Our picks for the best slices

PANAMA CITY — Key lime pie headlines the Florida Keys’ July festival, but locals and visitors throughout the state don’t need a reason to indulge in what officially has become the sweetest treat.

While locals plan festivals around Key lime pie, named the official pie of Florida by the state legislature in 2006, vacationers plan their travel plans around where to dig into the best slice. The Key lime pie recipe traditionally is a rich blend of condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of the tiny yellow Key lime, adding a hue of Florida sunshine to the filling, nestled in a graham cracker crust, and topped with whipped cream or meringue.

The signature dessert is believed to have originated in Key West in the late 1800s, but restaurants throughout the state serve their own takes on Key lime pie. Spins on the crust range from pretzels and brown sugar to iced oatmeal cookies. Key lime pie also comes in all shapes and sizes, from mini 6-inch rounds to squares cut from 12-by-24-inch rectangular pans to the “World’s Largest Key Lime Pie,” a 9-foot pie, at the Florida Key Lime Pie Festival in Brevard County.

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Uncle Ernie's Key Lime Pie with an iced oatmeal cookie crust is made in a 12-by-24-inch pan that is cut into more than 30 pieces of thick, rich goodness.

If you want to create your own Key lime pie-eating contest, go ahead, no one will judge you. It’s up to you whether you use your hands. And every local and longtime visitor knows, there are plenty of pies always ready for any sweet-tooth emergency at Publix Supermarkets. Publix, which first opened in Winter Haven in 1930, has been serving the same Key lime pie recipe since 1957. With a blend of Key lime and lime juice, it’s not too tart or too sweet; some say it’s just right. Available in 9- and 6-inch rounds, the pie has been recognized in the Premium Key Lime category at the American Pie Council awards and Southern Living magazine. The toasted sliced almonds sprinkled along the edge of the whipped cream give a little crunch in all that creamy goodness on the graham cracker crust.

Publix's Key lime pie is topped with whipped cream, toasted almonds and a candied chocolate lime.

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Here are a few of our favorite slices from restaurants around the state:

Sean Lyon won't change the recipe for Uncle Ernie's Key Lime Pie as long as he owns it.

Uncle Ernie’s Bayfront Bar & Grill, Panama City

1151 Bayview Ave., Panama City; 850-763-8427; UncleErniesBayfrontGrill.com

“We go through about 14 big huge Key lime pies a week,” said Sean Lyon, who owns the restaurant with his cousin, Erin Pigneri. “We won’t change the recipe as long as I own it.”

Lyon’s grandfather, James Joseph Pigneri, told them how to make Key lime pie. The secret, Lyon said, is in the Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice, which is mixed with egg yolks and Borden Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. But it might be in the crumbled iced oatmeal cookie crust.