When it comes to din­ing on Stock Is­land, it’s a seafood bo­nanza.

Times of the Islands - - Outdoors - Pa­tri­cia Letakis is an edi­tor at TOTI Me­dia.

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.

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