Photo: Gary Clark
1. Love Those Love Creek Apples
Stop in at Love Creek Orchards Cider Mill & Country Store on State 16 in Medina, and loosen your belt for a slice of really big apple pie. It takes a 14-inch slab of dough to drape over the 4-pound mound of the fruit grown here in this Hill Country village. Order it with apple ice cream. Lunch is served too. If you can't get there in person, mail-order a pie to your house. Visit www.lovecreekorchards.com, or call 1-800-449-0882.
2. Happy Hour by the Slice
Get ready for "pie happy hour," a tasty way to wind down the day at Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls. From 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, owners John and Belinda Kemper welcome pie lovers, who choose chocolate meringue (the top seller), coconut cream, or others among a dozen flavors available each day. Chief baker Maura de Dominguez and her staff turn out as many as 100 cream pies and 40 fruit and pecan pies daily. The cafe is at 211 U.S. 281. For more on the restaurant, visit www.bluebonnetcafe.net, or call (830) 693-2344.
3. Delicious Dozen at Koffee Kup Family Restaurant
Lynn Allen, owner of this Hico landmark, serves a dozen flavors in this exemplary small-town cafe that also features fabulous chicken-fried steak, great coffee, and friendly waitresses. Coconut Cream and Black Forest (made with two layers of chocolate) are top sellers, along with apple, pecan, banana-blueberry, and several cream pies. Lynn also offers sugar-free pies in coconut and chocolate. See their menu at www.koffeekupfamilyrestaurant.com, or call (254) 796-4839.
4. Must Be Pie Heaven
In this vintage soda fountain and ice-cream parlor in downtown Brenham, Charlie and Traci Pyle's staff whips up 10 pie varieties daily as well as some seasonal favorites. Coconut meringue is a top seller, followed by the chocolate, Dutch apple, pecan, and a Bourbon-Chocolate Chip-Pecan that's richer than Dallas. Must Be Heaven is at 107 West Alamo in Brenham, with other locations in Bryan and College Station. See their menu at www.mustbeheaven.com, or call (979) 830-8536.
5. Pie in the Sky
Marlene Stubler, owner of Pie in the Sky Pie Co., serves her "hot and sloppy" Mississippi Mud Pie in a bowl with ice cream on top. Breakfast and lunch diners enjoy pie as dessert and buy them whole to go. Many love her Bumbleberry, made with five berries and rhubarb. Rice Epicurean Markets in Houston also carry her creations. Pie in the Sky is located at 3600 North Loop 336 West. To mail-order a pie, visit www.pieintheskypieco.com, or call (936) 760-3301.
6. Big Slice, Small Town
Royers Round Top Cafe built its reputation one really big slice of pie at a time. Owner Bud Royer cuts his pies generously for your desserts. In this cafe in tiny Round Top (population 77), many diners love Bud's Chocolate Chip Pie and the cafe's Original Buttermilk Pie, among several other varieties. Enjoy your pie your way: dine in, take out, or mail-order from home. For more information visit www.royersroundtopcafe.com, or call (979) 249-3611.
7. Chappell Hill Sawdust
Yes, it's really called Sawdust. Customers at Bevers Kitchen in Chappell Hill often ask for this creamy dream of sugar, coconut, pecans, graham crackers, and egg whites atop a bed of graham crackers and under a canopy of bananas and whipped cream. Owner Alejandra Ray, her daughter, Olga Kesee, and Staci Edwards make more than 50 varieties of pie throughout the year, including favorites such as fudge-pecan, white chocolate-strawberry, and sugar-free apple. For more on the restaurant, visit www.bevers-kitchen.com, or call (979) 836-4178.
8. "Life's Short. Eat More Pie."
We agree with Julie Albertson and Spencer Thomas of The Texas Pie Company in Kyle. Julie bakes 18 flavors from her grandmother's recipes, including strawberry-peach and blackberry. Many customers enjoy a lunch of comfort foods such as King Ranch Chicken Casserole. Others pop in for pies and casseroles to go. Look for the cafe's sign with the big slice of cherry pie at 202 West Center Street. To mail-order a pie, call (512) 268-5885.
9. In Praise of Tootie
Like some notable chefs, she's known by one name: "Tootie." Ruby Lorraine Feagan began perfecting her pie recipes in the early eighties. In the nineties, she grew famous selling hundreds of those pies at the Medina Apple Festival. These days Tootie Pie Company in Boerne sells a dozen varieties of her creations by mail order. (If you're in town, you can stop by the bakery to pick up a pie or two in person.) First among all is Tootie's 'Original Apple' Pie, a 6-pounder that can feed 12-15. Don't miss out on the buttermilk and lemon velvet creations as well. And be sure to order Tootie's Pecan Pie for the holidays. For more information visit www.tootiepieco.com, or call (210) 737-6600.
10. One Last Bite
You can get one last, sweet taste of Texas up on Route 66 (and just off I-40) high in the Panhandle. There, MidPoint Cafe and Gift Shop in Adrian serves its famous "Ugly Crust Pie." While owner Fran Houser whips up lunches, Joann Harwell bakes pies from her grandmother's recipes. "She was an artist with pie crust dough. I'm not," Joann says of her grandmother, in explaining the name. The cafe serves four kinds of her pies, including chocolate chip pie with whipped cream, homemade fudge, and a cherry. The cafe closes for a brief break in January, but will reopen by February 15. For more information visit www.uglycrustpies.com or www.midpointroute66cafe.com, or call (806) 538-6379. If you call a day or two ahead, they will tell you what pies will be available when you arrive. You can even have your favorite waiting for you.