Cheap Eats - Pie Shop
A slice of heaven in BuckheadMonday April 9, 2012 05:00 pm EDT
Pie is good. I think most of us can agree on that. And whether you're a pecan person, an apple acolyte, or just coconut cream crazy, there's a place called Pie Shop in Buckhead that has a pie for you. Don't care for the sweet stuff? There's quiche, chicken pot pie, or maybe spinach and feta encased in crust. That's healthy pie, right? Well, healthy-ish. And while most pies may not be considered exactly healthy, they do qualify as "wholesome." Pie Shop exudes wholesome, served up with a glass of ice-cold milk.
Wholesome also seems to fit Pie Shop's founder, Mims Bledsoe, a young entrepreneur whose story almost sounds too good to be true: great-great-granddaughter of former Atlanta Mayor John Floyd Mims, great-granddaughter of a fried pie-selling matriarch in Cumming, philosophy major turned pie maker. Her philosophy now is that of sharing the craft and joy of handmade pies, a philosophy subconsciously passed down to her through the generations.
The array of handmade pies on offer at Pie Shop can make choosing difficult. Everything is laid out along a single counter in the shop. A few small tables with a view of the kitchen/bakery sit nearby, awaiting anyone eager to dig into his or her pie on the spot. Most folks take things to go, carrying out large bags full of good things selected from the eight or so dessert pies and four savory options on offer. It's worth noting that the menu of pies, both savory and sweet, changes weekly (with a few constants). Apple, coconut cream, chocolate ganache, and pecan never leave. And there's always a quiche and a chicken pot pie at the ready. The rest is up to the whims of Bledsoe and pastry chef Kim Keene, with seasonality playing a major role in determining what's on offer. As spring arrives, look out for berries in full force.
On the savory side, recent menus have certainly seemed suited to late winter, but that may just be the nature of meaty things wrapped in dough. Meatloaf topped in bacon and surrounded by a thick crust looks like the kind of meal a lumberjack deserves after a long day hacking at trees in the cold Northern woods. The crust is thick, the top of the meatloaf hidden behind layers of bacon and thick barbecue sauce. The meatloaf itself strikes a perfect chord of juicy and flavorful, with bits of onion and red pepper and tomato throughout. The sauce-smeared crust is practically its own dessert, like a crisp bread stick with a sweet heat bite. Pulled pork pie employs the same sauce to similar effect, the sweetness coating the crust and meat, making a happy marriage of all it surrounds. While the pulled pork itself is just a touch dry, the rich sauce more than covers up any flaws. This is heavy stuff, but I can see it working well any time of year. I'd love to see a Memphis spin on this with some cold coleslaw thrown on top — take that, you hot and crunchy crust.
On the (slightly) lighter side of savory, a vegetable pot pie with lemon and thyme carries a pungent citrus-y tartness across a mélange of leeks, onion, cabbage, and mushroom. The crust here is flaky, a bit thinner than on the meatloaf or pork, but still rather decadently rich. Lighter yet is the spinach and feta hand pie — yes, you can pick this one up with your hands. The empanada-shaped pastry comes flecked with dry herbs, and the interior is a simple mix of spinach and feta. I wish it were a bit juicier and a little less finely chopped, but the overall impression is that of a light American version of a Greek classic.
Are you ready for dessert yet? Good. So am I. Again, choosing is not easy. The coconut cream pie and the chocolate ganache are piled high with peaks of thick whipped cream. The dark molasses-spiked pecan pie and apple pie appear to be straightforward paragons of their respective genres. Then there's red velvet pie? That's a new one on me. Vanilla crumb? Hmm, interesting. Orange curd? The word "curd" never appeals to me, even when I know that the product itself is better than its unfortunate name. Over the course of a few visits, I sample almost all of the above, and then some.
No matter which pie you choose, prepare for battle by ordering (or pouring yourself at home) a tall glass of ice-cold milk, or a hot cup of dark coffee, whichever way you're feeling. Liquid accompaniment is crucial to pies as rich as these. The chocolate ganache pie may be the most visually appealing of the bunch, dark ganache contrasted with a mound of white whipped cream sprinkled with shaved dark chocolate. That contrast continues when you take a bite, the thick and fudgy ganache playing nice with the lightly sweet cream and the flaky buttery crust bringing it all together. Quick, take a sip of that milk or coffee, then on to the coconut cream pie. Pie Shop's coconut cream, its most popular concoction, sits at the dense pudding end of the custard spectrum, studded with shredded coconut. You could probably construct concrete buildings with this stuff (but I do think it's better as an occasional treat). This is good pie. Not life-altering pie, but very good pie.
Where things really get interesting is with the more unusual pies. A vanilla crumb pie elicits a real "wow" reaction. It sings sweet and full of vanilla depth, but the best thing about it is the contrast between the smooth custard filling and the crunchy crumbles above. This is not your average pie, and the divergence is appreciated. As for the red velvet, I was wary at first. The filling is an almost gelatinous deep cherry-red custard, sitting atop a black-as-night Oreo cookie crust and topped with cream cheese icing sprayed with bright-red food coloring. The colors pop: red, white, red, black. One bite in, I'm a bit confused. Is that cherry I taste? Chocolate? Dr. Pepper? The intrigue continues, and I find myself unable to stop eating this remarkable stuff.
Later, when I tell Bledsoe about my reaction to the red velvet pie, she laughs and offers that Pie Shop's customers really seem to embrace the more experimental pies. Cherry pie with habanero, anyone? That was a hot seller last year, and the big hit of the fall season was apple pie with bacon. Like I said, pie is good. But pie with bacon must be even better.
By the way, this place is next to impossible to find if you don't know where to look — it is behind a laundromat on Roswell Road, opposite the Buckhead fire station. You will also be able to find Pie Shop this spring and summer at the Piedmont Park Green Market and the Sandy Springs Farmers Market.