I grew up in Chicago. I am used to hot cocoa in negative degree temperatures, hot comfort foods like creamy mac-n-cheese, and ice cream cones in the summer time that melt and drip down your hands and ruin your clothes.
So where did my obsession with Key Lime Pie come from? It’s a mystery really, and to be honest, my first time tasting Key Lime Pie was probably in college. I’ve always been considered a chocolate-aholic. Dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate with nuts, chocolate with caramel, you name it, I want it!
But then I watched an episode of Man Vs. Food on the Travel Channel. The host, Adam Richman, was down in the Florida Keys–a place I was told to visit one day while I was traveling in Miami for work.
Richman tries a lot of the seafood, which I am not a fan of, but beaches and sunny weather are my friends (regardless of my pale skin tone). But then he goes to Blue Heaven for a slice of Key Lime Pie with a Meringue that reaches for the heavens. So that was it. I began to plan our budget friendly vacation to the Florida Keys with the determination to try Key Lime Pie every chance I get. Here are those moments:
First Stop: Hungry Tarpon Restaurant – Islamorada, FL
This was our first stop on the drive down to the Florida Keys. You can see the place (the whole place is called Robbie’s and the restaurant is called Hungry Tarpon) from the bridge along the main highway. We chose this place to go snorkeling and decided to stick around for some food. Why? Because our boat captain raved about the Key Lime Pie. So it was time to dig in!
This slice really set the pace for the rest of our trip. And three subsequent slices later, it was a hard slice to beat. The whipped cream topping was good, the graham cracker crust was a little thin but plenty sweet. And finally, the key lime pie filling was just right–a little tart, tangy, and perfectly consistent throughout. I still prefer meringue instead of whipped cream.
I loved this slice at Hungry Tarpon, and but it doesn’t earn my top spot for the whole trip. Because it didn’t have meringue, it comes in at #3.
Second Stop: Blue Heaven – Key West, FL
And here it is. The whole inspiration for my trip to the keys. This pie stands out in terms of presentation. As you can see, the meringue is really piled on and the edges get a little crisp. I love burnt cheese and burnt ends of things. Maybe I’m weird like this, but this pie slice really made me happy even before I lifted the fork. Just looking at it made me smile!
My favorite thing here (after the meringue) is the pie crust. I love graham cracker crusts, but I like them to be thick and really stand out. Yes, I scraped every graham cracker crumb off the plate, and no, I will not apologize for it.
I wish we had more time in the Florida Keys because this is the only slice we had in Key West. I would have liked to try more, but I had to restrain myself and also eat food not almost entirely made of sugar (insert sarcastic, life isn’t fair comment).
Everything about Blue Heaven’s slice was what I wanted and expected. So I have to give this my personal favorite #1.
Third Stop: Boondocks Grille & Draft House – Ramrod Key, FL
Whenever you judge and evaluate the things around you, there needs to be someone in last place. Our stop at Boondocks was mediocre and not a great experience. I should note that I was overly sunburnt and experiencing cold and hot flashes from too much sun. I could barely eat dinner.
But that doesn’t mean I’m skipping dessert. We asked our server about the Key Lime Pie, and he did recommend it but added that it wasn’t the same as other places. Intrigued, I had to know more. He said it was a refrigerated version of Key Lime Pie and not the traditional type. If you don’t know, Key Lime Pies are made with non-refrigerated ingredients due to the remoteness of the keys (History by Col).
Maybe we expected an in-house recipe, but neither of us liked this variety. It was frozen and hard to put a fork through, and instead of meringue, it has a whipped topping. I love whipped cream (when it isn’t frozen solid and hard to bite), but meringue and Key Lime Pie are a pairing that just work well. We then found out that the restaurant orders it from a company adding a seal to our disappointment.
Boondocks is frozen throughout and just lacking fresh flavors, so this one earns the bottom spot, #4.
Final Stop: Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory – Tavernier, FL
This is the final slice of Key Lime goodness we had before our flight back home to Chicago. We were driving north and saying good bye to the ocean and overseas highways that we came to love dearly. I was on yelp looking for the last chance for Key Lime Pie knowing I would probably never find anything comparable in Chicago (which means I have to learn to make it myself).
In comes Blond Giraffe located right on the main highway and only selling Key Lime Pies and similar flavored products (cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, etc). We stopped in expecting the best. I liked this slice, but I just couldn’t call it my favorite.
It had a good amount of meringue, but again I wanted a thicker graham cracker crust. This was #1 in Dan’s opinion of the whole trip. One thing I did like is that they offered slices with whipped cream, no topping, and meringue topping. So this is a great place if you’ve got diversity in your group’s preferences.
At Blond Giraffe, you’ll find a good slice, great variety and options, but not my favorite overall, so this slice is #2.
*Before I can end my evaluation, I got to make two honorable mentions from our trip (non-key-lime-pie-mentions):
Five Brothers Grocery – Summerland Key, FL
I always support local businesses. We stayed near this Five Brothers Grocery location and passed right by thinking nothing of it. Our host highly recommended it for delicious breakfast sandwiches. We ended up going twice for food and the amazing Cuban coffee. Read the full yelp review in the link above.
El Rancho Grande – Miami Beach, FL
Linked above is my full review of El Rancho Grande on Yelp. Let’s just say that this place had some of the greatest service and delicious food in the Miami Beach area. Save room for desert because the deep fried banana cheesecake is worth the weight you can gain eating something like this.