Palm-lined streets. Colorful buildings. Musicians – and roosters – serenading the city.
Key West embodies beach bum chic. Located closer to Cuba than Miami, it’s a community bursting with charisma. For years artists, writers, and playwrights have helped shape its vibrant yet relaxed persona, so I was surprised to find that pie, of all things, is what stirs up controversy.
The filling is rarely disputed. Locals agree the lime-green color is for landlocked tourist and the proper version comes out a pale yellow. The dividing lines? Graham cracker or pastry crust, whipped cream or meringue, and who really makes the best.
Rough life, Key West.
On an island where every charming corner shop and bungalow tout the “world’s best”, the key lime pie game is legitimately difficult to navigate. So when an editor tasked me with de-tangling the claims, (( speaking of rough life… )) we grabbed our forks and started the world’s most-fun taste test. I won’t try and settle the decade’s long debate on who really holds the top spot, but a few shops are clear contenders.
Key Lime Pie Factory
Located in the heart of the island, The Key Lime Pie Factory is a convenient and quick stop in if you’re trying to ease a craving. With a consistency like cheesecake and a $5 a slice price-point, you really can’t go wrong. Despite the signs engraved in to the building, the shop isn’t actually the birthplace of the dessert, but if you’re looking for something simple, it won’t disappoint.
Blue Heaven + Salute!
If you’re #TeamMeringue, Blue Heaven and Salute! should make your “can’t miss” list. My two favorite spots, run by the same owner, offer great food and great atmospheres.
The pie is next-level, with a perfect graham cracker crust, a light but flavor-packed filling, and fluffy meringue piled nearly 6-inches high. Make sure to request a fresh piece, because after a few hours the meringue loses a bit of its oomph.
So which one should you stop in? The charm of Blue Heaven adds to the experience as a whole. Key West’s famous, or infamous depending on your sleep schedule, roosters freely wander through the outdoor seating area, shaded by a canopy of tropical trees.
Salute! is situated just a few blocks from the Southernmost Point. Inside, a fun crowd of passionate travelers with poor volume control were enjoying the afternoon, but we made a beeline for the outdoor seating because it’s one of the few spots on the island that serves up ocean views with the top-notch pie.
Both shops are unusually busy by Key West standards, so slip in between meal-times or make a reservation.
If you boast an appreciation for the classics, Pepe’s Café will steal your heart.
According to multiple locals eager to share their stance on the signature dessert, Pepe’s pie offers the most authentic version of what many believe the original recipe sought to create.
It’s a little fluffier than its competitors and the chefs have mastered the balance of sweet and tart. It’s also located in the “oldest eating house on the island” with an opening date of 1909.
Key West Key Lime Pie Company
If the high reviews weren’t enough to lure us to the Key West Key Lime Pie Company, the fact it was featured on Marc LeMonis’ The Profit had my husband sold.
The pie pulls to the sweeter side and has a creamy, cheesecake-like texture. Its affordable, fresh, and the service is top-notch. You can also enjoy your slice chocolate-dipped which is a win-win for everyone involved.
Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe
If you base your pie rankings on popularity alone, Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe is the clear winner. It’s been dubbed the top-spot by Today Show, Food Network, and National Geographic.
The pie is tart, rich, and good enough to warrant regular lines out the door. Perhaps even more popular than the pie is the way Kermit Carpenter dishes it out. The chef offers a regular slice, or you can take it Kermit’s way: frozen, on a stick, and dipped in dark Belgian chocolate.