It can be somewhat touristy because of it's location, but don't let that fool you. The restaurant itself is rich in Key West history with old local photos and memorabilia. Walk through and browse mini-exhibits that set you back in Key West circa 1940s. When the old men smoked their cigars and played domino's until the wee hours.
I went with my mom and some old family friends for some of our favorite dishes. The service wasn't all that great, but when the food finally arrived it was well worth the wait.
Recently, they've started doing tapas style dishes (my favorite) so of course we had to order a few. They didn't come until after our entree's, but we made room for them anyway.
The Masitas de Cerdo Frita could have been an entire meal. The fresh pork cubes were marinated in traditional Cuban seasonings and fried to a golden perfection. Now normally I prefer my plantains the traditional way, cut chunky with a sweet glaze, but I decided to try the Tostones, green plantains that are flattened and refried. They have a completely different taste and texture. Where one is moist, the other is crunchy, where one is sweet, the other is salty. Both still make my mouth water.
My Mahi Mahi con Salsa de camarones came topped with a shrimp Cuban creole sauce that had just the right seasonings to bring out the flavor of the fish. Mixed together with yellow rice, black beans and plantains, this dish was rich in both flavor and texture.
Pictures of the dishes didn't come out too great (sorry!) but everyone else enjoyed their meals as much as I did.
My mom got the Churrasco a skirt steak grilled and flavored with a tangy onion-garlic sauce. That beast was pretty big and there was not a single thing left on her plate when the meal was over. The same goes for my mother's friend, Noelle, her shrimp sauteed in garlic, olive oil, lemon and white wine were absolutely devoured.
There are other places in Key West that I prefer to go for good Cuban food, but if you want someplace with as much history in the building as there are in the entrees then El Meson is the place for you. They also have live music and dancing almost every night of the week.