An insider’s guide to the perfect Key lime pie

June 11, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY T MICHELE WALKER – Pi Day may be March 14 (get it, 3.14), and as we all know, National Pie Day is January 23. But in the summer heat in Boca Grande, every day is Key lime pie Day.

Key lime pie is as ubiquitous as cheesecake in Manhattan. To help you navigate the terrain, check out our helpful list of our favorite Key lime pie bakeries, restaurants and eateries listed below. 

The origin of Key lime pie or “KLP” as we like to call it,  is surrounded by a bit of mystery and controversy. It begins with the claim that the famous dessert wasn’t actually created in Florida, but by the Borden condensed milk company in New York City. 

The offering from Eagle Grille/Millers Dockside

Some claim that thanks to a wave of advertising by the condensed milk company, the recipe for what was known as “Magic Lemon Cream Pie” most likely made its way to Florida sometime in the 1930s and 1940s.Their canny pie makers modified the recipe, swapping lemons for Key West’s sweet-tart limes.

However, Key West locals say that this is balderdash and blasphemous poppycock, and attribute the dessert origins to a woman named “Aunt Sally,” a cook for a wealthy man. 

In 1926, a hurricane destroyed the Key lime plantations and growers replanted with Persian limes.  Today, the only true, golf ball size key limes found in the Florida Keys are in private backyards. Commercial Key limes, originally from Malaysia and brought over by the Spanish in the 1500s,  can be found on the mainland, in the Miami area.

Here’s what it takes to make an authentic Florida’s Key lime pie: 

4 eggs, separated

4 tablespoons sugar

1/2 a cup of key lime juice  (for best flavor, use only fresh key lime juice)

1 4-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

Graham cracker crust (pre-made)

Directions:

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl until light and thick. Blend in the lime juice, then beat the sweetened condensed milk. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

In a glass or metal (not plastic) container or bowl, beat the egg whites with the sugar until glossy peaks form. Spread the meringue over the pie from crust to crust.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Sit back and enjoy a slice of Florida!

By the way, an authentic Key lime pie is never green, but yellow.

An Insider’s “Local” Guide to The Top Key lime pies in Boca Grande 

Disclaimer: The Boca Beacon official tasters are the staff members and family at The Boca Beacon, who thoroughly enjoyed their job. While we tried to include every restaurant in the area, many were inadvertently left out due to business hours, or just plain unavailability. The following list is in alphabetical order and all of the pies that were included in our test were top notch. There are no losers in the Key lime pie game.

Eagle Grill and Miller’s Dockside, 220 Harbor Dr., Boca Grande

One of our testers said, “Very good! I liked the density of the pie.” Another said, “I like the colorful, fresh aesthetic that it had.” A third tester said, “The presentation was top notch.” 

Gasparilla Inn Bakery, 384 E. Railroad Ave., Boca Grande

This popular Boca Grande institution usually has a line around the building, and for good reason. The desserts and coffee are to die for. Their Key lime pie got top marks for their lovely presentation, and according to two testers who commented, “Fabulous presentation!” 

Hudson’s Grocery,  441 N. Park Ave, Boca Grande

It might not be a restaurant, but Hudson’s has everything, including a fabulous Key lime pie. Made by The Caribbean Pie Company, who according to their website, “is the AWARD WINNING Key lime pie bakery that has been producing THE Key lime pie for over 30 years in the Sarasota area.” It was enjoyed thoroughly by our Boca Beacon taste testers.

Kappy’s Market, 5800 Gasparilla Rd., Boca Grande

Kappy’s Market and Deli is a happening place, and for good reason: Where else can you buy a hat, swimwear and Key lime pie? One-stop shopping is the name of the game, and one of our testers thought that it had “Good consistency, very light with a hint of key lime but not overpowering.”

Loose Caboose, 433 W. 4th St., Boca Grande

A popular Boca Grande eatery located in the heart of downtown, The Loose Caboose has been family owned and operated since 2006. They made a scrumptious Key lime pie, Testers said they enjoyed the “mild key lime taste and traditional graham cracker crust.”

Newlin’s Mainely Gourmet, 446 4th St E, Boca Grande

This small cafe located in Boca Grande may be famous for their crab rolls and lobster bisque, but they also offer a mean Key lime pie, sold to them by an outside contractor. Fabulous crust with a filling that is the perfect balance between tart and sweet, it has just enough lime flavor but not overpowering. As one tester explained, their pie had, “The best tart-to-crust ratio.” Another agreed saying, “Good crust with perfect tartness.” And a third added, “Good tartness and great graham crust.”

Pink Elephant Restaurant, 491 Bayou Ave., Boca Grande

The Pink Elephant featured a bruleed meringue topping, which the entire Beacon office adored. One tester proclaimed, “It’s very creamy and the crust is like brown butter.” Another said, “ It’s delicious and doesn’t make you pucker. It’s sweet and a generous portion.” A third tester made the observation, “When you eat the meringue and the pie filling together, it’s a heavenly combination.” Almost everyone agreed that the meringue to filling ratio was perfection. Another tester chimed in, saying, “I love this pie. It elevates the entire Key lime pie experience.”

Scarpa’s Coastal, 321 Park Ave., Boca Grande 

If crust is your thing, then Scarpa’s would be your go-to choice for Key lime pie. One of our testers who is the crust aficionado, said, “The crust is my favorite part of the Scarpa’s pie. I love pies because I love crust.” Another enjoyed the custard filling, while a third tester thought this pie was, “Excellent. The crust has a crispness to it, a bit of brown sugar taste and just the right amount of consistency.”  Yet another tester said, “I like the differences of textures and the tart mix with the sweetness.” The final word comes from our “Number 1 Tester,” who gave a big thumbs up to the crust.

South Beach Bar & Grille, 760 Gulf Blvd., Boca Grande

South Beach Bar & Grille offers an authentic Key lime pie experience. With a trio of lovely sauce toppings, it boasts a tangy lime flavor that is refreshing on a summer day. The first tester said, “It’s a tart taste with a delightful graham cracker crust.” The second tester enjoyed it and exclaimed, “It’s a refreshing taste.” A third said, “The custard is smooth and it is delightfully ‘tart-licious.” A fourth tester (one of the crust lovers) enjoyed the crust and gave it his seal of approval.

The Temptation Restaurant, 350 Park Ave., Boca Grande

Next in our list is the Key lime pie from The Temptation. According to the online reviews, their desserts are “to die for,” and their Key lime pie is no exception. One tester observed, “Very creamy and goes down smooth, with a key lime aftertaste.”

And just off island, too.

Sassy Tarts! 5855 Placida Rd., Englewood

As they say on their website, “Sassy Tarts is a small, family operated bakery in Englewood. Food is in our blood and a family legacy…”  Among their many delectable selections, their Key lime pies are amazing. As one of our testers said, “Nice tart shell and great crust with a sugar cookie taste.” 

Super Day Express, 1595 S. McCall Rd., Port Charlotte

Super Day Express is a full-service convenience store and restaurant that is a one-stop-shop for fishermen and people of the community. They feature delicious homemade foods that you can take with you on your trips and their Key lime pie cheesecake puts the yum in yummy. One tester felt it was, “A very light and airy cheesecake” taste, and another loved the “real whipped cream and light key lime flavor.”