The South's Best Pies
Stinky’s Chef and Owner Jim Richard grew up around great cooks in New Orleans. He still uses a dough making technique his grandmother taught him for the classic Key lime pies he serves in his restaurant about 30 miles east of Fort Walton. “We make flaky dough that’s a lot more like pastry than a traditional pie crust,” Jim says.
5994 Hwy 30A, stinkysfishcamp.com or 850-267-3053
Jaynie “The Pie Queen” Buckingham works magic inside a pink-and-green 4- x 8-foot trailer in downtown Austin. Out of this small, quirky space, she serves one of world’s best buttermilk pies. (Yes, best.) Jaynie offers several kinds, but buttermilk’s the standout. The filling is as silky as crème brûlée, covered by a crust that’s nearly paper thin yet still flaky and crisp.
1600 South Congress Avenue, cutiepiewagon.com or 512-589-7979
Ever seen a 5-pound chocolate pie? They make them every Friday (and on holidays) at this bakery in downtown New Albany (on U.S. Highway 78 about two hours southeast of Memphis). Owner Mary Jennifer Russell uses a family recipe to turn out the gigantic, but surprisingly light, chocolate creation. She also makes regular size pies, as well as caramel and strawberry cakes.
110 West Bankhead Street, sugarees.com or 866-784-2733
Avis Renshaw (“Mom” of “Mom’s Apple Pie Company”) makes delicious desserts throughout the year, but her pies really reach their peak in summer when the berries ripen. That’s when Avis offers her blackberry and strawberry specialties made from fruit picked fresh from the farm she owns with her husband, Steven Cox, near Leesburg. She piles berries on top of a cool combination of cream cheese and fruit glaze spread on a thin bottom crust; then she covers everything with more berry glaze. Avis and Steven founded Mom’s in 1981, and now they sell pies whole or by the slice at two Virginia locations.
220 Loudon Street SE., momsapplepieco.com or 703-771-8590
This cozy restaurant in downtown Monroe (off I-20 about two hours east of Shreveport) serves more than 20 different kinds of delicious pies, but the banana caramel may be the best. Whipped cream sits on a layer of caramel and fresh, sliced bananas, with a crushed Heath candy bar sprinkled on top.
2117 Forsythe Avenue, 318-322-9928
The Angus Barn turns 50 in 2010, and while the Raleigh restaurant is better known for steaks than desserts, its chocolate chess pie is one of the South’s best. Made with semi-sweet chocolate, the pie is creamy and smooth without being too sweet. Want the recipe? The Barn folks are happy to share it with you if you call the number below.
9401 Glenwood Avenue, angusbarn.com or 919-781-2444
This family friendly café set next to the railroad tracks in Glendale (a small town off I-65 about an hour south of Louisville) makes its light-as-air coconut meringue pies from scratch. The homemade crust is filled with just the right amount of coconut. If you aren’t cuckoo for coconut, the Whistle Stop also makes great chocolate and banana meringue pies.
216 East Main Street, whistlestopky.com or 270-369-8586
Pie lovers have been flocking to this eatery in the Texas Hill Country (about an hour northwest of Austin) since 1931. Owners John and Belinda Kemper claim their pies have a “mile-high meringue,” and they aren’t too far off the mark. Chopped pecans cover two-to-three inches of creamy meringue that sits atop the best German chocolate filling in Texas, as pictured on the far left. Soon after John and Belinda bought the Blue Bonnet in 1981, they started holding “Pie Happy Hours,” every weekday from 3 to 5 p.m. Since then, the afternoon pie-a-thons have helped increase their business, and made thousands of Hill Country visitors very happy.
211 Highway 281, bluebonnetcafe.net or 830-693-2344
University of Tennessee students gladly volunteer to make the drive up U.S. Highway 441 to this combination market, restaurant, and bakery just north of Knoxville, for a piece of coconut cream pie. The light-and-airy pie just barely beats out Litton’s chocolate chess pie, made with a rich, dense filling that almost tastes like fudge.
2803 Essary Road, littonsburgers.com or 865-688-0429
The meringue atop one of Charlotte Bowls’s coconut pies stands almost as tall as a 5-pound bag of sugar. Charlotte mixes fresh coconut into that mountain of meringue and then adds more coconut to the filling. But the Arkansas pie master doesn’t limit her baked concoctions just to coconut; she also makes a dozen other varieties from caramel to chocolate. For the past 16 years Charlotte has used recipes gathered from her family and friends. Now she teaches those recipes to her granddaughter, Michala Coffey, who has joined her in the family’s tasty business.
290 Main Street, 501-842-2123
Folks come from all over Georgia to sample the Bragg family’s homemade buttermilk pie at their restaurant just off I-20 near Lake Oconee. And it’s no wonder—the family has been using the same recipe for nearly 30 years, and the delightful dessert has been featured on Good Morning America.
114 North Main Street, theyesterdaycafe.com or 706-453-0800
Freshly baked pies are signaling something sweet happening in this small town in Alabama’s soil-rich Black Belt region where jobs are drying up and storefronts shutting down. A group of young graphic designers set up the bakery, culinary school, and design studio on Main Street in a thrift shop storage site in the summer of 2009. “Food brings people together,” designer Amanda Buck says. “Pie is how we get to know Greensboro.” PieLab teaches area youth how to make pies, and then sells slices for $2 ($3 à la mode). Since opening, the designers have also started job training programs for local residents and done design work for downtown merchants. “All because of pie,” Amanda says.
1317 Main Street; pielab.org
This tiny pie place in Rolla (off I-44 about two hours west of St. Louis), serves a Boston cream pie that’s actually a cross between cake and pie. Two pieces of vanilla cake topped with chocolate frosting serve as the “crust” for a filling of homemade vanilla pudding. If that sounds a bit rich for your taste, try the pumpkin pie topped with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.
601 Kings Highway, www.asliceofpie.net or 573-364-6203
Located just off I-95 between Charleston and Savannah, Jessica and Tristan Lehnert’s roadside shop sells locally made jams, jellies, syrups, relishes, and barbecue sauces. But the pies are what make this place stand out. Local baker Laurel Goodman of Sweet Cakes makes a variety of pies for Jessica and Tristan—ranging from blueberry, peach, and apple to buttermilk and sweet potato. They’re all good, but her pecan version is extraordinary: The buttery texture of the baked pecans pairs nicely with a filling that’s neither too syrupy nor too sweet. Laurel credits the flavor to her use of farm-fresh eggs (from her own chickens) and just-picked pecans from an orchard in Georgia.
81 Charleston Highway; carolinaciderco.com or 888-746-1899
This popular eatery in North Wilmington serves the best Key lime pie in the First State. It’s creamy, sweet, and tart all at the same time. And since the Corner Bistro is open seven days a week until 10 p.m., Key lime lovers can satisfy their cravings any day of the week.
3604 Silverside Road, mybistro.com or 302-477-1778