The Ten Best Key Lime Pies in the Florida Keys

Nearly every major city or vacation destination in the United States lays claim to an iconic dish. In Chicago, it's deep-dish pizza. In Philadelphia, it's cheesesteaks. In Texas, it's brisket.

In South Florida, it's key lime pie. Named for the small citrus fruits said to have been introduced in the area in the 1830s by Henry Perrine, a botanist and diplomat who discovered the plant in Mexico, this tart and creamy dessert can be found on almost every menu in the Sunshine State.

One thing that will set a true key lime pie apart from the pretenders is the use of real key lime juice squeezed from fruit harvested from plants now native to parts of the West Indies and Mexico but with origins in Asia. The citrus plant produces a small green fruit that, when ripe, becomes yellow and offers an intense tartness over the green Persian or Tahiti limes often sold in grocery stores.

Today, finding real key limes here in South Florida isn't always easy, because crops have continually struggled to flourish. But most restaurants from Key Largo to Key West use only the real deal in some of the best key lime pies around. Here are the ten best:

The Ten Best Key Lime Pies in the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of Old Town Bakery

1. Old Town Bakery
930 Eaton St., Key West; 305-396-7450;
Established in 2010, Old Town Bakery looks like it's been around a lot longer. The aesthetic is thanks to owner Niall Bowen and his wife, Elzbieta Krysztofiak, who've decorated the shop to exude Old Florida charm. Bowen, a longtime pastry chef, creates artisan breads, cakes, pastries, and, yes, homemade key lime pie the old-fashioned way. Located on corner of Eaton and Grinnell Streets, former home of Cole’s Peace Bakery, Old Town Bakery makes key lime pies using fresh-squeezed key lime juice, creating a dense, beautiful yellowish-green custard cradled in a gingersnap crust, a flavor that pairs exceptionally well with the tartness of the limes. Each slice ($3.75) is topped with fresh whipped cream made in-house just before serving.

The Ten Best Key Lime Pies in the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of Salute! On The Beach

2. Salute! on the Beach
1000 Atlantic Blvd., Key West; 305-292-1117;
Most people know about the key lime pie at this restaurant's sister establishment, Blue Heaven. But Salute! on the Beach is a Key West treasure all its own, with the atmosphere of a beachside café and delicious key lime pies. The main menu offers Caribbean-influenced takes on Italian classics, although you won't find anything Italian about the slice of key lime pie ($9): a creamy pale-yellow key lime custard nestled into a rich graham cracker crust and topped with a massively majestic crown of fluffy meringue.

The Ten Best Key Lime Pies in the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of Ma's Fish Camp

3. Ma's Fish Camp
105 Palm Ave., Islamorada; 305-517-9611;
Islamorada denizens call this place simply Ma's. And it's just about as comforting as a trip home. The homemade key lime pie ($6) is one locals and visitors have cherished for years, and it's still among the best in these parts. The graham cracker crust has some solid crunch, the filling is tangy, and each slice comes topped with a mountain of golden meringue and whipped cream.

The Ten Best Key Lime Pies in the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of Key West Key Lime Pie Company

4. Key West Key Lime Pie Company
511 Greene St., Key West; 305-517-6720;
At the height of season, you might have to stand in line for a slice of key lime pie ($6.50) here, but it's worth the wait. These pies are national-award-winning, made fresh daily using natural ingredients such as real key lime juice and a handmade graham cracker crust. The result: a filling that's light and smooth, with just the right touch of sweetness, and a perfect ratio of creamy filling to crunchy crust.

The Ten Best Key Lime Pies in the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe

5. Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe
200 Elizabeth St., Key West; 305-296-0806;
For more than two decades, Kermit's has been serving some of the finest key lime pie, courtesy of Kermit Carpenter. The store, founded by Carpenter, his sister Anita, and her husband, has become a Key West brand and expanded to a second shop, located on iconic Duval Street. Each slice of key lime pie ($4.50) is tart and rich, uses real key limes, and has a graham cracker crust. But don't miss Carpenter's brilliant invention: a frozen slice skewered on a stick and dipped in dark Belgian chocolate ($4.50).

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