When I was organizing my travel plans in preparation for a week in the Florida Keys, it didn’t take me long to settle on my top priority. I need to try the pie, Key lime pie, and lots of it. Thankfully, the team organizing my press trip agreed and I was able to sample not one, not two, but eleven different Key lime pies. Hey, research is important, right? In the end, there was one clear winner both in terms of flavor and experience. This is what it’s like to have Key lime pie at the legendary Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe.
How To Visit Kermit’s
The original Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe is a local legend. This jaunty green and yellow building is just steps from the waterfront and marina at the corner of Elizabeth and Green Street. It’s a fun spot to hang out, as there are lots of funky little shops to explore, popular waterside eateries, and marina-side benches to sit and daydream (though keep your ears open for a commotion. During my visit, I heard and then saw some people gathering by the side of the marina. Turns out, they had spotted a small shark!)
There’s a second location of Kermit’s on Duval Street and throughout the city. You’ll see many restaurants, cafés, and shops proudly advertising that they sell slices of Kermit’s classic Key lime pie. But there is one under-the-radar spot for Kermit’s you might overlook and you’ll be glad you didn’t. Key West International Airport is pretty basic when it comes to eateries but the cold food kiosk (which sells sub sandwiches, chips, and chocolate bars) has a cooler filled with whole pies and individual slices. I grabbed a chocolate-dipped version and I’m so glad I did — it was one last bite of the Keys before I returned home to the cold.
Incidentally, the entire airport is getting a huge facelift and expanded facilities, due to open in 2024. I think this would be a perfect spot for a third Kermit’s outlet. Only time will tell!
What Will You Find At Kermit’s
In a word, everything! To start, there’s the pie and it is wonderful. It’s neither too sweet nor too tart (a hard balance to find). Garnished with light puffs of whipped cream, it’s thankfully devoid of the topping overload you’ll find at most other spots. It’s a solid, respectable pie that honors the original recipe and you’ll also find some fun variations if you like to branch out a bit. The chocolate-dipped slices are usually served chilled on a stick, surely making all area ice cream cones wildly jealous. I loved a coconut-infused version of Kermit’s Key lime pie, as it tasted like a tropical vacation to me. Other varieties include Key lime-strawberry and white chocolate-coated pie.
Incidentally, if you’re staying in the area, go ahead and take home an entire pie. It’s not that much more expensive than getting a couple of slices and you’ll be mighty glad you have it on hand when you’re looking for a bedtime snack.
Kermit’s also sells lime-infused curds, preserves, salad dressings, sauces, and spice blends, plus every imaginable kind of Key lime candy (yep, there are free samples!). There are lime-infused soaps, toiletries, and oils. You’ll even see dog biscuits for sale but sadly they’re not filled with lime (though my dog, Oliver, was content to snack on them all the same). Anyone traveling with just carry-on luggage will want to grab a package or two of the spice blend. I got a Key lime salsa mix that I can’t wait to break out when my summer tomatoes ripen.
It’s A Delicious Lunch Spot Too
Tucked beside Kermit’s main shop is Kermit’s Café Kitchen. This charming little spot is filled with plants and water features and offers a lunch menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and hot specials, plus an all-day breakfast. I love that your choice of sides doesn’t just extend to traditional French fries but that you can also get bean salad, coleslaw, or fruit cup. Ask for a cup of homemade limeade to go with your meal.
Yes, Kermit Is Real!
Yes, there is a real man named Kermit behind the shop and he makes being green look easy. Kermit Carpenter is 80 years old and has been in the Key lime business for 30 years now. His sister Anita was by his side to help him brainstorm every possible product they could sell that contained Key limes in some way. He’s a passionate ambassador of all things Key lime and he gave me a stealthy tip about how he uses the product.
I was amazed by how youthful Kermit is. He may be 80 but he could pass for 60! He confirms that he does indeed use the shop’s line of lotion that is infused with Key lime oil and that he adds extra oil to it at home. He also shared that Cleopatra herself was reputed to use lime oil among her toiletries so that’s a pretty good company to be in. Folks who are sensitive to the sun will want to exercise caution when applying citrus oil, however, as it can be phototoxic.
Curious about his distinctive name? He was named in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Kermit Roosevelt, who passed away the same year he was born.
What Is Key Lime Pie?
A classic Key lime pie is made with Key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. It’s usually cooked in a graham cracker crust but you’ll find variations using traditional pie crust or even no crust at all. It may be served as is, with meringue, or with whipped cream. Look carefully at the color of the filling. It should be pale yellow thanks to the egg yolks and the yellow juice of the Key limes. Stay away from anything bright green!
You Won’t Find Key Limes In The Keys
Looking to grab a few Key limes from a local orchard to make your own pie? Unfortunately, they’re all but impossible to find in the Florida Keys and the fruit hasn’t been grown commercially in the United States since the 1926 Miami hurricane. Key lime pies are made from the juice of Mexican and Central American fruit.
For more information on traveling to Key West, check out these articles: