When you’re far away from you grew up, getting the occasional taste of your roots isn’t just comforting, it’s a must. And with the weather having finally reached optimal (aka scorching hot and humid) summer temperatures, it would be no surprise if all Brooklyn-based Miamians were craving one thing in specific: a slice of Key lime pie. After all, key limes are the pink flamingos of Florida food—an integral and nationally recognizable part of our culture. And while maybe the creamy texture and tart but sweet flavor isn’t for everyone [Ed. note: Who are those people?], there is probably no treat more suited to satisfy your summer sweet tooth than the Key lime pie.
But though the Sunshine State is at another corner of the country, you can still snag a refreshing slice or entire pie here in Brooklyn. But take note Brooklynites: Not all Key lime pies are created equal. Some are more tart than others, causing an unfortunate occurrence of spontaneous duck face, while still others sport an alarmingly funky green tint, instead of the more natural mellow yellow custard. But so you won’t be treading through Brooklyn’s Key lime pie scene alone, as a Florida-native, I’m here to guide you through the six best and, frankly, worst pies in the borough.
Lola Bklyn: Let’s start with the bad news: This pie is at the bottom of my list simply because I thought I was eating cheesecake. It wasn’t until I saw “Key lime pie” on my check that I was sure I had ordered the right dessert. Any subtle notes of tartness were overshadowed by the sweetness brought on by a dressing of blueberry sauce that tried—but sadly failed—to redefine the Florida dessert. But, hey, if you’re looking for a worthy Cheesecake Factory substitute then try your luck at Lola Bklyn.
387 Myrtle Avenue, Fort Greene
The Blue Stove: You would think that a bakery located on Graham Avenue would use graham crackers in their crust, but the shell had all the familiarity of a store bought crust, and it left not only a bad taste in my mouth, but also in my heart. The crust is important for any pie; it’s the base that holds everything together. So if you’re structure lacks luster, then you really don’t stand a chance. But if you can bypass this setback—something I could not manage—then the pie is fairly decent. There’s an overwhelming amount of whipped cream topping that is both decadent and sugary, so if you hate the zesty dessert, you can always ladle on some more of that sweetness to mask the taste. But the, actually, you can really just go home because this is a list for serious key lime fanatics only.
415 Graham Avenue, Williamsburg
Butter & Scotch: BEWARE. This bad boy is packing a punch that will definitely cause your lips to pucker and your eyes to scrunch, but that’s OK because the place is extremely dark, so no one will see you whimper from the acidic tang. And I know what you’re thinking: I can tame it with some milk. Spoiler: You can’t, but the whipped cream topper and lime zest was hands-down the best out of the bunch. So that helps. And when you combine that with a nice cold brew of your favorite lager, it really does help it go down much more smoothly.
818 Franklin Avenue, Crown Heights
Mable’s Smokehouse & Banquet Hall: I had really low expectations with this one. Placed in a red basket and parchment paper, was a smallest sliver of Key lime pie I had ever seen. I was slightly insulted, until I rationalized that big things come in small packages. And I ate my discontent after the first bite. The pie had the familiarity of a Floridian grandmother’s recipe that had been passed down for generations. It was simple and not in your face, which was exactly what I needed at 11am, but it would also work as the prefect nightcap to a hearty meal.
44 Berry Street, Williamsburg
Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies: With an adjective like “authentic” in their title, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies has a lot to live up to. There’s no coming back with a name like that, even on an off-day they have to be on point. And honestly, it lives up to its name. This is how traditional Key lime pie is supposed to taste. No extra flavors or decorations that distract from the main attraction: the custard. But then again, I expected nothing less since the owner is a native South Floridian. Also, the fact that it located right on the waterfront near Valentino Park really brought the experience full circle because there’s nothing more gratifying than eating Key lime pie on a makeshift beach. So props to you for bringing the Florida charm to Brooklyn, Steve. My biggest qualm was the crust. It was dry, crumbly, and felt unloved. It was distracting, until I bypassed the entire shell and just concentrated on the delectable custard.
185 Van Dyke Street, Red Hook
Little Cupcake Bakeshop: Ugh, forgive me because I’m about to fangirl so hard right now. These square tartlets will make you forget that you left your debit card at a different bakery half an hour away, and transport you to a tropical haven along the Florida coastline where Will Smith serenades you to an acoustic rendition of “Welcome to Miami.” Yes, it’s that good. The dessert packs a perfect blend of tart and sweet that will have even the most adamant Key lime pie cynic second-guess their stance. The crust alone could’ve been packaged and sold on its own, as a sugary alternative to a health bar. Actually, can we get that to happen? Unlike most crusts that crumble at the touch of silverware, the shell was bonded together in a mixture of smashed graham crackers and what I can only assume is nectar from the gods. And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the shavings of lime zest on top added a new level of freshness that I didn’t know was possible. Now if you want legitimate Florida Key lime pie, then go to Steve’s because they honestly get it, but if you’re looking for a pie that has that “wow” factor that would make your abuela proud, then look no further. You’ve got my seal of approval.
598 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights