In our family, we are creatures of habit, and it seems our habit is going to the Florida Keys for Spring Break. This year we ended up in Marathon, so I wanted to share with you the best restaurants in Marathon, FL that we patronized.
Usually we stay on Big Pine Key, which is about 20 minutes beyond Marathon. But it’s close enough that we’ve tried some of these places before our 2021 spring trip. Big Pine Key is smaller and quieter, and has fewer things to do than Marathon, so we usually spend at least one day here even when we don’t stay here.
I will say Marathon is the perfect distance between Key Largo (closest to Miami) and Key West (the last town and key you can drive to). It’s not far to go either direction if you want to do something that’s not available in Marathon. Plus there are great options for hotels, rental homes, and RV parks in the Florida keys nearby.
If you’re looking for restaurant reviews, keep on reading. The first three are honestly the best places to eat in Marathon, FL. (By the way, there is no “Marathon Key”, though some people call it that. Marathon is a town that actually sprawls across a thirteen different islands, or keys.)
Best Restaurants in Marathon FL
1. Keys Fisheries
Starting out the list is one of my favorite place to eat anywhere, and it just happens to be in Marathon! Keys Fisheries has some of the freshest seafood you’ll find anywhere, and an amazing selection. It’s definitely our favorite of all the seafood restaurants in Marathon, Florida. No matter if you’re in the mood for conch, shrimp, lobster, stone crab, or fish, they’ve got something you’re sure to love.
This isn’t a place you go for ambiance, but it’s #1 on my list for food. When you arrive, you’ll order from the window – probably after standing in a decently-long but manageable line! Order whatever you’re in the mood for, and they’ll cook it on demand and call you to come pick it up from the next window when it’s ready. They don’t ask your name to mark the order though; they’ll ask you your favorite ocean creature, so be ready with something creative. Or you can steal mine – “lemon shark”.
Expect to wait 10-20 minutes for most items to be prepared.
They are known for their lobster Rueben sandwich. It’s just like a regular Rueben, except that it includes chopped Florida lobster tail instead of corned beef. That means you’re getting rye bread, lobster, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing. As of this writing, they have served over 381,000 of these famous sandwiches! I love a traditional Reuben sandwich, and this has the same feel but definitely a slightly different taste due to the lobster and the lack of the traditional salt-cured beef. It’s DELICIOUS.
I’ve also had the following and every single one has been delicious: conch fritters (Keys Fisheries has some of the best around!), lobster bisque, mahi tacos, lobster mac and cheese, and stone crab. I have to admit though, I’ve never tried their Key Lime Pie! So now I have an obvious reason to go back.
Two more things to note. First, if you catch your own fish, you can bring it there and they’ll cook it for you. And second, they’ve recently struck a partnership with Florida Winn Dixie stores, so if you’re located in Florida and craving their soup, check our your local Winn Dixie grocery store. They also have a partnership with Whole Foods and you find find some of their items at that store.
I also want to give you one insider tip! There is only one restroom near the bar, and it sometimes develops a line. However, there are additional restrooms in the parking lot. So if you need one more quickly just go to the parking lot!
2. Island Fish Co.
Island Fish Company is a great place for either lunch or dinner, and has a little more of an atmosphere than Keys Fisheries. If you want a nicer option for Marathon, Florida restaurants, this will do nicely.
The restaurant is basically a tiki bar with mostly (if not all) outdoor eating. It is on the bay side of Marathon, so you can see amazing sunsets here. But the view is beautiful any time of day, making it a great choice for waterfront restaurants in Marathon, FL.
They have great drinks, especially their frozen Pain in the A$$, which is half piña colada and half rum runner. Perfect if you’re having trouble making up your mind! Beer drinkers, don’t stop at the main menu…I asked if they had anything additional, and they brought me a daily craft beer list that had some good, additional choices.
A great way to start here is with the Island She Crab soup. If you’re from South Carolina like me, or love to eat she crab soup in Charleston, you’ll find this one a little unexpected. It looks more like a potato-less chowder…it’s white instead of peachy-colored. But it’s so good, so don’t let the color throw you off.
They also have amazing Florida stone crabs in the appetizer section, when they’re in stock. These aren’t cheap, but they’re so good and a treat if you like stone crabs! They come with a delicious mustard sauce, which I saved and dipped my cauliflower in. (I hate “albino broccoli” but anything tastes good in this sauce!)
As for entrees, I love the hogfish here. If you’re not familiar with it, hogfish is a white fish with a name that isn’t as appetizing as it should be, because this is a delicious fish! It’s mild, flaky, and incredible. I always order it pan-seared, which I think is the best way to bring out the flavor. My husband got it once cooked almondine, and we both agreed it wasn’t as good as the pan-seared version.
Not in the mood for fish? My son ordered the shrimp quesadillas, and he said they’re amazing. Granted, he’s a teenager with a never-ending appetite, but he does have good taste.
Finally, if you’re brave enough, try an oyster shooter. It’s a raw oyster in vodka that you toss back like any other shot. It’s not my thing, but my husband said it was amazing!
I will say I’ve been here several times, and all were excellent, except one. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what I ordered that time – maybe a steak of some kind. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that good. I’m considering that an anomaly, though, because the other visits were nearly perfect, and this is definitely one of the best restaurants in Marathon FL!
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3. Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Castaway was #1 the must-do, as far as food goes, from the list I made during my trip planning. They’re really, shall we say, versatile? The menu incudes sushi, sandwiches, wings, a raw bar, fresh fish, and Mexican dishes. Some really unique items are on the dinner menu, like a elk chop dinner and lobster mac-n-cheese.
But what had caught my eye was the lion fish sushi roll! Lion fish is an invasive species of salt-water fish that’s really been causing problems in Florida waters. So if you eat lion fish, you’re helping the environment, or so I like to think! They aren’t easy to catch, because they have stinging barbs that can literally penetrate Kevlar (what bullet-proof vests are made of). So it’s not super affordable, but I’d tasted it cooked before, and I had to give this roll a try.
The official roll name is King of the Jungle roll. It’s described as lionfish, asparagus, and avocado inside, topped with masago, chopped escolar (my favorite sushi fish), wakame (seaweed salad), and sesame seeds. Well let me just say this roll did not disappoint! It was so good! My daughters both got spider rolls – fried soft-shell crab – which is a sushi standard but they wolfed it down so it was apparently good.
My son ordered a soft shell crab sandwich. When this thing came out, we all thought, what on earth? It was definitely a soft-shell crab because it still looked like one! Just deep-fried and put on a bun. It wasn’t the most appetizing dish to look at, but one bite and he was hooked. I tasted it and it was delicious!
Castaway is a casual place with a view of a small harbor but not much to brag about, however, the food and the friendly waitress more than made up for that. They have both indoor and outdoor seating, and the outdoor bar seems to be a popular place for locals to hang out and day drink.
The other great thing is that you can make a reservation here. A lot of restaurants in marathon don’t take reservations, so you’ll either eat early or late, or expect a long wait. Especially if you have a family of five. So I was really happy to see that they accept reservations at Castaway.
4. Lazy Days South
Lazy days is set a block or two off the Overseas Highway on the ocean-side. It has a large covered patio for dining that faces west, as well as a large bar for seating. You definitely get a good sunset here, though unfortunately at least in the spring, there’s a condo or hotel that the sun sets behind. So you don’t see it actually sink below the land, but below the building. Still, it was a beautiful sunset, one of the best from any of the best restaurants in Florida.
By the time we got around to eating at Lazy Days, we were further into our vacation. I was seafood-ed out! I decided on the chicken piccata, and it was really well done. This is one dish I cook really well, so I tend to be critical of it when I order it out. There was nothing to criticize here. It was superb.
For dessert, we decided against any more key lime pie. We got some kind of chocolate cake that was a special menu item of the day and I don’t exactly recall what its name was. But it was really good too!
The only reason I deducted a star from my review was because our waitress was so slow. When she did come by, she was polite and friendly. She just didn’t come by very often. And she didn’t appear busy, because several times I saw her just standing near the door to the kitchen and apparently not doing anything. But I would definitely go back to this restaurant again in the future.
Bonus – they also take reservations, according to their website. We just walked in, and it was just three of us, but they sat us right away. The previous evening the couldn’t seat all 5 of us. So I’d say reservations are probably a good idea.
Additional Restaurants We Haven’t Yet Tried
Marathon has lots of great restaurants. Here are some others we haven’t tried but which are on our list!
5. Burdines Waterfront
On our last trip, we tried to go to Burdines on the first night, but the wait was 90 minutes long! We went back another night and couldn’t find parking. They do not take reservations at all. I think eventually my husband and I will try this when we make a trip down without the kids. It’s easier for adults to wait, especially with beverages, and it’s easier for them to seat two people rather than five.
So I’ll have to get back to you on whether this earns its spot on the list of best restaurants in Marathon, FL. In the meantime, I will say it’s a little hard to find if you don’t use GPS, but you’ll turn near Mile Marker 48 on the Overseas Hwy. Everyone raves about their good food, so I can’t wait to try it.
If you get here and find the wait is too long, Castaway is literally right next door.
6. Hideaway Café
Hideaway Café offers a laid-back atmosphere, as do many places in the Florida Keys. The menu features a variety of dishes with a focus on fresh seafood and locally-sourced ingredients. There are lots of positive reviews about the blackened mahi-mahi, which is cooked to perfection and served with a side of flavorful rice and veggies. And for those who want to indulge their sweet tooth, the cafe’s key lime pie is a must-try.
Overall, the Hideaway Café is a great spot for a casual meal with friends or family.
7. Butterfly Café
The Butterfly Café in Marathon is a great option if you’re looking for a quaint restaurant that offers a delightful dining experience. The charming décor and cozy atmosphere provide a perfect setting for a relaxed meal with friends or family, and it has reasonable prices considering the cost of visiting the Florida Keys.
The menu offers a variety of dishes with a focus on fresh ingredients and innovative flavor combinations. The Butterfly Cafe’s crab cakes are extremely popular. They’re made with lump crabmeat and served with a side of tangy remoulade sauce.
In addition to the tasty food, the Butterfly Café also offers an impressive selection of wines and cocktails. Guests can enjoy a glass of wine or a refreshing mojito while taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding tropical landscape.
8. Lighthouse Grill
For a dining experience that truly captures the essence of Marathon, head over to the Lighthouse Grill. Located on the water at Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, this restaurant offers stunning views of the marina and Gulf of Mexico.
The menu features a variety of dishes that showcase fresh seafood and locally-sourced ingredients. Customers rave about the hogfish, which is a local favorite and always served fresh. The Lighthouse Grill also offers unique dishes such as the spicy tuna tostada, which combines fresh tuna, avocado, and a flavorful chili-lime dressing.
But the Lighthouse Grill is more than just great food – it’s an experience. The restaurant’s design and ambiance pay homage to the nautical history of the area, with touches like compass rose flooring and marine-inspired art adorning the walls. And with live music on the outdoor patio every weekend, the Lighthouse Grill is the perfect spot to enjoy a sunset cocktail or a night out with friends.
9. Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House
As the name suggests, steak and lobster are the stars of the menu at this restaurant. Most popular are the juicy, perfectly cooked steaks, which are cooked to order and served with your choice of sides. The lobster dishes are also a must-try, with options like the classic lobster tail or the flavorful lobster mac and cheese.
But the Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House isn’t just about meat and seafood. The restaurant also offers a range of salads, soups, and appetizers to start your meal off right. And for those who want to indulge, the dessert menu is full of sweet treats like the decadent chocolate lava cake.
The atmosphere of the Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House is casual and welcoming, with rustic touches like exposed brick and wood paneling. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxed meal with friends or family.
10. The Stuffed Pig
For a breakfast or brunch that will leave you stuffed and satisfied, head over to The Stuffed Pig restaurant in Marathon. This casual eatery is a local favorite, with a focus on classic breakfast dishes done right.
The menu features a range of breakfast favorites, from fluffy pancakes and waffles to hearty omelets and breakfast sandwiches. The house specialty is the “Pig Pen,” a hearty breakfast platter that includes eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and a biscuit or toast.
The atmosphere of The Stuffed Pig is casual and inviting, with a friendly staff and cozy décor. It’s the perfect spot to grab a quick bite before heading out to explore the beautiful beaches and attractions of Marathon.
11. Frank’s Grill
For a taste of classic American diner fare, look no further than Frank’s Grill in Marathon. This no-frills eatery serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner favorites in a casual atmosphere.
The menu at Frank’s Grill features a range of dishes that are sure to satisfy any craving. Customers rave about the hearty breakfast options, which include everything from fluffy pancakes to steak and eggs. For lunch and dinner, the burgers and sandwiches are always a hit, with options like the classic cheeseburger or the Philly cheesesteak.
But what really sets Frank’s Grill apart is its friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere. The diner-style décor and casual vibe make it the perfect spot for a quick bite or a leisurely meal with friends and family.
12. Fish Tales Market & Eatery
The menu at Fish Tales Market & Eatery features a range of seafood dishes, including classics like fish and chips, seafood chowder, and lobster rolls. The seafood is fresh and of good quality, and it is sourced locally and prepared with care.
In addition to the restaurant, Fish Tales Market & Eatery also features a seafood market where customers can purchase fresh seafood to cook at home. The market offers a range of seafood options, from locally caught fish to shrimp, crab, and lobster.
The atmosphere of Fish Tales Market & Eatery is casual and inviting, with a focus on showcasing the bounty of the sea. Whether you’re grabbing a quick lunch or picking up fresh seafood for dinner, this restaurant is a must-visit for anyone looking for delicious, locally sourced seafood in Marathon.
13. Barracuda Grill
Barracuda Grill in Marathon is an upscale seafood restaurant that offers a sophisticated atmosphere and a menu featuring fresh seafood and local ingredients. From classic ceviche and raw bar options to grilled mahi-mahi or lobster tail entrees, the dishes are expertly prepared and beautifully presented.
The restaurant also offers an impressive wine list and a selection of craft cocktails, features a full bar, and additionally the staff offers great service. The elegant and refined atmosphere with a focus on showcasing the beauty of the surrounding area makes it a must-visit for anyone seeking upscale dining in Marathon.
14. La Niña Restaurant
If you’re looking for authentic Mexican cuisine in a Marathon restaurant, La Niña Restaurant is a must-visit. This restaurant is known for its flavorful dishes, including traditional favorites like tacos, enchiladas, and tamales. The portions are generous, and the ingredients are always fresh and high-quality.
To accompany the delicious food, La Niña Restaurant has a great selection of drinks. From margaritas to cold beer, there’s something for everyone on the menu.
Aside from the food, La Niña Restaurant also boasts a festive and welcoming atmosphere. The decor is colorful and vibrant, and the staff is friendly and accommodating. Whether you’re coming for a casual dinner with friends or a family outing, you’ll feel right at home.
15. SS Wreck and Galley Grill
SS Wreck and Galley Grill in Marathon is a casual seafood restaurant located right on the water. The menu offers a wide range of seafood dishes, including fresh fish, shrimp, and scallops. The restaurant also has a great selection of sandwiches and burgers, making it the perfect place for lunch or dinner.
What really sets SS Wreck and Galley Grill apart is the restaurant’s atmosphere. The interior is decorated with nautical touches and antique diving equipment, creating a unique and fun environment. The outdoor seating area offers stunning views of the water and is a great place to enjoy a meal while watching the boats go by.
16. Sunset Grille & Raw Bar
Located right on the water in Marathon, Sunset Grille and Raw Bar is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The restaurant offers a menu that features fresh seafood, as well as a variety of other dishes like sandwiches and salads. The raw bar is a particular highlight, with a wide selection of oysters, clams, and shrimp.
Sunset Grille and Raw Bar also boasts a fun and lively atmosphere. The outdoor seating area is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal while taking in the stunning views of the water and watching the boats go by. The indoor area has a bar and plenty of TVs, making it a great spot to catch a game or enjoy a drink with friends. They have great happy hour specials on both food and drinks.
One Restaurant We Didn’t Like
17. The Cracked Conch
The Cracked Conch Café is known for its breakfast. I wish we had done that instead, but we came here for dinner because Burdine’s had too long of a wait. We’d been on the road for 5-6 hours and weren’t in the mood to wait that first night.
We were seated on a small enclosed porch that had a little pond-like feature in the middle with a sign that said “No Diving”. The humor of that caught my attention for sure! When the waiter arrived, he greeted us with a hearty “Good morning” even though it was about 7pm. I guess if you’re known for breakfast, that’s the greeting you use all day, maybe. He was attentive and friendly the whole time.
Unfortunately the food was pretty hit-or-miss. They don’t serve breakfast all day – which is fine – so I couldn’t get what had been recommended to me, the eggs benedict. I asked our waiter what was the best thing on the menu, and he suggested the seafood scampi. The menu describes this dish as having scallops, shrimp, fish, conch, and mussels. Sounded good to me!
Unfortunately they brought me out a shrimp scampi instead of a seafood scampi. There were plenty of shrimp; I was glad to see that they didn’t skimp on the shrimp. (Ha ha, see what I did there?) But none of the other seafood was anywhere to be seen. It also had TONS of mushrooms in it, and the sauce was really, really bland.
However, the scampi came with two sides, and one that I chose was the conch chowder. This was so good that it almost made up for my getting a different entrée than what I ordered. (But not quite.) It was made just like New England clam chowder, but with conch meat instead of clams. When you’re in the Conch Republic, you obviously have to eat conch, right?! And this was delicious.
My son ordered shrimp quesadillas (are you seeing a trend here?) and he thought they were quite good. My husband ordered a burger – I have no idea why! – and he said it was fine but nothing to brag about. And the girls got chicken fingers. I keep waiting for their taste palettes to develop into maturity, but they still like to order kids’ meals.
Overall this was a nice save to dinner; it sure beat Wendy’s, our only other quick-ish choice. But I definitely can’t rave about it.
As you can see, there are tons of choices for dining in Marathon – and we didn’t even explore options on the other nearby keys! If you find yourselves looking for some where to eat in Marathon, I hope my reviews will help you to decide. We’ll continue to post more personal reviews of the remaining restaurants on our future travels to and through Marathon.
This article is part of our extensive series on Florida travel and vacations. Be sure to check out our other posts when planning your next jaunt into our state!