(Article Updated 6/14/2017)
Big Grey Horse Media welcomes Marye Audet and her piece about Texas pie. Marye is an author, freelance writer, and editor located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She brings a wealth of Texas knowledge to our blog, and we are delighted to have her. Marye’s a brave soul – she ate plenty of pie to complete this piece. We see a long and tasty relationship with Marye…let’s give Marye a great, big, Texas HOWDY!
There are a lot of foods Texas is known for – great barbecue, steaks, chicken fried steak, biscuits (is your mouth watering yet?), but probably the most loved dessert to any Texan worth his or her Tony Lamas is pie. P.I.E and pronounced most often “paaah.”
It can be Parker county peach, east Texas blueberry, or Rio Grande lemon, as long as it’s sweet, has a flaky crust, and tastes like it just came off Grammy’s counter top. Most of us would agree that the national pie of Texas, pecan, holds a special place in our hearts with its gooey, rich, cloyingly sweet filling that slides down just right with a scoop of vanilla Blue Bell and a hot cup of coffee or a cold Dr. Pepper.
One afternoon, I started craving some good, old fashioned pie and a cup of coffee. I realized that I had no clue where to go since my area is now populated by chain restaurants and fast food places. Let’s face it, y’all, those people do not know how to make paaah. I decided to take a road trip and find out who had the best pies between Dallas/Fort Worth and Hillsboro.
I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook where to go for the best pies and I made a list. It took two days of pie eating but my husband and I tried them all. A couple of hundred miles, five cafes, numerous pies, and several Alka Seltzers later, I came up with my review. Each eatery is family-owned and Texas proud.
Get your fat pants on and head out for some pie and coffee. After all, y’all are only going to live once.
Looking for Real Texas Pie in All the Right Places
Our Place Restaurant
915 W. Debbie Lane
Mansfield, Texas 76063
6 a.m. – 3 p.m., 7 days weekly
Disclosure: Our food was compensated for us by Our Place Restaurant. This in no way affected my review of the establishment or influenced my opinions written for this piece.
We started out in Mansfield, a little town off 287 between Arlington and Fort Worth. Mansfield has grown by leaps and bounds, from a sleepy little town a decade ago, to a growing urban area that’s working hard to retain a friendly atmosphere country villages are known for in Texas.
If the folks at Our Place Restaurant are any indication of the rest of the population, Mansfield is well on its way to achieving the balance between the two.
Walk in the door to smiles on one side, and a huge, old fashioned pie case on the other, filled with almost every pie known to man. Stacked high with fluffy clouds of whipped cream or blanketed with a flaky, just right crust, these extraordinary desserts are the creation of Jessy Henager, a self-taught young lady whose light hand with the pastry has allowed her to move from server to Pie Goddess.
I had coconut cream and my husband had chocolate peanut butter pie. A regular customer told me later that the apple pie was the real star of the show. By then, however, my jeans had shrunk at least one size.
The pie crust is light and flaky with that texture you can only get with lard. (And that happens to be what Jessy uses.) The crusts are generously filled and then piled high with cream. I asked Jessy what made their pies the best in the area. She said it’s because they use fresh ingredients. Jessy also checks each pie. If it doesn’t taste right or look right, the pie doesn’t make it to the case. I assume that one of the benefits of working at Our Place is chowing down on the pies the Jessy deems unfit for customer consumption.
Not only can you get pie and a pretty decent cup of coffee, you can buy whole pies as well. Last year, Our Place Restaurant sold about 600 pies, in three days, going into the holidays. If you’re thinking of having one of Jessy’s masterpieces on your table, you’d better put your order in now.
The pie is great but the coffee is average. I’d love to see Our Place get whole bean coffees and grind them fresh daily.
Main Street Café
2023 S. Cooper Street
Arlington, Texas 76010
7 a.m. – 6 p.m., 7 days weekly
Disclosure: Our food was compensated for us by Main Street Cafe. This in no way affected my review of the establishment or influenced my opinions written for this piece.
Main Street Café is off the beaten path, situated behind some other buildings that face Cooper Street. The cafe is really easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it.
Inside, the restaurant is as country as they come with red-checked table cloths, a large open dining area, and an old fashioned lunch counter in the center. I have had a thing for twirly chrome stools since I was a little kid, and I was sorely tempted to sit at the counter. Since I needed light for the pictures, I took a booth by the window.
It was a different feel here than over in Mansfield. Just a bit more of the big city hustle and bustle, but still very friendly. I ordered apple pie and my husband had turtle pie.
While we were waiting, I asked if the pies were made in-house. I was told that the pies weren’t but that they were made especially for the cafe.
The crust on the apple pie was very crumbly. The apples were tart and sweet at the same time. Whipped cream had been piled on top, with a final drizzle of caramel added to the plate. The turtle pie had a cream cheese filling, whipped cream, and a caramel drizzle. The pie was then sprinkled with crumbled chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies. The turtle pie had a freezer flavor, but would have been great otherwise. The apple pie was good, but not outstanding.
When I asked what made Main Street Cafe’s pies special, I was told it was the elaborate plating. This cafe is a sweet, little place if you happen to be in Arlington.
113 E. Oak Street
West, Texas 76691
6 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
We arrived at the Village Bakery at 9 a.m., ready to eat more pie. If you’ve never been to West, Texas, (not to be confused with West Texas) then you really owe it to yourself to grab your bestie, hop in the car, and do a road trip. West’s a sleepy little town off I35, south of Hillsboro, that has more delicious Czech food per square foot than anywhere outside of Prague… and maybe there, too. I knew I couldn’t do all of the pies, so I settled on a cute little bakery in the center of the historic area in town.
The bakery was established in 1952 and is the oldest Czech bakery in Texas. Love sausage kolaches? This is where it began. Now, back to pies.
The Village Bakery is one of those places you walk into, close your eyes, and breathe in all of the aromas. You are immediately surrounded by two of my very favorite things, antiques and pastry. I looked longingly at the kolaches, but resignedly turned toward the pies. Village Bakery does not sell pies by the slice, so we bought an entire pie. Which did we choose?
Uncle Dub’s Pie. I don’t know who Uncle Dub is, but I will be forever grateful to him. This confection is a combination of pecans, chocolate chips, and bourbon in a flaky crust. The crust on its own is slightly saltier than I would normally want, but it works brilliantly to balance this ultra-sweet, ultra-rich pie. The aftertaste of bourbon was a delicious surprise. We drove very carefully to the next cafe so that we didn’t have to explain to a police officer why we smelled of bourbon.
Definitely worth the drive.
The Dove’s Nest Restaurant
105 W. Jefferson Street
Waxahachie, Texas 75165
11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Monday – Saturday
I don’t live far from Waxahachie, and it’s always been one of my favorite towns. If you’re into architecture, Waxahachie has some of the most beautiful Victorian, transitional, and craftsman homes around. The historic area surrounding the old Ellis County courthouse is filled with antique shops. In the midst of all of that is The Dove’s Nest Restaurant.
I had been to The Dove’s Nest before, but hadn’t eaten there in a long time. I decided to see if the menu had gotten better in the past few years. I’m thrilled to tell you that it has.
The little tea room has taken on a new pastry chef – Julie McClellan. She’s worked at the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas and the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, so creating magic in the middle of a kitchen in Waxahachie is, literally, easy as pie.
I ordered the buttermilk pie. The Dove’s Nest is known for their pecan chocolate bourbon pie, but since I had just had that I really needed something different. I was told that Julie hadn’t made the buttermilk pie. She had just put an apple pie in the oven, however. My husband and I decided to share the buttermilk pie and come back for the apple.
All of the desserts are made in-house except the cheesecake. The buttermilk pie was good, tangy, and sweet with a buttery, crispy crust, but the texture was a little coarser than I like. The apple pie was still in the process of baking, so we decided to roam the antique stores until the pie was closer to being ready.
When my husband and I came back, we arrived just in time for the pie to come out of the oven. Julie was apologetic because she was afraid the pie would run since it was so hot. She brought the pie on one plate and the ice cream in a bowl so I could get pictures without the ice cream melting.
This apple pie was as good as they come. A flaky, buttery lattice crust covered a thick layer of lightly sweetened and spiced Granny Smith apples that had a nice balance of apple and apple goo. Apple goo is a professional term you may not have heard before. It’s the syrupy goodness that lavishly swathes the tender fruit. Often I find this is skimpy in pies, but Julie did not disappoint me. The apples were more than generously swaddled with apple goo, transparent amber, and freckled with the cinnamon and spices.
Try not to lick the plate but, if you must, at least do it discreetly.
Uncle Willie’s Pies
600 Methodist Street
Red Oak, Texas 75154
11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesday – Friday
Saturdays by appointment
Uncle Willie’s Pies was our last stop. I have to admit, by this time, I wasn’t craving pie. I was hoping we could get pie by the slice and not have to buy a whole one.
Uncle Willie Pettigrew got his start when he made a pie for a celebration that a restaurateur happened to be attending. Pettigrew’s pie was discovered, and the rest is history, according to CeCe Pettigrew.
I was glad to see that we could indeed buy slices of pie. I chose a chess and a lemon chess because those were the only types I hadn’t already consumed.
The crust was soft and tender. One thing I discovered on my pie road trip is the variety of crust textures and flavors. That was sort of surprising when you are used to thinking of crust as being a receptacle for the good stuff inside.
I liked the lemon chess pie best. CeCe told me that they used whole, fresh lemons in it. You could tell because the flavor was definitely fresh, lively lemon. You bite into the creaminess of the pie, then get the sweetness, and then your mouth is filled with a tangy lemon flavor. It’s simply delicious.
The plain chess was good but was more custard-like than my own chess pies. It wasn’t bad, just unexpected.
There is no real plating here. Uncle Willie’s sells pies but the establishment isn’t a place where you sit down and eat. The staff graciously allowed me to use a plate so I could get a couple of images before I left. The majority of Uncle Willie’s business is selling whole pies and catering. You can get a quick piece of pie, but don’t expect to savor it while you sip coffee.
Post Road Trip Thoughts
If you decide to retrace my steps, start in Mansfield, then head to Arlington, Red Oak, Waxahachie, and end in West if you are coming from the Dallas area. If you are south, like around Waco, then do it the opposite direction.
In all cases, the people I talked to were friendly, helpful, and more than willing to share their time with me, answer my questions, and explain their pie philosophies. If I ever do this again, I will wear a caftan for sure. Fat pants aren’t enough.
Can you get too much pie? Nine pies in 24 hours might be close, but I have been able to prove, once again, that Texans make the best pies ever.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to sleep off this sugar-induced state of Nirvana.
Images courtesy of Marye Audet 2013.