When it comes to dining on Stock Island, it’s a seafood bonanza.
When it comes to dining on Stock Island, it’s a seafood bonanza. The Perry’s chef, Kalen Fortuna, is a regular at Fishbusterz, a market/fishery located just blocks from the hotel and a quarter-mile from the dock, which means your fish is going to be super fresh. In the market’s walk-in refrigerator Fortuna inspects black grouper, mutton snapper, hogfish, mahi-mahi, gray tilefish, red grouper from the Gulf of Mexico and black grouper from the Atlantic.
“From all the local-water fish, black grouper is the most sought-after fish and one of my favorites,” says Fortuna. “Gray tilefish is my least favorite [because it doesn’t stay together when grilled], but it is the tastiest and it’s great to fry.”
Fresh seafood is a big deal at Fishbusterz, which services restaurants throughout the Keys. Manager Bryant Gantter explains, “We have 16 boats going out to the Gulf where they can actually fish. So we always get yellowtail, which is our best seller. The fisheries know that we need 1,000 pounds of yellowtail a day.”
At Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar, one of the Perry’s two waterfront restaurants, Fortuna’s top culinary creations include a hogfish ceviche. “Hogfish is one of the whitest fishes—inshore, warm water. It has almost no bloodline,” he says, which makes it perfect for ceviche. His gulf chowder, made with a creamy corn base and plenty of scallops, fish, clams, mussels and tasso ham, scores with diners, as does his cornbread mash, a must-order side with big flavor and a hint of sweetness.
Catching your own fish is also possible. From the Perry’s adjacent marina, fishing charters depart daily. Other water adventures are available for divers and snorkelers, who can book with Lost Reef Adventures and head to the reef to seek out fan corals, schools of blue tang and colorful parrotfish. Another option is a Jet Ski tour with Key West Water Tours. Guide Devin Keno takes riders caravan style around Stock Island, Key West and Bahia Key before letting them loose to ride freely—and fast—in open waters.
Besides water-sports options, boat-to-table dining and brand-new accommodations, Stock Island has a percolating artisan scene. Jewelry designer Nick Soto set up shop inside Washed Up, a funky home décor boutique with reclaimed and repurposed furniture accessorized with whimsical mermaid art. In his adjacent studio, Soto crafts precious metals and gems into rings and bracelets. His Cuban hoop earrings, with wave, zebra and chevron designs, are his biggest sellers. He claims that just about every woman on Key West is wearing them. “They’re a Key West signature look,” he says with a smile.
Clockwise from top left: The Lost Kitchen Supper Club with its laid-back ambience is an art galler y and favorite Stock Island venue for pop-up dinners; the famous hogfish sandwich at the Hogfish Bar & Grill; the waters surrounding the Florida Keys as seen from a seaplane.