America's Best Pies

  • Aroma Pie Shop's Bluebarb Pie

    Photo: Maggie Gergen

    1 of 25

    From traditional apple pie to modern mash-ups, the classic American dessert is more popular than ever. Here’s where to find the best pies.

    From July 2013 By

    Pumpkin pie. Few dishes can cement a new memory—while also calling up cherished family moments—quite like this one. And few bakers make this famed holiday dessert quite like Maury Rubin, at New York’s City Bakery. This is no postmodern interpretation, just traditional pumpkin pie done especially right: a buttery graham-cracker crust with a well-calibrated punch of spice in the filling.

    The appeal of pie is hard to describe. It’s more than just a delicious dessert. There’s comfort, tradition, and a strong sense of place in every bite. Whether it’s a classic standard or a fresh take with unique ingredients, a standout slice of pie will be forevermore associated with the when, where, and why of its serving.

    As a new generation of eaters embraces those American staples on which their great-grandparents were reared, the iconic pie has developed something of an “it” factor. From coast to coast, contemporary pie shops are serving nostalgia with a sincere if slightly self-aware wink. At Random Order Coffee in Portland, OR, for example, you’ll find a proper apple pie—made from scratch, of course—that would earn your granny’s seal of approval. But it also serves a decidedly untraditional Tahitian vanilla salted-caramel apple number that, besides the apples, has little in common with Grandma’s mainstay.

    By no means is the pie revival a city phenomenon. Nine years ago, Maggie Gergen bought an old pie shop in southeastern Lanesboro, MN, where she continues to add to her repertoire of seasonal pies. She’s stopped counting but thinks there are somewhere between 30 and 40 varieties. Although no one’s complaining about her pumpkin crumble or chocolate chunk, she’s most proud of her rhubarb offerings. “We go through an awful lot,” she says. “All the rhubarb is handpicked.”

    At Gergen’s shop, you can sample her classic rhubarb custard and strawberry rhubarb pies, or break from tradition and try the raspberry rhubarb. Better yet, dig into the Bluebarb. Yes, that’s blueberries and rhubarb together in one pie. The combination yields a gorgeous magenta color and jammy, tangy sweetness in every slice.

    If you’re looking for slices of nostalgia or bold new baked goodness, there’s a perfect slice of pie somewhere in America waiting for you. Whether or not to add whipped cream is entirely up to you. —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Hoosier Mama

    Photo: Brian M Heiser

    2 of 25

    Hoosier Mama Pie, Chicago

    Best Pie to Try: Key Lime Pie

    Last year, legendary pie-maker Paula Haney opened this “artisanal bakery” in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood and started cranking out pies. Chicagoans can’t get enough. Her fans include chef Graham Elliot. His favorite? The Key Lime Pie, which is distinguished by its gingersnap crust. The crunchiness stands in perfect contrast to the filling’s creaminess, while the spice provides an unexpected but winning complement to the tart lime. (hoosiermamapie.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Mission Pie's Plum Frangipane Tart

    Photo: Travis E. Smith

    3 of 25

    Mission Pie, San Francisco

    Best Pie to Try: Plum Frangipane Tart

    Named for the district in which it resides, this three-and-a-half-year-old pie shop uses only seasonal ingredients, which are locally sourced whenever possible. (This is San Francisco, after all.) The must-try pie is actually a tart prepared with plum and frangipane, a sweet paste made from almonds. The sweet nuttiness of the almonds comes through with impressive clarity, as does the fleeting flavor of the ripe fruit. (missionpie.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Scratch's Shaker Lemon Pie

    Photo: Chuck Samuels/Scratch

    4 of 25

    Scratch, Durham, NC

    Best Pie to Try: Shaker Lemon Pie

    Phoebe Lawless’s trademark crusts are made with plenty of butter (for maximum flakiness) and very little sugar (to showcase the milk’s natural sweetness). Most of her pies are stuffed with the season’s bounty—native persimmons, for example, available for a short stint during the holidays. But her double-crusted beauty Shaker Lemon is offered year-round. Lawless fills it with whole, sliced lemons that have been macerated for up to three days. Once baked, they take on the consistency of marmalade. Pucker up! (piefantasy.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • CAmerica's Best Pies: City Bakery's Pumpkin Pie

    Photo: Courtesy City Bakery

    5 of 25

    City Bakery, New York

    Best Pie to Try: Pumpkin Pie

    The holiday season in the Big Apple wouldn’t be the same without pies from City Bakery, where Maury Rubin is also known for inventing the pretzel croissant. When it comes to pumpkin pie, Rubin wisely sticks to tradition. After all, few desserts are more associated with nostalgia, comfort, and a sense of season. And Rubin’s tastes much like any other homemade pumpkin pie—only better. The buttery graham-cracker crust should be considered the archetype for all others, and the filling delivers a well-calibrated punch of spice. (thecitybakery.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Aroma Pie Shop's Bluebarb Pie

    Photo: Maggie Gergen

    6 of 25

    The Aroma Pie Shop, Whalan, MN

    Best Pie to Try: Bluebarb

    “I have 11 sisters and they all have gardens and pick rhubarb for me. Some of the neighbors around here let me pick theirs,” says Maggie Gergen, who dishes out at least a dozen kinds of pie each day at her shop in southeastern Minnesota. There’s the timeless rhubarb custard and strawberry rhubarb, but her Bluebarb takes the cake. Gergen made it first—a combination of blueberry and, yes, rhubarb—at a nephew’s request. With so many sisters, let’s hope for more inspirations from the family. (618 Main St., Whalan, MN; 507/647-467-2623; thearomapieshop.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Judy's Gourmet Garage Pies & Bakery

    Photo: Gary Jackson

    7 of 25

    Judy’s Gourmet Garage, Bayfield, WI

    Best Pie to Try: Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie

    In 1982, Judy Faragher and her sister sold their first apple pies at a hometown festival. That original crowd-pleaser is always on the menu at her shop, but so are a host of other, less-conventional pies. She uses fresh local ingredients whenever possible, but when the cupboard is bare Faragher opts for frozen, not canned, fruit. Her rhubarb cream cheese pie “comes out of the pan almost like a cheesecake would.” Make it extra decadent with a topping of sour cream. (85130 Hwy. 13, Bayfield, WI; 715/779-5365) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Strawn's Eat Shop's Strawberry Pie

    Photo: Madeline Kawanaka

    8 of 25

    Strawn’s Eat Shop, Shreveport, LA

    Best Pie to Try: Chocolate Ice-Box Pie

    At the original Strawn’s Eat Shop on Kings Highway in Shreveport, LA—established in 1944—you’ll hear customers talk about the fresh strawberry pie. It’s delicious, to be sure, but follow the advice of waitress Brandy Snow: order the chocolate. Like its strawberry spotlight-stealing cohort, the chocolate pie comes with a whopping pile of whipped cream and features a homemade crust that’s low on sugar. “It’s everything else on top that makes it sweet,” says Snow. (1643 E. 70th Street, Shrevenport, LA 71105; 318/798-7117; strawnstoo.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Random Order Coffee's vanilla salted caramel apple pie

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    Random Order Coffee, Portland, OR

    Best Pie to Try: Tahitian Vanilla Salted Caramel Apple Pie

    This Portland favorite serves a lovely version of the classic American apple pie. But after you’ve tasted their other apple pie, you might decide that the original is a bit dated. This version is oozing with caramel, spiced with vanilla, and sprinkled with salt. It proves that time-old techniques and recipes can coexist with unexpected, mold-breaking tweaks. It’s not so much reinventing the wheel as giving it a makeover. (1800 NE Alberta PDX 97211, Portland OR; 971/340-6995; randomordercoffee.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: 3.14 Pie's blackberry-cabernet pie

    Photo: Amy Roy/Sweet Tea Imagery

    10 of 25

    3.14 Pies, Charleston, SC

    Best Pie to Try: Blackberry Cabernet Pie

    When baker Lindsay Doolittle and her husband launched this doughy enterprise, their focus was on “transforming pie from an American classic to an imaginative designer dessert.” Their blackberry Cabernet pie does just that. Like most perfect experiences, this one doesn’t last forever. Just four months, in fact, when the namesake berries are fresh. This boozy baked good benefits from hints of blackberries in the Cabernet, but in Doolittle’s words, the fresh fruit and the crème “take it over the top.” (314piescharleston.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: The Original Fried Pie Shoppe

    Photo: Lori Hill

    11 of 25

    The Original Fried Pies, Davis, OK

    Best Pie to Try: Fried Apricot Pie

    Nancy Fulton inherited her pie-making skills from her grandmother, who made deep-fried desserts for ranchers in the late 1800s. Fulton’s pies are surprisingly light—thanks to her use of a pastry, not biscuit-like, dough. This doesn’t always work in her favor. Because the pies aren’t greasy, some customers “question whether or not they’re really fried.” Of her 21 flavors, Fulton recommends newcomers try the apricot, a local favorite. “We sell more of those than anything else,” she says. (Highway 77 and I 35, Davis, OK; 580/369-7830; theoriginalfriedpieshop.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Jim's Steak + Spaghetti House's strawberry pie

    Photo: Jamina Carder

    12 of 25

    Jim’s Steak + Spaghetti House, Huntington, WV

    Best Pie to Try: Strawberry Pie

    According to Jimmie Tweel Carder, whose father opened his namesake restaurant 75 years ago, nobody remembers when the strawberry pie madness began. It may have been a waitress with a bumper crop of berries and not enough mouths at home. Today, crowds gather for one week in May, when Carder sells more than 1,000 freshly baked pies. Slices are priced at $3.25, and there is a limited number of four slices per person (two to four, depending on the demand). (920 5th Ave., Huntington, WV; 304/696-9788; jimsspaghetti.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Julian Pie Co.

    Photo: Tom Henderson of Tom Henderson Studios

    13 of 25

    Julian Pie Co., Julian and Santa Ysabel, CA

    Best Pie to Try: Apple Mountain Berry

    Gold once brought folks to the small mountain town of Julian in San Diego County. Now apples are the main draw—and Julian Pie Co. your requisite first stop. Founder Liz Smothers purchased an apple farm in 1989 and has built a family business out of its bounty. The Apple Mountain Berry combines raspberries, strawberries, and boysenberries under a crumb top, while the Natural sticks to apples and apple cider (no preservatives, sugar, or artificial ingredients). You can request your slice with cinnamon ice cream, but that may not cut it. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a frozen whole pie and a bag of piecrust cookies for the road. (julianpie.com)Kate Appleton

  • America's Best Pies: Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shop

    Photo: Courtesy of Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe

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    Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, Key West, FL

    Best Pie to Try: Frozen Key Lime Pie on a Stick

    Acid green toque-wearing Kermit Carpenter has been capitalizing on Key West’s most famous product—the area’s small, fragrant, and ultra-acidic limes—since 1993, when he opened the first of his two shops. Leave the Key lime shower gel for the tourists. Instead, go for his similarly gimmicky (but delicious) frozen Key lime pie on a stick. It comes smothered in Belgian chocolate and has fans worldwide. (keylimeshop.com) —Adrien Glover

  • America's Best Pies: Four & Twenty Blackbirds

    Photo: Lyndsey Matthews

    15 of 25

    Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, NY

    Best Pie to Try: Salted Caramel Apple

    Sisters Melissa and Emily Elsen opened this pie shop on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus in 2010. While flavors change with the seasons (strawberry balsamic and lavender blueberry in summer; chamomile buttermilk in spring; brown butter pumpkin in fall and winter), you’ll always find two staples: salty honey, a sweet custard pie topped with flaky fleur de sel, and salted caramel apple, a mix of sweet and tart apples with handmade sea salt caramel. With original tin walls, wood floors, and soft natural light, the shop is so charming that it’s best to order a slice (or two) to stay and while away the afternoon at the communal wooden table. (birdsblack.com) —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Best Pies: Achatz Handmade Pie Company

    Photo: Courtesy of Achatz Handmade Pie Co.

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    Achatz Handmade Pie Company, Ann Arbor, MI

    Best Pie to Try: Michigan Four-Berry Pie

    It’s a numbers game at Achatz Handmade Pie Company: eight shops around the state offer a menu of 12 fruit pies, 17 cream pies, six traditional pies, and six savory pot pies. All those varieties are made with as much local produce as can fit between the hand-crimped crusts: more than a million pounds of fruit a year. Michigan Four-Berry Pie, with tart cherries, blueberries, Marion blackberries, and raspberries, is a sweet taste of summer and the most popular choice. (And, yes, the owners are second cousins of Chicago chef Grant Achatz, who’s been known to serve the pies at staff meals.) (achatzpies.com) —Ann Shields

  • America's Best Pies: Dangerously Delicious Pies

    Photo: Angela N

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    Dangerously Delicious Pies, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Detroit

    Best Pie to Try: Baltimore Bomb

    The brainchild of Baltimore rocker Rodney Henry, who learned his sugar skills from his Indiana grandma, these edgy bakeries (done in red, black, and white) trade on pies being a little, well, sinful. Some 15 to 25 varieties are available on any given day. First-timers should try its top-seller, the Baltimore Bomb, made with the Maryland city’s famous chocolate fudge-topped Berger Cookies melted into vanilla custard. (dangerouspies.com)Adrien Glover

  • America's Best Pies: Petsi Pies

    Photo: Trisha Beezup

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    Petsi Pies, Somerville, MA

    Best Pie to Try: Bourbon Chocolate Pecan

    Founded by Renee “Petsi” McLeod in 2003, in a town just north of Boston, Petsi serves pies not only at its original Somerville bakery, but also at a café and a southern comfort-food restaurant, both in Cambridge. At lunchtime, follow up a savory pie like spinach ricotta or mushroom Gruyère with a slice of bourbon chocolate pecan pie (the southern brown butter pecan pie is another favorite). Show up hungry enough, and you can try the popular berry scone too. (petsipies.com)Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Best Pies: HoneyPie Cafe

    Photo: Valeri Lucks

    19 of 25

    HoneyPie Café, Milwaukee

    Best Pie to Try: Cheddar Bacon Apple

    If you focus for a moment on the ingredients while waiting for your order of cheddar bacon apple pie, you’ll notice a perfect example of HoneyPie’s goal of making “great, Midwestern-inspired food from scratch.” Local farms and dairies supply many of the building blocks for the entire café menu, including most of the other 26 pies. Okay, okay, maybe the bananas in the black-bottom banana cream pie aren’t from Wisconsin, but one bite and you’ll agree to an exception to the farm-to-table credo. (honeypiecafe.com) —Ann Shields

  • America's Best Pies: Pie Shop

    Photo: Courtesy of The Pie Shop

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    Pie Shop, Atlanta

    Owner Mims Bledsoe cares deeply about the art of made-from-scratch pies and turns customers into converts with Pie Shop’s baking classes and monthly happy hours (try 15-plus varieties for $20). The menu changes by the month; in July, peach or coconut cream is the thing to order, while pecan takes center stage come December. (the-pie-shop.com) —Kate Appleton

  • America's Best Pies: PieLab

    Photo: Courtesy of Pie Lab

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    PieLab, Greensboro, AL

    Lab is an appropriate term for this Main Street bakery on a mission: to foster ideas, provide job training, and generally improve community life in the small town of Greensboro. Profits go to charity, and locals gather in the beautifully designed space for live music and meetings over treats like cranberry-glazed pumpkin pie.  (pielab.org) —Kate Appleton

  • America's Best Pies: Sweetie Pies

    Photo: Hector Sanchez

    22 of 25

    Sweetie Pies, Napa Valley, CA

    Chef and owner Toni Chiappetta began her business in an apartment kitchen with an oven just big enough to bake one pie. Now Sweetie Pies is booming, with 14 varieties (six of which are seasonal) ranging from meringue-topped s’mores to coconut cream with a coconut shortbread crust. For a refreshing summertime treat, try a slice of the strawberry rhubarb. (sweetiepies.com)Maria Pedone

  • America's Best Pies: Norske Nook

    Photo: Courtesy of Norske Nook

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    Norske Nook, WI

    At Norske Nook bakery, pies are serious business—as if all were baked from scratch by your Norwegian grandmother. It won an impressive total of three awards at the 2013 National Pie Championship. Sample a winning bite of Kaffe Mocha, pecan fudge, and chocolate mousse pie at one of its four Wisconsin locations. (norskenook.com) —Adrien Glover

  • America's Best Pies: Sweet Creations

    Photo: istockphoto

    24 of 25

    Sweet Creations, Nashville

    Only homemade gourmet pies are sold here, and such regulation keeps creations from this bakery at their sweetest. While a nine-inch pecan pie is the signature treat, other three-inch varieties include apple, peach, chocolate chip pecan, and “jus’ like chess” pie—a more sugary version of southern chess pie made simply with eggs, butter, white and brown sugars, and vanilla. (sweetcreationsllc.net)  —Maria Pedone

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  • Aroma Pie Shop's Bluebarb Pie

    Pumpkin pie. Few dishes can cement a new memory—while also calling up cherished family moments—quite like this one. And few bakers make this famed holiday dessert quite like Maury Rubin, at New York’s City Bakery. This is no postmodern interpretation, just traditional pumpkin pie done especially right: a buttery graham-cracker crust with a well-calibrated punch of spice in the filling.

    The appeal of pie is hard to describe. It’s more than just a delicious dessert. There’s comfort, tradition, and a strong sense of place in every bite. Whether it’s a classic standard or a fresh take with unique ingredients, a standout slice of pie will be forevermore associated with the when, where, and why of its serving.

    As a new generation of eaters embraces those American staples on which their great-grandparents were reared, the iconic pie has developed something of an “it” factor. From coast to coast, contemporary pie shops are serving nostalgia with a sincere if slightly self-aware wink. At Random Order Coffee in Portland, OR, for example, you’ll find a proper apple pie—made from scratch, of course—that would earn your granny’s seal of approval. But it also serves a decidedly untraditional Tahitian vanilla salted-caramel apple number that, besides the apples, has little in common with Grandma’s mainstay.

    By no means is the pie revival a city phenomenon. Nine years ago, Maggie Gergen bought an old pie shop in southeastern Lanesboro, MN, where she continues to add to her repertoire of seasonal pies. She’s stopped counting but thinks there are somewhere between 30 and 40 varieties. Although no one’s complaining about her pumpkin crumble or chocolate chunk, she’s most proud of her rhubarb offerings. “We go through an awful lot,” she says. “All the rhubarb is handpicked.”

    At Gergen’s shop, you can sample her classic rhubarb custard and strawberry rhubarb pies, or break from tradition and try the raspberry rhubarb. Better yet, dig into the Bluebarb. Yes, that’s blueberries and rhubarb together in one pie. The combination yields a gorgeous magenta color and jammy, tangy sweetness in every slice.

    If you’re looking for slices of nostalgia or bold new baked goodness, there’s a perfect slice of pie somewhere in America waiting for you. Whether or not to add whipped cream is entirely up to you. —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Hoosier Mama

    Hoosier Mama Pie, Chicago

    Best Pie to Try: Key Lime Pie

    Last year, legendary pie-maker Paula Haney opened this “artisanal bakery” in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood and started cranking out pies. Chicagoans can’t get enough. Her fans include chef Graham Elliot. His favorite? The Key Lime Pie, which is distinguished by its gingersnap crust. The crunchiness stands in perfect contrast to the filling’s creaminess, while the spice provides an unexpected but winning complement to the tart lime. (hoosiermamapie.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Mission Pie's Plum Frangipane Tart

    Mission Pie, San Francisco

    Best Pie to Try: Plum Frangipane Tart

    Named for the district in which it resides, this three-and-a-half-year-old pie shop uses only seasonal ingredients, which are locally sourced whenever possible. (This is San Francisco, after all.) The must-try pie is actually a tart prepared with plum and frangipane, a sweet paste made from almonds. The sweet nuttiness of the almonds comes through with impressive clarity, as does the fleeting flavor of the ripe fruit. (missionpie.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Scratch's Shaker Lemon Pie

    Scratch, Durham, NC

    Best Pie to Try: Shaker Lemon Pie

    Phoebe Lawless’s trademark crusts are made with plenty of butter (for maximum flakiness) and very little sugar (to showcase the milk’s natural sweetness). Most of her pies are stuffed with the season’s bounty—native persimmons, for example, available for a short stint during the holidays. But her double-crusted beauty Shaker Lemon is offered year-round. Lawless fills it with whole, sliced lemons that have been macerated for up to three days. Once baked, they take on the consistency of marmalade. Pucker up! (piefantasy.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • CAmerica's Best Pies: City Bakery's Pumpkin Pie

    City Bakery, New York

    Best Pie to Try: Pumpkin Pie

    The holiday season in the Big Apple wouldn’t be the same without pies from City Bakery, where Maury Rubin is also known for inventing the pretzel croissant. When it comes to pumpkin pie, Rubin wisely sticks to tradition. After all, few desserts are more associated with nostalgia, comfort, and a sense of season. And Rubin’s tastes much like any other homemade pumpkin pie—only better. The buttery graham-cracker crust should be considered the archetype for all others, and the filling delivers a well-calibrated punch of spice. (thecitybakery.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Aroma Pie Shop's Bluebarb Pie

    The Aroma Pie Shop, Whalan, MN

    Best Pie to Try: Bluebarb

    “I have 11 sisters and they all have gardens and pick rhubarb for me. Some of the neighbors around here let me pick theirs,” says Maggie Gergen, who dishes out at least a dozen kinds of pie each day at her shop in southeastern Minnesota. There’s the timeless rhubarb custard and strawberry rhubarb, but her Bluebarb takes the cake. Gergen made it first—a combination of blueberry and, yes, rhubarb—at a nephew’s request. With so many sisters, let’s hope for more inspirations from the family. (618 Main St., Whalan, MN; 507/647-467-2623; thearomapieshop.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Judy's Gourmet Garage Pies & Bakery

    Judy’s Gourmet Garage, Bayfield, WI

    Best Pie to Try: Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie

    In 1982, Judy Faragher and her sister sold their first apple pies at a hometown festival. That original crowd-pleaser is always on the menu at her shop, but so are a host of other, less-conventional pies. She uses fresh local ingredients whenever possible, but when the cupboard is bare Faragher opts for frozen, not canned, fruit. Her rhubarb cream cheese pie “comes out of the pan almost like a cheesecake would.” Make it extra decadent with a topping of sour cream. (85130 Hwy. 13, Bayfield, WI; 715/779-5365) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Strawn's Eat Shop's Strawberry Pie

    Strawn’s Eat Shop, Shreveport, LA

    Best Pie to Try: Chocolate Ice-Box Pie

    At the original Strawn’s Eat Shop on Kings Highway in Shreveport, LA—established in 1944—you’ll hear customers talk about the fresh strawberry pie. It’s delicious, to be sure, but follow the advice of waitress Brandy Snow: order the chocolate. Like its strawberry spotlight-stealing cohort, the chocolate pie comes with a whopping pile of whipped cream and features a homemade crust that’s low on sugar. “It’s everything else on top that makes it sweet,” says Snow. (1643 E. 70th Street, Shrevenport, LA 71105; 318/798-7117; strawnstoo.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Random Order Coffee's vanilla salted caramel apple pie

    Random Order Coffee, Portland, OR

    Best Pie to Try: Tahitian Vanilla Salted Caramel Apple Pie

    This Portland favorite serves a lovely version of the classic American apple pie. But after you’ve tasted their other apple pie, you might decide that the original is a bit dated. This version is oozing with caramel, spiced with vanilla, and sprinkled with salt. It proves that time-old techniques and recipes can coexist with unexpected, mold-breaking tweaks. It’s not so much reinventing the wheel as giving it a makeover. (1800 NE Alberta PDX 97211, Portland OR; 971/340-6995; randomordercoffee.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: 3.14 Pie's blackberry-cabernet pie

    3.14 Pies, Charleston, SC

    Best Pie to Try: Blackberry Cabernet Pie

    When baker Lindsay Doolittle and her husband launched this doughy enterprise, their focus was on “transforming pie from an American classic to an imaginative designer dessert.” Their blackberry Cabernet pie does just that. Like most perfect experiences, this one doesn’t last forever. Just four months, in fact, when the namesake berries are fresh. This boozy baked good benefits from hints of blackberries in the Cabernet, but in Doolittle’s words, the fresh fruit and the crème “take it over the top.” (314piescharleston.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: The Original Fried Pie Shoppe

    The Original Fried Pies, Davis, OK

    Best Pie to Try: Fried Apricot Pie

    Nancy Fulton inherited her pie-making skills from her grandmother, who made deep-fried desserts for ranchers in the late 1800s. Fulton’s pies are surprisingly light—thanks to her use of a pastry, not biscuit-like, dough. This doesn’t always work in her favor. Because the pies aren’t greasy, some customers “question whether or not they’re really fried.” Of her 21 flavors, Fulton recommends newcomers try the apricot, a local favorite. “We sell more of those than anything else,” she says. (Highway 77 and I 35, Davis, OK; 580/369-7830; theoriginalfriedpieshop.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Jim's Steak + Spaghetti House's strawberry pie

    Jim’s Steak + Spaghetti House, Huntington, WV

    Best Pie to Try: Strawberry Pie

    According to Jimmie Tweel Carder, whose father opened his namesake restaurant 75 years ago, nobody remembers when the strawberry pie madness began. It may have been a waitress with a bumper crop of berries and not enough mouths at home. Today, crowds gather for one week in May, when Carder sells more than 1,000 freshly baked pies. Slices are priced at $3.25, and there is a limited number of four slices per person (two to four, depending on the demand). (920 5th Ave., Huntington, WV; 304/696-9788; jimsspaghetti.com) —Charlotte Druckman

  • America's Best Pies: Julian Pie Co.

    Julian Pie Co., Julian and Santa Ysabel, CA

    Best Pie to Try: Apple Mountain Berry

    Gold once brought folks to the small mountain town of Julian in San Diego County. Now apples are the main draw—and Julian Pie Co. your requisite first stop. Founder Liz Smothers purchased an apple farm in 1989 and has built a family business out of its bounty. The Apple Mountain Berry combines raspberries, strawberries, and boysenberries under a crumb top, while the Natural sticks to apples and apple cider (no preservatives, sugar, or artificial ingredients). You can request your slice with cinnamon ice cream, but that may not cut it. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a frozen whole pie and a bag of piecrust cookies for the road. (julianpie.com)Kate Appleton

  • America's Best Pies: Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shop

    Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, Key West, FL

    Best Pie to Try: Frozen Key Lime Pie on a Stick

    Acid green toque-wearing Kermit Carpenter has been capitalizing on Key West’s most famous product—the area’s small, fragrant, and ultra-acidic limes—since 1993, when he opened the first of his two shops. Leave the Key lime shower gel for the tourists. Instead, go for his similarly gimmicky (but delicious) frozen Key lime pie on a stick. It comes smothered in Belgian chocolate and has fans worldwide. (keylimeshop.com) —Adrien Glover

  • America's Best Pies: Four & Twenty Blackbirds

    Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn, NY

    Best Pie to Try: Salted Caramel Apple

    Sisters Melissa and Emily Elsen opened this pie shop on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus in 2010. While flavors change with the seasons (strawberry balsamic and lavender blueberry in summer; chamomile buttermilk in spring; brown butter pumpkin in fall and winter), you’ll always find two staples: salty honey, a sweet custard pie topped with flaky fleur de sel, and salted caramel apple, a mix of sweet and tart apples with handmade sea salt caramel. With original tin walls, wood floors, and soft natural light, the shop is so charming that it’s best to order a slice (or two) to stay and while away the afternoon at the communal wooden table. (birdsblack.com) —Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Best Pies: Achatz Handmade Pie Company

    Achatz Handmade Pie Company, Ann Arbor, MI

    Best Pie to Try: Michigan Four-Berry Pie

    It’s a numbers game at Achatz Handmade Pie Company: eight shops around the state offer a menu of 12 fruit pies, 17 cream pies, six traditional pies, and six savory pot pies. All those varieties are made with as much local produce as can fit between the hand-crimped crusts: more than a million pounds of fruit a year. Michigan Four-Berry Pie, with tart cherries, blueberries, Marion blackberries, and raspberries, is a sweet taste of summer and the most popular choice. (And, yes, the owners are second cousins of Chicago chef Grant Achatz, who’s been known to serve the pies at staff meals.) (achatzpies.com) —Ann Shields

  • America's Best Pies: Dangerously Delicious Pies

    Dangerously Delicious Pies, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Detroit

    Best Pie to Try: Baltimore Bomb

    The brainchild of Baltimore rocker Rodney Henry, who learned his sugar skills from his Indiana grandma, these edgy bakeries (done in red, black, and white) trade on pies being a little, well, sinful. Some 15 to 25 varieties are available on any given day. First-timers should try its top-seller, the Baltimore Bomb, made with the Maryland city’s famous chocolate fudge-topped Berger Cookies melted into vanilla custard. (dangerouspies.com)Adrien Glover

  • America's Best Pies: Petsi Pies

    Petsi Pies, Somerville, MA

    Best Pie to Try: Bourbon Chocolate Pecan

    Founded by Renee “Petsi” McLeod in 2003, in a town just north of Boston, Petsi serves pies not only at its original Somerville bakery, but also at a café and a southern comfort-food restaurant, both in Cambridge. At lunchtime, follow up a savory pie like spinach ricotta or mushroom Gruyère with a slice of bourbon chocolate pecan pie (the southern brown butter pecan pie is another favorite). Show up hungry enough, and you can try the popular berry scone too. (petsipies.com)Lyndsey Matthews

  • America's Best Pies: HoneyPie Cafe

    HoneyPie Café, Milwaukee

    Best Pie to Try: Cheddar Bacon Apple

    If you focus for a moment on the ingredients while waiting for your order of cheddar bacon apple pie, you’ll notice a perfect example of HoneyPie’s goal of making “great, Midwestern-inspired food from scratch.” Local farms and dairies supply many of the building blocks for the entire café menu, including most of the other 26 pies. Okay, okay, maybe the bananas in the black-bottom banana cream pie aren’t from Wisconsin, but one bite and you’ll agree to an exception to the farm-to-table credo. (honeypiecafe.com) —Ann Shields

  • America's Best Pies: Pie Shop

    Pie Shop, Atlanta

    Owner Mims Bledsoe cares deeply about the art of made-from-scratch pies and turns customers into converts with Pie Shop’s baking classes and monthly happy hours (try 15-plus varieties for $20). The menu changes by the month; in July, peach or coconut cream is the thing to order, while pecan takes center stage come December. (the-pie-shop.com) —Kate Appleton

  • America's Best Pies: PieLab

    PieLab, Greensboro, AL

    Lab is an appropriate term for this Main Street bakery on a mission: to foster ideas, provide job training, and generally improve community life in the small town of Greensboro. Profits go to charity, and locals gather in the beautifully designed space for live music and meetings over treats like cranberry-glazed pumpkin pie.  (pielab.org) —Kate Appleton

  • America's Best Pies: Sweetie Pies

    Sweetie Pies, Napa Valley, CA

    Chef and owner Toni Chiappetta began her business in an apartment kitchen with an oven just big enough to bake one pie. Now Sweetie Pies is booming, with 14 varieties (six of which are seasonal) ranging from meringue-topped s’mores to coconut cream with a coconut shortbread crust. For a refreshing summertime treat, try a slice of the strawberry rhubarb. (sweetiepies.com)Maria Pedone

  • America's Best Pies: Norske Nook

    Norske Nook, WI

    At Norske Nook bakery, pies are serious business—as if all were baked from scratch by your Norwegian grandmother. It won an impressive total of three awards at the 2013 National Pie Championship. Sample a winning bite of Kaffe Mocha, pecan fudge, and chocolate mousse pie at one of its four Wisconsin locations. (norskenook.com) —Adrien Glover

  • America's Best Pies: Sweet Creations

    Sweet Creations, Nashville

    Only homemade gourmet pies are sold here, and such regulation keeps creations from this bakery at their sweetest. While a nine-inch pecan pie is the signature treat, other three-inch varieties include apple, peach, chocolate chip pecan, and “jus’ like chess” pie—a more sugary version of southern chess pie made simply with eggs, butter, white and brown sugars, and vanilla. (sweetcreationsllc.net)  —Maria Pedone

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