I’m not necessarily a foodie, but boy do I love to eat. Fortunately I live in Key West, which has some of the best restaurants and world-class chefs in the U.S.

I’m often asked by visitors vacationing in the Florida Keys, “Where do the locals eat?”

Taste of Key West sample

“Foodies” can sample small plates prepared by more than 50 stellar chefs at Taste of Key West on April 24. (Photo courtesy of Taste of Key West)

My answer is always that we eat at the same restaurants visitors do, and it would be pretty unusual to experience a less-than-stellar meal on the island.

On April 24, the 22nd annual “Taste of Key West” is set to take place from 6 to 9 p.m. It typically showcases more than 50 local restaurants and catering companies, which means it’s a wonderful chance to sample a fabulous variety of our best cuisine.

The participating chefs and food vendors donate their time and expertise to create delicious small plates — and the culinary feast is a benefit for the Florida Keys’ AIDS Help organization.

The delectable food selections include fresh seafood, often prepared in Key West tropical style with Caribbean flair. Meat lovers and vegetarians as well will find themselves in food heaven for three hours of overindulgence.

In addition to the scrumptious food, a selection of wines from around the world is provided by a local liquor distributor. Wine connoisseurs can expect to be in a state of bliss with vintages from some 100 wineries and vineyards.

915 restaurant at Taste of Key West

Taste of Key West attendees enjoy culinary treats from Key West restaurant Nine One Five. (Photo by Nick Doll)

If you’re a beer aficionado, the event won’t disappoint — because plans call for an extensive assortment of beers to quench your thirst. This year you can even purchase a collectible pint beer mug benefiting the Southernmost HIV/AIDS ride, which helps fund Florida agencies serving people living with HIV/AIDS.

The open-air gala is also very much a social event for locals like me. As I stroll by the seemingly endless and tantalizing food and wine offerings, I’m always bound to bump into an old friend or two. Then I have to initiate what I call the “side hug and smooch move” while balancing a tasty treat in one hand and libation in the other.

This year will be the first time the mouthwatering event takes place at Mallory Square. The square is in a very picturesque spot on Key West Harbor, and it’s also home to our world-renowned nightly Sunset Celebration. (Tip for first-time visitors: our Key West sunsets are truly stunning, and you MUST experience at least one in your lifetime.)

Taste of Key West booths

The fine cuisine and vintages draw enthusiastic crowds to the annual culinary celebration. (Photo courtesy of Taste of Key West)

Gates for Taste of Key West open at 6 p.m. I recommend either biking or walking to the event — but if you want to drive, limited parking may be available at Mallory Square.

Tickets are sold for $1 apiece and can be exchanged for beverages and “tastes” that usually “cost” three to six tickets each. If you prefer to purchase tickets in advance, the cost is $25 dollars per person and includes $20 in tasting tickets and a Taste of Key West wine glass. Advance tickets are available online.

From food to wine to gorgeous sunsets, Key West is a quintessential island paradise — and one I’m proud to call my home. Come down soon and discover it for yourself!

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