Shrimp tastes better when you can look from your plate to the ocean 20 yards away and see one of the local boats that caught the crustacean.

“I always point out the shrimp boats and tell our guests from out of town that the shrimp they just ordered came from one of those boats in our local fleet,” said Christopher McLeod, general manager of Four Marlins Restaurant, the spacious indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar at The Reach, Key West, one of Hilton’s Curio Collection hotels, where the ocean and beach is never out of reach. “They never believe me. Then they taste our Key West pinks and they know. Shrimp that good has to come from nearby.”

McLeod is new to Key West and The Reach, but not to the restaurant industry, where he’s worked in Paris, New York City and a host of other cities.

“But without a doubt, this town is the place I love,” McLeod said, cutting a perfectly seared piece of ahi tuna with his fork, and urging a patron to try a Hemingway margarita, one of Four Marlins’ signature cocktails.

The restaurant and bar are half indoors and half out, offering uninterrupted views of sky and sand that slopes gently to the blue Atlantic. Locals are always welcome at Four Marlins, which gives it a more engaging atmosphere than other, staid hotel eateries filled with hushed strangers. 

The menu is a reflection of Executive Chef Kevin Spencer’s culinary wanderings — beignets,  locally caught shrimp and grits, smoked grilled oysters, local tuna and the freshest catch around. 

“And if you hook it, we’ll cook it,” McLeod said, introducing another diner to another signature cocktail — and assuring them confidently the Key lime pie topped with not-to-sweet chantilly cream would be the best they’d ever tasted. (Editor’s note: It was.)

Four Marlins is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and weekend brunch and is located at the south end of Simonton Street at The Reach, Key West.

After working your way through the entire Four Marlins menu, wander a few blocks east to The Reach’s sister property, the stately waterfront Casa Marina, a Waldorf-Astoria Resort.

The Casa Marina’s Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill is an ideal escape for locals and hotel guests seeking a sunset cocktail and happy hour snacks under oversized umbrellas at high-top tables.

But as the setting sun tie-dyes the sky behind Henry Flagler’s classically opulent hotel, pick up your drink and put your Toes in the Sand.

The indulgent dinner option features an intimate, candlelit table steps from the ocean. 

The resort fiercely protects its guests with adherence to social distancing and mask requirements, but shoes are strictly prohibited when your toes should be on the sand.

After dinner, wander to the water and let the warmth of Key West wash away the rest of the world.

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