Glenn Lindgren: We're not sure if El Mesón de Pepe is the best Cuban restaurant in Key West, but it does have one of the nicest locations.

Jorge Castillo: Located in Mallory Square, El Mesón de Pepe Is a great place to eat either before or after the sunset festivities. In the heart of the action, this is a place where you can really enjoy the Key West atmosphere.

Outdoor dining on the patio at El Meson de Pepe, Key West, Florida
Glenn Lindgren: I especially like eating in what they call "The Cistern" after dark. It's like a sunken patio, surrounded by trees and warmly lit with tabletop candles. When the sun goes down and the evening cools, you can kick back and listen to the gurgling of the fountain or frequent performances of live music.
Jorge, Nephew Neil and family enjoying a late dinner in the Cistern.
Jorge Castillo: The nearby patio dining is also very nice in the shadow of El Meson de Pepe's large brick building. Wherever you sit, they start you off with fresh Cuban bread and a chimichurri sauce for dipping the bread. The sauce is the perfect complement to the bread.

Glenn Lindgren: For an appetizer I recommend the cazuelita mesón. I love seafood and this combination of shrimp, mushrooms, chorizo and squid is both unusual and excellent.

Jorge Castillo: If you're in the land of the conch, you really need to try the conch salad. El Meson de Pepe's Cuban version adds a touch of saffron to the traditional mayonnaise sauce. Some sliced cachucha pepper – a very mild green pepper – adds a nice crunch.

Start your meal with a delicious tropical drink. El Meson de Pepe boasts some of the best bartenders in Key West.

Jorge Castillo: The list of entrees at El Meson de Pepe is not as extensive as some restaurants, but just about all of the Cuban classics are here.

Glenn .. picadillo, ropa vieja, lechón asado...

Jorge Castillo: If you like liver, Higado al Italiano is an Italian-style dish of sliced beef liver, sautéed in olive oil with onions and peppers.

El Meson de Pepe

Glenn Lindgren: El Meson de Pepe's churrasco steak is a real crowd pleaser. The last time we ate here it seemed like every other person was eating one. Be sure to smother the steak in plenty of chimichurri sauce and ask for more if you need it.

Jorge Castillo: They have two excellent chicken dishes – the pollo al ajillo features a grilled half chicken with carmelized onions and a mojito glaze. The pechiga de pollo a la plancha is a grilled chicken breast with parsley, garlic and oil – a mild chimichurri sauce.

Raúl Musibay: If you want to stop by for lunch, they do have several sandwiches available. Or try a frita a frita Cubana Cuban hamburger that I guarantee that you'll like.

The gift shop includes plenty of Key West and Cuban souvenirs. It's like a mini-museum.

Jorge Castillo: Warning – El Meson de Pepe makes Cuban sandwiches in the Key West style with mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes – what they call the "Cayo Hueso Cuban Mix." If you like a traditonal Cuban, tell them to hold the lettuce and tomatoes.

Glenn Lindgren: Believe us, Pepe knows the difference and is happy to make the Miami version for those who ask for it.

Jorge Castillo: And if you are like me and you don't like mayonnaise in any case, be sure to tell them about it.

HOURS: Daily 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

PRICES: About $9.00 to $18.50, lunch prices slightly lower

DRESS: Casual

BAR: Full

CARDS: AmEx, MasterCard, Visa, Diners, Discover

WEBSITE: elmesondepepe.com

The Details
El Meson de Pepe
410 Wall ST
Key West, FL 33040
305-295-2620
Copyright 1996-2011
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