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Pie Report: The Best Pie in America
Bill and Barbara Windsor's trip 'Round
America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.
The Windsors are writing a book about the experience, and these are the pies (and other desserts) they've eaten.
Pie in America | Special Pie
Places | The Great Pie
Adventure | Unusual Pies
The Worst Pie in America | Methodology | Complete List of Pies and Rankings
Fourteen places had pie that we considered
excellent. Nine of the 14 had been recommended to us, while five pie
places were simply cafes, a restaurant, a diner, and a quick lube shop
that just happened to catch our eye. These pies are truly exceptional.
We know; we tasted 181 pies in five months.
It is a shame that we can't rate each of these pies as the Best Pie in America, because each was different. In fact, we will be awarding plaques to each of these restaurants, and they will read "Best Butterscotch Pie in America," etc. When you find yourself in any of these towns, do yourself a favor, and make a point to go to these restaurants to eat pie.
1. Raspberry Pie -- Dutch Mother's Restaurant -- Lynden, Washington
This is the Best Pie in America! Absolutely the very best we had. Huge raspberries (the size of big strawberries) in a tasty slightly-congealed filling with a wonderful shortbread crust that was truly special. It's hard to describe as it was unlike anything else we've ever had. Sweet and delicious. We had four very good Raspberry Pies during the trip, but this pie was SO MUCH BETTER that it was clearly the Best Pie in America. It's the one pie that we've kept thinking we wished we had more to enjoy. We enjoyed three slices of pie at Dutch Mother's, and each was excellent. The Bumbleberry Pie ranks 11th -- making Dutch Mother's the only restaurant to have two of the Best Pies in America. Day 97. Rating: 97.
2. Key Lime Pie -- Harry and the Natives -- Hobe Sound, Florida
Wonderful Key Lime Pie -- by far the best we've ever eaten! It's hard to distinguish one key lime pie from the next, but Harry and the Natives simply makes it better than everyone else. The crust was especially good -- a traditional pie crust rather than a graham cracker crust. It had meringue rather than whipped cream, and the texture was fluffy rather than dense. This pie held the #1 spot for 95 days until we reached Dutch Mother's. Harry and the Natives certainly wins the Best Place to Eat Pie award as it is a delightfully funny and entertaining place. We enjoyed this pie with a Coke for breakfast on the fifth day of the trip Round America. Day 5. Rating: 96.
3. Banana Heaven -- Blue Heaven -- Key West, Florida
This was not a pie; it was a dessert. From what we could tell, the chef starts with bananas, butter, rum, and brown sugar, and the bananas are sautéed in that concoction. The hot bananas and syrup mixture is then poured over a delicious banana bread, and if that isn’t enough, homemade vanilla ice cream is scooped onto the side. The sticky, crunchy, hot sauce was incredible. It was OUT of this world, and so rich that we barely made a dent in it. Fabulous dessert! Bozzie Jane says it is the best dessert she has ever eaten anywhere anytime. She would have ranked it #1, but we didn't since it wasn't actually a pie. Day 8. Rating: 95.
4. Caramel Apple Raisin Pie -- Plaza Restaurant -- Santa Fe, New Mexico
We saw two police cars in front of the Plaza Restaurant in Santa Fe, and the officers confirmed that it was an excellent place to eat. It is always a good idea to eat where you see multiple police cars. The Plaza Restaurant has been serving since 1918. The pie was a delicious blend of fresh apples with cinnamon, caramel, and raisins in a great crust -- served hot with homemade vanilla ice cream. The combination was wonderful. Quite a treat! Day 35. Rating: 94.
5. Apple Dumpling -- Blues City Cafe -- Memphis, Tennessee
The Blues City Cafe is a cafe on Beale Street in Memphis. I went in for dinner as I wanted to eat a Barbequed Bologna Sandwich. The bologna was only offered for lunch, so I ordered the full slab of ribs that I saw most folks eating. Chef Myron Johnson told me he had a killer dessert, so despite the huge order of ribs and fries, I had the Apple Dumpling Dessert. It was tremendous. Fresh apples cooked in a dumpling crust, smothered with a wonderful secret sauce. Served hot in a skillet with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Day 43. Rating: 93.
6. Butterscotch Pie -- Rogers Restaurant -- Lexington, Kentucky
Rogers Restaurant was one of the many pie stops that we made because of a recommendation from the folks at our hotel. Chuck Ellinger, owner of Rogers Restaurant, just smiled when I asked about their pie. The restaurant was packed with locals, and those who overheard our conversation were singing the praises of the pie. Margaret then brought me a big piece of Butterscotch Pie – hot…right out of the oven. It was really, REALLY good. The butterscotch filling had a consistency a little lighter than key lime pie, great crust, and wonderful meringue topping. I'd never eaten Butterscotch Pie before, and now I will eat it every chance I get. Day 59. Rating: 92.
7. Chocolate Haupia Pie – Ted’s Bakery – Sunset Beach, Hawaii
Ted's Bakery in Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu was the ONLY "best pie" place in Hawaii that showed up on the Internet research that we did. And Ted's Bakery was recommended by EVERY person on Oahu who I asked about good pie. I drove to the North Shore and met Ted and Glenn Nakamura and took a tour. Ted’s Bakery is one of those great success stories. Ted's Bakery has become a phenomenon. Half of their sales are the Chocolate Haupia Pie. After speaking with Ted and Glenn, I bought a slice of Chocolate Haupia Pie, and I sat in the car in the parking lot and devoured it. I don't like chocolate pies, but this one was different. The chocolate was more like a candy bar than it was like a chocolate pudding (as found in most chocolate pies). The chocolate was delicious, but the combination with the Haupia (coconut) was just incredible. Bozzie Jane, who loves chocolate and coconut cream, would have been in Pie Heaven. Day 144. Rating: 92.
8. Mango Snow Cone -- Freddy's Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand -- Escobares, Texas
The story of Freddy's Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand is one of my favorite stories from the entire trip. I began seeing one snow cone stand after another in the small towns that I passed through in the south. It seems that small towns often cannot support a DQ or a drive-in snack bar, so many of these little towns have snow cone stands. I took photos of a few that I saw in the first two weeks of the trip. On Day 16, I saw an especially colorful one with an American flag straw coming out of the top. I pulled up to Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand in the little town of Escobares, Texas for a quick photo. A man came running up to me wanting to know what I wanted. I explained that I just wanted to take a photo of his stand. He proudly announced that they had done all the work on it themselves. He also showed me his very colorful and attractive umbrellas, and explained how they were made, but I couldn’t understand his heavy Spanish accent or the words he used. At this point, we shook hands and exchanged names; he was Freddy Escobar of Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stand. Freddy asked if I wanted anything, and I said I’d love a Coke. He replied: “Snow Cone?” And I said, “Sure, give me a snow cone!” He asked: “Flavor?” I replied: “Grape.” He said “Mango!” I said, “Sure, mango it is.” Freddy had to explain my order in Spanish to the young girl in the dark recesses of the snow cone stand who didn’t speak a word of English, and she began preparing my drink. Her power appeared to be provided by an extension cord running from the Fast Lube shop just behind. I can’t recall having had a snow cone since I was a child. It took quite a while. The window finally slid open, and out came a big Styrofoam cup filled with a mango-colored mixture with a straw and a spoon. When I tell you my “snow cone” was AMAZING, please accept that I’m not exaggerating. It was 94-degrees and I was thirsty, but this stuff was special. The flavor was wonderful, but the consistency was what I couldn’t believe. It was much better than smoothies we get that tend to be glorified Slushees. I don’t know what was hiding in that hut, but the end result was like an ice drink with the consistency of frozen yogurt. I think Freddy should franchise; I can see Freddy’s Fast Lube & Snow Cone Stands all across the US. Seriously, it was really, really good, and it never melted. While my Mango Snow Cone is not a traditional pie, this "treat" was so special that I have to rank it as one of the best "pies" on the Round America trip. Day 16. Rating: 91.
9. Rhubarb Pie -- Dot's Diner -- Bisbee, Arizona
Dot's Diner is part of the Shady Dell RV Park. Shady Dell has rare antique travel trailers available for rent. (See www.theshadydell.com.) The fabulous fully-restored 1957 Dot’s Diner is there, and I had Rhubarb Pie. Waitresses Mary and Kirsten recommended it. I’d never had rhubarb, but I now know why my Dad loves it so much. Big hunks of fresh rhubarb in a wonderful crust. Served really hot. Very tangy, and absolutely delicious. Day 21. Rating: 91.
10. Olallieberry Pie -- Linn's Bakery & Eatery -- San Luis Obispo, California
We had lunch and pie at Linn's Bakery and Eatery. We had a rare pie -- Olallieberry Pie -- a berry created from a cross between a certain type of raspberry and a blackberry. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting Patty Carpenter and her husband, Bill, owners of Linn's in San Luis Obispo. For days, folks told us to go to Linn's for pie. It was everything we hoped for and more. Day 74. Rating: 91.
11. Marionberry Pie -- Otis Cafe -- Otis, Oregon
The Otis Cafe is a tiny cafe in the even tinier town of Otis, Oregon -- but the Otis Cafe has received national publicity as a great place to eat. I had a wonderful breakfast there, followed by Marionberry Pie. Marionberries are only grown in a limited area in Oregon, so I wanted to be sure and grab a slice of Marionberry Pie the first chance I got. It was a delicious sweet berry pie. Great crust. Great pie. Day 91. Rating: 91.
12. Bumbleberry Pie -- Dutch Mother's Restaurant -- Lynden, Washington
Dutch Mother's is the only restaurant to have two of the A-rated pies. (See Pie #1 above -- the Best Pie in America.) The Bumbleberry Pie was a mixture of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Delicious locally-grown fruit in a wonderful crust. We couldn't eat all of this pie at the restaurant, so I polished it off later that night, and it was even better when I wasn't trying to compare it to the Raspberry Pie. If we had eaten this pie at another time and in another place, I suspect we would have ranked it even higher. Dutch Mother's can just flat do pie! Day 97. Rating: 90.
13. Hula Pie – Duke’s Canoe Club – Honolulu, Hawaii
Hula Pie was a must-have while in Waikiki. The Kimo's Original Hula Pie was a first, and it was really good. It was developed at Kimo's Restaurant on Maui, one of several restaurants owned by the folks who own Duke's Canoe Club. The pie has a chocolate cookie crust topped with vanilla macadamia nut ice cream, chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and roasted macadamia nuts. Pools of hot fudge are poured on the side (so they don't melt the ice cream prematurely). It was soooo good. I was amazed with how the ice cream remained frozen -- served to me outside on the patio where the temperature was in the 80's. The serving was huge -- easily enough for several to enjoy. Day 143. Rating: 90.
14. Banana Pie -- Diamondhead Market & Grill -- Waikiki, Hawaii
Betty Shimabukuro, the Food Editor for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper, and I became acquainted when I emailed the Star-Bulletin asking for recommendations on the best pie in Hawaii. During our breakfast pie meeting, Betty mentioned a local restaurateur who used to make a pie that she felt was really special. Then she picked up her cell phone and called Kelvin Ro. Kelvin has a new restaurant called the Diamond Head Market & Grill. He isn't making the Banana Pie anymore, but Betty asked if he would make one just for me, and he did. A traditional pie crust on the bottom and sides, topped with fresh bananas cooked in a secret sauce, and topped with an oatmeal crunch topping. I have eaten Banana Cream Pies on many occasions, but never a Banana Pie. It was heavenly. I wish I had asked Kelvin if I could buy the whole pie. Day 145. Rating: 90.
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