Half Shell Raw Bar

Review by: Michael Stern

No-Frills Taste of Key West Life

When long-time Conchs (natives of Key West) talk about highlights of life a half-century ago on the southernmost dot of land in the Continental U.S., they often mention oysters and beer at the Half Shell Raw Bar. Once a rowdy gathering place on the old waterfront, the 21st century Half Shell now belongs to a “restaurant group.” But that doesn’t imply stuffiness. It remains today what it always has been: an unvarnished taste of Key life. This is a restaurant with no air conditioning – the whole place is basically open-air. Forget tablecloths and any interior decoration beyond double-entendre vanity license plates and a few nautical-themed nick-nacks.

Keys Cuisine

Nor does the kitchen aspire to grandiosity. OK with me! What can beat a few plates of clams and oysters freshly opened and served on the half shell? If you hanker for something cooked, they’ll take whatever fish are available that day and fry, grill, or broil them. The Floridian repertoire includes yellowtail, grouper, tuna, and red snapper. You can choose steamed crab and chilled crab, or lovely Key West pink shrimp by the half-pound and pound. During stone crab season, you can have them, too. They come cracked open to yield their deliciously tender sweet meat. As far as seriously cooked food goes, the kitchen does make some very good conch chowder and conch fritters, too. You can get a fish sandwich or an oyster po’ boy, a cracked conch dinner with corn, potatoes, and cole slaw or – for the fish-frowner – a slab of baby back ribs.

Food, Sun, and Fun

Come to the Half Shell Raw Bar when you want fresh local seafood served without folderol … and with plenty of adult libations to wash it down. Several outdoor decks and patios offer the opportunity to sit in the open air and absorb sun and sea breezes. The most colorful seats are actually at the semi-open-air bar, where the party never stops.

What To Eat


Conch Chowder

Peel ‘N’ Eat Shrimp

Key Lime Pie

Oyster Shooter

Cracked Conch Sandwich


Half Shell Raw Bar Recipes


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