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Miami's Ten Best Key Lime Pies

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A dessert tradition adopted locally by travelers to Key West who came back loving the sharper taste of the smaller key lime species, this contribution to the world of pie-dom is now sought by die-hard fans. Tart and creamy, key lime pie can be covered in meringue or sparsely dolloped with fresh whipped cream. Either way, it's the pie for which Florida has become famous.

Key lime juice has a yellowish tone and in its finished pie

format can look deceptively like lemon meringue in the bakery case.

Even an educated sweet seeker always asks.

In this year's "Best of Miami" issue, the Bar in Coral Gables took top honors for its version, but where else can you find a slice of killer key lime pie in the city? Here's our Top 10.

10. Juvia's

deconstructed adaptation of key lime pie ($8) wins points for

creativity;  in a glass, hardened meringue fingers are balanced on a base of custard. The ripe taste of fresh, tart

lime is concentrated, and there is a shortbread crumble for additional

crunch.

9. Firefighter Derek Kaplan's other job is making fantastic pies, so when he's not in uniform, he's in the kitchen baking (a girl's dream come true). Fireman Derek's (2600 N. Miami Ave., 786-449-2517) key lime pies are available whole ($15) or in single-serving cups ($3 each or ten for $25). You can get them directly from the source or find them at La Camaronera, which serves them in its restaurant and from its food truck, the Fish Box.

8. Cecconi's key lime pie ($9) is traditional in terms of flavor but inventive in presentation. Layers of crust come sandwiched between the custard. Each slice is served with a nice little surprise: a scoop of refreshing pineapple sorbet.

7. Ice Box Café's deep-dish key lime pie ($6) has a thicker graham cracker crust than others; it's crumbly on the outside but denser near the core as a result of the moisture-filled custard. This wedge comes simply topped with whipped cream.

6. Lokal's key lime pie ($8) arrives with a firm graham cracker crust that nicely supports the pie, and pecans are added for a crunchy bite. A bunch of lime is zested for this pie, so there is a slight bitterness from the lime skin that pops the sweet and creamy texture. We like that the pie appears messy. Get your fingers dirty.

5. The Rusty Pelican's $7 million renovation included an update of its "Key Biscayne-lime pie." It's prettily plated, with grated lime zest abounding ($9). A thin bar of key lime curd is crowned with a browned meringue "cream," and the graham cracker on this one is more of a concentrated crumble than a crust.

4. Joe's Stone Crab's "Famous Key Lime Pie" ($6.95) might seem simple nowadays compared with some others on the list, but it's the original pie that gave Miami a good name. A perfect balance of sweet and sour keeps this slice near the top of our list.

3. The Dutch salted lime pie ($12) isn't technically a key lime pie, but it is based on a key lime pie recipe. The custard is a little different here, but the inherent lime flavor comes through beautifully. Maldon sea salt -- an unexpected garnish -- finishes off the pie.

2. Sweet Point Bakery in midtown makes a mini key lime pie ($6) that is saturated with lightly browned sweet meringue, a substantial coating on top. The key lime insides are velvety, with an intense tartness. A graham cracker crust is thin and buttery; it doesn't overwhelm the custard.

1. Sweetness Bakeshop takes the top spot for a dense key lime custard that balances bitter and sweet. Plus we love the crumbly crust that overlaps ($25 per pie, 12 servings). The shop also makes key lime cupcakes, filled with custard and topped with cream cheese frosting ($1 mini, $2 regular, $3 jumbo).

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