Every state of the union has its own specialty pies. This month, “Try Pie” as your traveling theme. Familiar favorites or unusual and unique pies are out there waiting for you. Here is a sampling of restaurants that offer a panorama of pleasing pies along the American waysides.
Key Lime Pie
Key lime pie takes its name from the Florida Key’s key lime trees. So Florida in general and the Keys in particular are the places to seek the restaurant with the perfect Key Lime Pie. To have your meal and pie, too, head for Pepe’s Cafe and Steak House, in Key West. It was founded in 1909 so for more than a century has proven to be “a fairly good place for quite a long while”, which is their slogan. Pepe’s Key Lime Pie is one of the reasons that “fairly good” is an understatement. Other deliciously dependable Florida restaurants serving a classy Key Lime Pie include Bahama Breeze in Altamonte Springs, Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach. Miami’s The Rusty Pelican’s Key Biscayne Key Lime Pie, Manny & Isa’s in Islamorada, and the Wooden Spoon in Marathon Key. Here’s a suggestion: Why not have a Key Lime Pie-a-Thon all up and down Florida, just to be sure that you don’t miss the best!
Mention “pie” anywhere within a drive of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and that sound you hear will be a collective sigh of sadness that Hess’s of Allentown is no more, since that department store’s restaurant offered the most amazing piled high Strawberry Pie ever. That option being out of the question, the best Strawberry Pie currently available may be found at Polly’s Pies in Santa Ana California, where the Strawberry Pie packs in the customers. If you want any other kind of pie you can probably find it at Polly’s, from Coconut Cream to Polly’s own Banberry Pie (yes banana-blueberry), as well as a full restaurant menu of good eating. Santa Ana is known for the Lyon Air Museum and the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art. In other parts of the nation, great Strawberry Pie contenders include Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House in Huntington, West Virginia, and Strawn’s Eat Shop in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Originally from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, this pie has two textures. The top is like cake and the bottom is wet like pecan or shoofly pie but less sweet. Mainly made of eggs, sugar, molasses, and flour, with a hint of lemon, it is delicious. The very best Montgomery Pie is made by the ladies of the Donegal Presbyterian Church in western Lancaster County. Pennsylvania. But since they only do that once a year, we suggest you try The Famous Dutch Kitchen Restaurant in Frackville, PA, just of Interstate 81 at exit 124, for the same wonderful quality of this unusual and special dessert, plus great meals. By the way, this is not to be confused with a very different but also superb Montgomery Pie that is served in and around Montgomery, Alabama, where the flavor is mostly lemon. Frackville is a coal town often called “Mountain City” by the locals, famous for the Mahoney Plane mine. Drive south to see Jerry’s Classic Cars And Collectibles in Pottsville PA, for a 1950s-1960s blast from the past.
We confess a lifelong weakness for the sweet goodness of pecan pie. Georgia is the source for pecans in the south, so if you are after a pecan pie in Georgia, go to Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta, serving up pecan pie since 1945. This is an Atlanta institution and the meals are consistently good. Mary Mac’s serves all our favorite southern specialties including Brunswick Stew, Mudbugs, Fried Green Tomatoes and Braised Ox Tails. In addition to Pecan Pie, they have Peanut Butter Pie and Peach Cobbler as well, so dessert lovers, save room! There is so much to see and do in Atlanta, we cannot begin to mention it here. Other great offerings for Pecan Pie can be found at Sweet Creations in Nashville, and the House of Pies in Houston Texas, where they serve breakfast, lunch , and dinner any time, day or night and everything is homemade.
The Original Fried Pie Shop in Davis, Oklahoma says it all began in 1893 when Grandma would feed hand pies to the ranchers in the fields of Oklahoma’s Arbuckle Mountains. If the ranch hands were happy, so were the others who tried Grandma’s Fried Pies, which were oh so good and so easy to eat on the run. The idea spread like a prairie fire until there are now Original Fried Pie Shop locations in Texas and Arkansas. You can dine at Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies in Davis, too, in a restaurant that looks like a restored church. Both these places specialize in meat and breakfast pies as well as dessert pies. Then we hear tell about a place in Memphis that also claims to have started the craze for Fried Pies. In Memphis you can have Fried Pie at Miss Polly’s Soul City Café, Payne’s Bar-B-Que, or Belle – A Southern Bistro. Back in 1801 Fried Pies were called “Crab Lanterns” in New Hampshire. “Century Illustrated” talked about “Crab Lantern” pies back in 1889. Sometimes called Pocket Pie, Hand Pie, Pasty, Half-Moon Pie or Lunchbox Pie, Fried Pie was a favorite of President Franklin Pierce, who was in the White House 1853 to 1857. So where did it all begin? Davis? Memphis? New Hampshire? DC? We won’t argue, instead we will just ask for one more Fried Pie! Apricot Fried Pie, anyone?
Shaker Lemon Pie
Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill Country Inn. Harrodsburg, Kentucky serves their signature dessert, Shaker Lemon Pie. Shaker Village is one of the nation’s rare treasures, a completely restored and living village of 34 preserved, original 19th-century buildings, in which the traditions of the Shakers are kept alive for future generations. You will want to book a room in the Inn at Shaker Village, stroll the grounds and have a marvelous leisurely dinner in the Trustees Office Dining Room, topped off with this delicious confection. Nearby visit Berea, Kentucky, for handmade Appalachian crafts items from furniture to woven rugs, to pottery. At the Boone Tavern Hotel in Berea, have another stellar meal at the 100+ years old Boone Tavern Restaurant where Derby Pie is always on the menu. The staff of this hotel and restaurant is chiefly drawn from the student body of Berea College, a leader in hospitality monument education. Such wonderful people! Whenever you are pining for pie, this part of Kentucky will call you back again.
The best Apple Pie is the one that mom or grandma made or your wife makes, at least that is how it is in our family. So much so, that I nearly never order Apple Pie out; as good as it may be, it is not theirs, and so disappoints. Having said that, you can aim for Vermont Apple Pie Bakery and Restaurant in Proctorsville, Vermont, the best-kept secret of the Green Mountain area of Vermont. Well, not that much of a secret; you will have to wait for a table on a busy day. They offer a full menu, and have an Apple Pie that is almost as good as granny’s to satisfy your craving. So delicious! Make a stay of it at The Castle, be sure to book in the beautiful historic hotel castle building, or the Golden Stage Inn Bed and Breakfast. Visit area wine and cheese businesses, and tour the Robert Todd Lincoln’s estate “Hildene” which is well worth visiting.
Cherry Pie is the all-American “I cannot tell a lie” pie. White Gull Inn, at Fish Creek, in Wisconsin’s picturesque Door County is known for its wonderful hospitality and fabulous food. The locals agree that the White Gull Inn serves a spectacular Cherry Pie as the finale of their famous traditional Door County Fish Boils. You cannot get it just any day of the week, it is served Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from May through October and on Friday evenings the rest of the year. Reservations requested. While you are in Door County, visit Peninsula State Park, the Door County Historical Museum, and the Cana Island Lighthouse. For other awesome Cherry Pie picks visit The Cherry Hut in Beulah, Michigan, or C J’s Café and Deli in Cabot, Arkansas, where they also serve Millionaire Pie (made with cream cheese, pineapples and pecans), and Lemon Ice Box Pie.
Pie Town, New Mexico
This town was named for its dried apple pies, a welcome 1920s respite for weary travelers along Route 60. Today, in addition to holding an annual pie festival, you can stop at one of the restaurants in Pie Town and have…pie. At Pio-O-Neer Pies, order the Ginger Pear Pie with a “crust like grandma’s”, or the Blueberry, or the Banana Cream, Sweet Potato Pecan, or the Strawberry Rhubarb. Kathy “The Pie Lady of Pie Town” does serve lunch as well. They are only open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and only until their fresh baked pies are gone, so plan accordingly! Another Pie Town treat is the Good Pie Café’s New Mexican Apple Pie, made with green chili and pine nuts. Other the Good Pie Café specialties are the Chimayo Chile Cherry, Peanut Butter, Raspberry Cream or Chocolate Cream Pie, which you can select from “The World’s Only True Pie Chart”. They have great pulled pork and other mealtime selections, as well.
So much pie; so little time! So go on, head out there with the upper crust to enjoy the pies that await. Just keep this in mind: To live the pie-life, it all begins with the fork (in the road) as you #DriveTheNation!