The Upper Keys Weekly's Best of Islamorada at Whale Harbor Saturday, November 11, 2023. Photo by Doug Finger

Many new names were announced as winners in this year’s Best of Upper Keys awards ceremony on Nov. 11 at Whale Harbor Restaurants & Marina. The first-time awardees jumped out of their seats as the crowd of 180-plus erupted in cheers. It’s a moment they won’t forget for years to come. The second running of the premiere people’s choice awards welcomed 15 new categories to the list.

Photos by DOUG FINGER/Keys Weekly

First-time Winners

Ashley Arrabal – Best Volunteer
Capt. Slate’s Scuba Adventures – Best Dive Shop
Dillon’s Pub & Grill – Best Bar & Best Wings
Keys Pet Nanny – Best Business
Klara McGarry – Best Bartender
Koty James & The Keybillies – Best Musician/Band
LaRhonda “LaLa” Oloizia – Best Server
Pinfish Entertainment – Best New Business
SouthState Bank – Best Bank

Winners in New Categories

Ziggie & Mad Dog’s – Best Steak
Capt. Kit Carson Mobley – Best Fishing Guide
Chef Michael’s – Best Seafood
Islander Girl Snorkel & Tours – Best Watersports
Froggy’s Fitness – Best Place to Workout
Keys Chocolates & Ice Cream – Best Dessert
LeBouef’s Marine – Best Marine Services
Miss Monroe Boutique – Best Clothing Store
Natalie Shea, Shen Health – Best Alternative Healthcare Provider
Puerto Vallarta Mexican Bar & Grill – Best Margarita
Pasta Pantaleo – Best Artist
Pinfish Entertainment – Best Place to Take the Kids
Regan Roth Insurance Agency – Best Insurance Agency
Shell World – Best Gift Boutique
The Hale Gallery – Best Art Gallery

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.