Morada Bay Beach Café & Bar | M.M. 81.6
Few places in Islamorada offer a dining experience like Morada Bay Beach Café and Bar. Part of the Moorings Village and Spa, Morada Bay is right off busy Oversea Highway but seems miles away, tucked away on the palm tree-fringed white sand beaches of the Lignumvitae Basin and Florida Bay.
Seating at Morada Bay is literally on the beach, with tables set up in the white sand—though for the less inclined, the Side View Cafe and Bar offers seating with sturdier footing. It's best to arrive at sunset for cocktails, when the sky erupts in color, followed by dinner under the light of the moon, tiki torches and small tableside lanterns. The atmosphere could not be more intimate, with liberal spacing between tables. To cap the ambiance, live entertainment plays nightly in the bandshell—little more than a tiki-inspired stage flanked by paddleboards—and is far enough away to keep from interfering with the dinner conversation.
The cocktail menu is inventive and vast, with a great selection of Caribbean rums on hand if the mood strikes; Mount Gay Extra Old is always a good choice. For a surefire hangover, the Man Overboard ($18), filled with four Cruzan rums and topped with Blue Curacao and pineapple juice, is a classic boat drink, best served after a day of fishing out in the straits or on the flats. For a more subdued but still rum-friendly cocktail, the Painkiller ($9), made with Pusser’s British Navy Rum, coconut cream, fruit juice and nutmeg, is a classic tiki sip that suits the atmosphere.
Dining options are superb, with a large tapas menu to encourage family-style dining. The Thai mahi fingers ($15) and crispy calamari ($15) were on point, while a raw bar is filled with delicacies—the grouper ceviche ($13) was done to perfection. Because this is the Keys, it is always choice to go with freshly caught spiny lobster (market price—$27 on our visit) or the fresh fish, which can be served three ways. We ordered the hog snapper sautéed with a Meyer lemon butter sauce ($27)—magnifique. For dessert, it almost goes without saying: Order the key lime pie with whipped cream and fruit coulis ($7).
For those lucky enough to be around for a full moon, Morada Bay is the place to be. Every full moon, Morada Bay hosts a rad party complete with multiple beach bonfires, live music from a local reggae band and, depending on the party, a surprise appearance: Brazilian Capoeira performers, a Bahamian Junkanoo street parade or perhaps multiple circus acts, like stilt walkers, fire dancers and acrobats. Nearby, the Café and the Green Flash Lounge at Pierre’s opens with a DJ and VIP access ($30 cover). Cover for the full moon party is $20 and well worth the cost of admission.