Little Palm Island: Few can afford to overnight on this dreamy island, but anyone is welcome to take the romantic, quick boat trip (free) for lunch or dinner there. This luxurious hideaway is surely where Ginger and the Howells envisioned landing on Gilligan's Island. The view, mood, service, and fare lull you right out of reality. And pastry chef Dawn Runge's tall Key lime pie with crunchy cashew crust and ethereal orange whipped cream will make you pray to be eternally stranded. U.S. 1, MM 28.5 Oceanside, Little Torch Key; (305) 872-2524 or 1-800-343-8567.
The Deli: The homey pie topped with unabashed, softly weeping meringue at this 52-year-old restaurant melted my heart. The founder, John Bernreuter, gave me a smile and change from an espresso cup next to his cash register. His now-grown granddaughter Patty has worked here with the rest of the family since age 9, and she makes three to nine of the disks daily. I adore her recipe: a flaky pastry crust; a filling so cold, so thick, so puckery; and a meringue as sturdy and sweet and pure as this family tradition. 531 Truman Avenue, Key West; (305) 294-1464.
Alice's at La-Te-Da: A startling antithesis to the past, young and brash Alice Weingarten delights with her wild-print chef attire, collection of cat's-eye glasses, and vibrant lipstick. But her plates show a serious side, dallying in beurre blanc, white truffles, and lavender vinaigrette. Her Key lime pie is "black bottom": a veneer of deep chocolate ganache between from-scratch Key lime curd and classic graham cracker crust. She encourages pastry chef Sharon Madden to dream with daily specials such as a charlotte of Key lime mousse with "ice cubes" of clear lime-vanilla gelatin. Very clever. 1125 Duval Street, Key West; (305) 296-6706.
The Key Lime Tree: A souvenir shop honoring the itty-bitty citrus. Skip the mediocre pie, and stock up on sweetly scalding Key lime hot sauce, creamy Key lime mustard sauce, and oddities such as the alligator-shaped pasta. Snap the perfect vacation photo outside this quirky spot. U.S. 1, MM 95 Oceanside, Key Largo; (305) 853-0378 or 1-800-870-1780.
Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe: If you missed the Key Lime Tree back at Key Largo, here is your second chance for a citrus-themed shopping spree--a bizarre bazaar--this one with funny man Kermit Carpenter. 200 Elizabeth Street, Key West; (305) 296-0806, 1-800-376-0806, or www.keylimeshop.com.
Seven Mile Grill: Okay, not the best pie, but a place you ought to see. This 48-year-old tradition is usually packed for breakfast. If you think that Key lime pie is a nutritious a.m. option, by golly, so do they. And if Rebecca McDaniel is waiting tables with the usual huge hibiscus tucked into her long brunette braid, you're in for sunshine and a laugh. For those who'd rather sleep till lunch, we hear they do an "honest fish sandwich." U.S. 1, MM 47.5 Bayside, Marathon; (305) 743-4481.
Atlantic's Edge, Cheeca Lodge & Spa: Ah, the first of the uppity renditions. Besides an oceanfront view worthy of a painting, this popular resort's dining room also woos with a classy taste of the tropics. After savories (such as Key lime-marinated seviche and garlic-scented shrimp with homemade pappardelle noodles), slip into sweetness with pillow-soft Key lime mille-feuille (meel-FWEE). That's just a posh term for pastry chef Michael Smith's chilly layers of tangy custard between shattering slivers of phyllo pastry. A mosaic of precisely sliced and pureed fruits paints the plate around it. This indeed leaves those foil-piepan versions squirted with fake topping quivering pitifully on the sidelines. U.S. 1, MM 82 Oceanside, Islamorada; (305) 664-4651 or 1-800-327-2888.