoyed. The crab meatballs were ok and were essentially just stuffed mushrooms. For dinner I had the bohemian style Wahoo and my Dad had their fish sampler; the fish was fresh but I can't stand fish covered in a ton of toppings. In contrast to the TJ's style fish at Mrs. Mac's the Wahoo at Bentley's was covered in a really sweet red sauce with a seafood salsa - there was so much glop on the plate that I could barely find the fish! Wahoo is a meatier fish that can stand up to some saucing but really they went overboard - the fish sampler also had the same faults. I felt that the dishes at Bently's lacked direction and the chefs were trying to throw as much on a plate as possible in the hopes that it would kind of taste good.
Day 3 -
Breakfast again was a disaster but the experience and food was slightly better. We ate at the Tropical Cafe across the street from the Tavernier Marina. The food still took longer than expected to be served but was much better than Islamaroda bakery; I had an omlete that was cooked well but not remarkable.
Dinner on day 3 was a total dissapointment. Having fond memories of Mile Marker 88 my Dad and I decided to eat there. The ambiance was straight out of Cocktail with white tables, a blue auning and an awful DJ. I wish the food had stayed in the 80s as well. I had grilled yellow fin tuna which lacked any sort of presentation and any semblance of flavor. I'm a huge fan of simply grilled fish but the MM 88 chefs didn't get the job done. The fish was fresh but had no seasoning/ salting and lacked the sweet flavor you expect from yellow fin - a total dissapointment.
Day 4 -
Finally a great breakfast was had at Mangrove Mikes! Fantastic pancakes, well cooked eggs and fast service. The pancakes were light and fluffy, eggs were executed perfectly, the price was right and service was attentive, easily the best breakfast we had in the Keys.
On the way back to the airport we stopped at Marleys. Apparently Marleys just changed ownership and underwent a rennovation. I was nervous that with the new ownership the food would be lacking but that was far from the case. As a lover of fish tacos I couldn't resist ordering them and was blown away by the flavor. The wasabi mayo, pico de gailo and mahi mahi (I think) all came together perfectly; the best fish tacos I've had since a trip to San Diego a couple years ago.
To recap the highlights of the trip was Mrs. Macs, Island Grill, Mangrove Mikes and Marleys.
The major dissapointmens and places I'd avoid were Mile Marker 88, Bentleys and the Islamaroda Cafe.