This time of year, most people are putting away their patio furniture and looking forward to a long winter of eating and entertaining indoors. Of course some parts of the country are luckier than others and when it comes to dining outside, enjoying beautiful year-round weather, and no place is as lucky as Key West, Florida.
Part of the reason Key West is such a popular travel destination during the fall and winter is not just because everywhere else is starting to get cold, but also because it is when the weather in the southernmost city is at its absolute best. The humidity has all but disappeared, resulting in dry remarkably pleasant weather that never seems to get below 73 or above 85, regardless of what time of day or night it is. It is also the time of year that the trade winds blow most consistently, meaning there is almost always a gentle breeze, perfect for keeping a person cool even if they happen to be sitting in direct sunshine.
This perfect weather means dining outside is always a person's first best choice, which is why almost all of the Key West restaurants offer some sort of outdoor dining. Some are as simple as squeezing a couple of tables and chairs on the sidewalk in front of their establishment, but others are fortunate enough to offer expansive dining patios. Many of these are exquisitely decorated with tropical plants and flowers native to the island. Some allow for people to take part in one of the oldest Key West pastimes, people watching, while others are designed so perfectly that they create a feeling of true isolation, removing their guests from the world completely.
Having the beautiful dining situation is only part of what makes dining al fresco so inviting. The most crucial element is the food itself. Key West has a long established - and well deserved - reputation as a place people go to enjoy margaritas and play in the ocean, and because of that, most first time visitors are surprised to find out the amazing level of culinary talent that is on display. This should come as no surprise, however. As a beautiful and enchanting island that calls to people from all around the world to make it their new home, naturally some of those people are going to be world renowned chefs who look forward to the experience of preparing award-winning dinners and lunches featuring the freshest local seafood paired up with flavors and spices that the islands are known for.
It may be autumn on the calendar, but Key West, Florida is home to an endless summer. Now starts the best time of year, weather-wise, making it the perfect time to explore the rich culinary history of the island. Just be sure to save some room for a slice of key lime pie.
Jack Terry is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer who lived in Key West for several years. http://www.rooftopcafe.com