There’s no better place to enjoy Key Lime pie than in the Florida Keys, the birthplace of this favourite American dessert. From roadside shacks to upscale restaurants, virtually every eatery in the Keys has this dessert on the menu and it’s tempting to try them all.
More tart than sweet, the citrusy custard is traditionally made with egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and Key lime juice, and then baked in a buttery graham cracker crust. Despite a gazillion variations, one ingredient never changes: Key limes.
“Key limes are tarter, with a higher acid content than regular limes,” says Chef Bobby Stoky, owner of Marker 88 in Islamorada. “Many restaurants have their own Key Lime trees.”
The origin of Key Lime pie is mired in fact and fiction. It’s believed that local sponge fishermen made a crude version to consume on their boats, but in the late 1800s, one woman in Key West created the recipe known today. For pie lovers, how about taste testing along the “Key Lime Pie Trail”? Driving from Key Largo to Key West on the Overseas Highway, make sure to put these places on your pie pilgrimage:
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen: Dense and Delicious
99336 Overseas Highway, Key Largo
Make your first stop Mrs. Mac’s in Key Largo, where Key Lime pie is a bestseller. A wedge of Mrs. Mac’s pie is tarter and denser than most, with a thick vanilla-pudding filling and whipped cream topping. The chef has been using this recipe for 30 years and counting.
Marker 88: Old School with Meringue on Top
88000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada
“The meringue adds a layer of complexity,” he says. “It helps to lighten the texture and richness of the pie.”
Oltremare Ristorante at the Amara Cay Resort: Deep-Fried Pie
80001 Overseas Highway, Islamorada
This new seaside hotel serves exquisite Italian gastronomy with a tropical twist. But the reason to pull over? A decadent deep-fried Key Lime Pie served with a side of strawberry compote. Biting into a crispy crust, the frozen custard centre melts in your mouth.
Sweet Savannah’s of the Florida Keys Bake Shop: Key Lime Cupcakes
11287 Overseas Hwy, Marathon
Try a radical Key Lime rendition off the highway in Marathon. This tiny bakery makes a vanilla cupcake with a swirl of green Key Lime butter cream icing on top. Take a batch to go!
Blue Heaven: Mile High Meringue
729 Thomas St., Key West
In downtown Key West, head to The Blue Heaven, a Caribbean-inspired café that’s been a favourite for 20 years. Ernest Hemingway once refereed boxing matches here, but now the fight is for a slice of Key Lime pie with an airy “mile-high” meringue. Their pie is so epic that it appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe: Key Lime Pie on a Stick
Main Shop: 200 Elizabeth St., Key West
At this whimsical shop, gorge on Key Lime cookies, salsa, taffy, jelly beans, and most notably, a frozen Key Lime pie served on a stick and dipped in dark chocolate. Get a selfie with the quirky owner, Kermit Carpenter, dressed head to toe in lime green.
The writer was a guest of the Florida Keys Tourism Board. The tourism board did not review or approve this article.