Pie-apalooza: Top Pastry Picks

food-pie-leadI present to you the next dessert craze: pie.

Pie, you wonder? Why, there’s always been pie, you insist. Pie just IS.

To a degree, that’s true. It’s easy as pie…American as apple pie…what a cutie pie. But hold on to your hats, ‘cuz you haven’t seen nothin’ yet. Pie is about to EXPLODE, like cupcakes and donuts in years past. Don’t you want to be on top of the trend?

And not just any pie will do. Sure, you could head to Baker’s Square, where you’ll find no shortage of variety, but not a lot of originality, either. Let’s talk local. Where are the Chicago-area pie specialists?

Chi-Town is Pie Town!

The city is ahead of the suburbs on this particular curve. Chicago is quickly becoming a pie town, with some places built largely on a pie platform. Take, for instance, Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits in Logan Square (2051 N. California, Chicago, 773-276-8888). They make just 4 flavors daily (fruit, chocolate, cream and savory) based on seasonal availability, and they often sell out, so I’d advise you to pre-order before driving down. While you’re there, stock up on their warm, from-scratch biscuits.

First Slice Pie Café in Andersonville (5357 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, 773-275-4297) and Ravenswood (4401 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, 773-506-7380), run by the irrepressible Mary Ellen Diaz, a well-known Chicago pastry chef, is another great option, but one with a difference. It’s more than just a restaurant; Diaz has made a commitment to feed the needy and homeless. So when you buy their delicious Raspberry Pear Balsamic or decadent French Silk Pie, you’re providing hope to a family that needs it. (Pictured above: their Michigan Sour Cherry pie)


The best store name undoubtedly belongs to Hoosier Mama Pie Company (1618 ½ Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-243-4846) in Bucktown. You might have seen them at the Green City Farmer’s Market, which is where I first experienced them years ago. I’m thrilled because they’re in talks to open a store in South Evanston; you can never be too close to this pie (named one of Bon Appetit’s “Top 10 Best Places for Pie” nationwide)! They make three different kinds of Chess Pie (Chocolate, Lemon or Vinegar), and their Fat Elvis Pie will cure any ill. I love their savory pies and quiches, too.

For the true pie fanatic, mark your calendar for Sunday, Oct. 20. That’s the date of the 9th Annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest at Holstein Park, and they mean business.

The Suburbs Love Pie, Too!

We’ve got some great pie options in the Northern Suburbs, too. Skokie’s Sweety Pies Bakery (8042 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, 847-213-0900) is just adorable. This family-run favorite has a Chocolate Cashmere Pie that will make you weep. And the Apple Pie Crisp…don’t get me started. You can also find them at the Evanston Farmers’ Market on Saturdays through the fall.

If you’re up in the Highwood area, you’ve got to stop in to the Bent Fork Bakery (335 Waukegan Ave., Highwood, 847-926-4483). I especially love their Fresh Fruit Crostatas, a rustic version of pie that comes in two sizes (as do their regular pies).

You’d expect Three Tarts Bakery (301 S. Happ Rd., Northfield, 847-446-5444) to excel in all things tart—or pie for that matter—and they certainly don’t disappoint. Summer means Peach Frangipane Tart, but weekends bring market-driven, fresh-fruit pie. Stop in for “Pie Day Friday” or visit them at the Lake Bluff or Northfield farmers’ markets.

food-pie-banana-whippedDeerfields Bakery (813 N. Waukegan Rd., Deerfield, 847-520-0068, 201 N. Buffalo Grove Rd., Buffalo Grove) has long been a favorite for pies on the North Shore. The Banana Whipped Cream or Coconut Custard Whipped Cream pies are my faves.

Evanstonians flock to Bennison’s Bakery (1000 Davis St., Evanston, 847-328-9434) for the Sack Apple Pie, which owner Jory Downer describes as pie crust filled with sliced fresh farm apples, topped with cinnamon and sugar, with a special shortbread dough on top to seal it. It’s put in a paper bag and baked, which seals in the juices and locks in all the flavor.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible pie at Prairie Grass Café (601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook, 847-205-4433), made from family recipes passed down by Chef Sarah Stegner’s talented mom, Elizabeth (who for many years actually made the pies herself). When it’s rhubarb season, you’ll find me there.

Pie-apalooza: No music, just good old-fashioned pie in its myriad forms. Count me in.

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