At Stock Island’s Safe Harbor Marina, through a thatched-roof entryway, Hogfish Bar & Grill is a vivid taste of Keys life. It boasts that it is the way the Florida Keys used to be: “fresh seafood, strong drinks, panoramic waterfront views, outdoor dining, and plenty of local characters.” Even if a good number of the characters who come here now are food-savvy tourists, the tropical-themed eatery retains unpretentious charm that is a dramatic contrast to the commercial hubbub of Duval Street, miles away.
Yes, hogfish is the star of the show, available grilled, fried, in a sandwich with Swiss cheese on Cuban bread, as hogfish & chips, in tacos, stuffed with crab and shrimp, and as a crispy fingers appetizer. Top of the line is a grilled fillet topped with a trio of blackened scallops. The scallops are big, satiny, spice-crusted rounds delicious unto themselves, and the hogfish — simply grilled — delivers buttery luxury that is similar to grouper but less oceanic. The menu advises, “We only serve authentic hogfish … and we never substitute other lesser fish!”
The menu goes far beyond hogfish, some of its Caribbean highlights being Key West pink shrimp (with cheese grits), sauteed yellowtail, a crisp-fried conch sandwich, grouper cheeks, and conch chowder. Bring in your own fillets and the kitchen will fry, blacken, or grill them and serve them with a couple of side dishes for $14.95 per pound or person. For fish frowners, there are ribs and steaks, Cuban-style roast pork, and big hamburgers.
House motto: “Relax! It’s just Stock Island.” (In other words, it’s not downtown Key West.)