Key West Tacos
On a breezy Sunday evening, my dining pal Edna and I took a stroll over to Key West Tacos, which is nestled in a humble little building on the edge of West Cape May. It’s located adjacent to Barrier Island Books and Art—part used bookstore and art studio with live music venue in their garden. Browse, nosh, read, listen, hang, nosh again…whatever moves you. If you’re in the garden listening to local musicians, Key West Tacos will deliver to your table, all the way from next door!
Back to the spot. When you walk in, you’re immediately teleported to Key West, Florida, replete with a beachy funky vibe, cool décor, inside and outside seating (on picnic tables), and friendly laid-back staff. We sat outside this evening, though inside was so inviting – buoys, KW license plates, flags, street signs – really all the things that give Key West Tacos its particular “sense of place.” It’s not always easy to achieve, and when not done well, just seems cheesy. Key West Tacos is definitely NOT that. It’s simply adorable.
This cheerful eatery was conceived and opened by the late Chef Craig Leisey. Having spent years traveling to the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico with the purpose of developing his culinary vision, Leisey launched the restaurant in 2009. Today, the restaurant continues to carry on, serving an eclectic and creative menu of burritos, quesadillas, bowls, tacos, salads, nachos, sides, and desserts. There’s always a crowd, business is brisk, and customers (including me) return again and again. The menu is diverse enough to have more than a few go-to dishes.
On this evening, we deliberated over the menu for quite a while. Though I was drawn to the Short Rib or Pulled Pork Burritos (available as a single serving or as a platter, which includes rice and tortilla chips), I settled on an item from the Key West Taco Signatures section of the menu: Tony’s Sweet Thai Shrimp Taco Platter, again with rice and tortilla chips. These tacos were a tasty mélange of tender shrimp, sweet Thai chili sauce, arugula (a surprise) with a pineapple and mango pico de gallo wrapped in double flour tortillas. I put a little hot sauce on them which took them to next-level spicy, as is my taste. Note that a variety of hot sauces are provided on every table. Other selections in the Signature section include Korean BBQ Brisket, Poke Tuna, and a Roasted Brussels Sprout (and bacon) Taco. All seem like keepers to me.
My land-lubbing friend Edna opted for the Key Largo Bowl with Chicken. I would order this next time because it looked delicious. Nicely grilled and slightly charred chicken in a bowl filled with wonderfulness. There were layers, but I’m unsure of the order because Edna mixed that bowl right the heck up before I could identify said layers. There was chicken of course, but also dirty rice, tortilla chips, cheddar jack cheese, refried beans, roasted corn, island slaw, and pico de gallo. The other Key Largo Bowl options are Seafood Favorites and Ahi Tuna. Anyway, Edna tucked right into her bowl, and had at least half of it left for leftovers. Each of our entrees was generously portioned, and not very hard
on the wallet. Moreover, the ingredients were of the highest and freshest quality.
There are other options in the “Long Key Sides” section, featuring some favorites: island slaw—which is a cabbage slaw dressed with pineapple juice—chips and salsa, chips and guacamole, refried beans, and roasted corn and black beans.
On to dessert. I spied both offerings some time ago: the Key Lime Pie and Key Lime Ice Cream. As spouted in previous local reviews, I will never pass up a Crème Brulee, or a Key Lime anything. So, obviously, we had to order both desserts. Both were nice and tart, just like I like. The pie especially was smooth and delicious!
The selection at KWT is vast, and there’s something for everyone—chicken, pork, chorizo, beef, shrimp, crab, fish, and vegetarian. When you go, you can expect to easily find a parking spot in the immediate area either on West Perry Street, Park Boulevard, or Myrtle Avenue. Of course, during high season, it could be a little tight, so takeaway is always an option.
So, if you can’t make it down to the actual Key West, toddle over to West Perry for the next best thing. They’re open for lunch and dinner, and it’s an easy walk from Cape May proper!