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Pie in Chicago?

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  • Kimberly Anne May 7, 2003 05:06 PM
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Looking for a place that serves outstanding pie. Both fruit and chocolate would be great. Open after 8pm is a must. Any recommendations?

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  1. v
    Vital Information

    From your post to god's ear. I've been waiting pretty much from day one I've been on chowhound. I'll be right behind you if we do find some.

    Rob

    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    13 Replies
    1. re: Vital Information

      Ever try the apple at Hackney's? Very homemade-ish, and the place is open late.

      1. re: JeffB

        I just had a slice of apple pie from this new "breakfast/lunch" place. It's the kind of pie that would please MikeG more than those looking for old-school Illinoisan classics. Very nice! The apple is not in chunks but layered in thin slices. It's a pie that's not just about sweet and cinnamoney but also full of delicious malic sourness. This is a new place (the first wave of gentrification in this neighborhood?) that opened yesterday, run by 2 guys whose previous experiences include Wishbone (both locations), Park Avenue Cafe and Blackhawk Lodge. They haven't had their open house for the cops yet (that'll happen next week) so I guess the place is still technically not baptized yet ;). I don't know what to think about the menu, which is a mishmash of Asian, Cajun, soul, what they call "hillbilly" etc. The pie is apparently made in-house by one of their associates. Here's wishing them good luck on this venture. It's located at 1616 N. Kedzie, west side of Kedzie, just north of North.

        RST

        (JeffB,
        Around the corner is a great Dominican restaurant! You'll love this one! I'll post on it when I get home tonight! Also had a late afternoon glass of Montenegrin Vranac at Baby O's on Western. I'll post on that as well later.)

        1. re: RST

          >I just had a slice of apple pie from this new "breakfast/lunch" place. It's the kind of pie that would please MikeG more than those looking for old-school Illinoisan classics.

          This is slander! This is calumny! Um... actually it sounds pretty good though.

          Don't misunderstand me. I love good old fashioned homemade pie. I just think your odds of finding it inside the city are not high compared to finding it in, say, Wisconsin somewhere. I did sing the praises of that pie from the place in Hinsdale because it was really really good, in a slightly yuppie way. (I'd contend that no yuppie pie has gotten anywhere near as far from its homespun roots as cake has become Frenchified in America.) But let me loose outside the big city here and I'll find you a great apple or peach pie in the traditional style, in fact it's typically one of the things I come back from a road trip with, a couple of pies from a Michigan fruit stand or whatever.

          My economic theory-- based on nothing more than my own speculation-- is that it's not worth the effort for your average Chicago diner to make pie given the overhead they have, you can make a lot more money making omelets or hot turkey sandwiches (because they're much less labor intensive per unit sold). So my theory is, if a place was going to be serious about pie, they'd have to be SO serious that they'd be known for pie, that it would be a draw on its own and justify the effort. In the country, where rents are cheaper and places pretty much have to serve a little bit of everything, it makes more sense to put some effort into pie-- and perhaps more importantly, people simply want pie and care about pie more. So you have the double whammy of the audience not existing strongly enough here, and pie not being profitable enough for most places-- no wonder you don't see much pie around.

          By the way, what was the name of this place you went to?

          1. re: Mike G

            This is without question a "new-style" pie, "yuppie" pie if you wish: no overstewed filling, no long-cooked yumminess. The apple slices (not pre-cooked) were in fact just that side of the raw/cooked divide. But I do enjoy this style from time to time.

            The name is on the subject line: Big Ma's. The building apparently housed a Colombian restaurant previously; but the owner refused to turn over the business license for the location. They have been waiting 8 months for this place to be able to open.

            It would be quite interesting to track what happens to this restaurant and this neighborhood. With the thorough gentrification/saturation of Wicker Park/Bucktown and the insane rents now being charged there, there is enormous pressure to push westwards. This area is by no means "there" yet: far from it. One of the owners told me that he could observe drug-dealing by day right from the shop. But that's no different a situation than in Wicker Park a mere 10-15 years ago, and look what happened in the course of those years. And of course, if this place turns out to be a success, it could simply hasten the process.

            It's a terrific neighborhood, with a rich tapestry of Colombian, Dominican, Puerto-Rican, Mexican etc restaurants/businesses nearby. Not too far away is the North-Pulaski crossing, the area of places like Asi es Guerrero, Taqueria Puebla etc. A "yuppie breakfast place" would certainly be a wonderful addition to the mix. But let's hope that the excesses of greed and gentrification do not overwhelm this neighborhood like it did Bucktown and many other old Chicago neighborhoods during the 90s. And let's hope that it can change and grow while maintaining its special character and texture.

            As to your "economic theory": it doesn't really hold. Restaurant owners can always farm out the piemaking to specialists to maintain quality at lower cost. In fact, many do just that. As you know, one of our friends on this board do something along those lines. I suspect that the real reason is that we have simply lost the connoisseurship of/appreciation for good piemaking.

            ****

            JeffB,

            Last fall, I reported on a Dominican grocery on Fullerton with a tiny lunch counter at the back. Now, we have another Dominican restaurant for you to take that brother-in-law (?) of yours. I had a wonderful roast chicken here for lunch today. The menu is relatively extensive but also includes "cross-over" items such as "cuban sandwich". In addition, they have the usual weekend specials like sancocho etc. Three ladies, representing three different generations (older, middle-aged, a young twenty-something) were busy running the kitchen and serving a lively, happy, noisy crowd of compatriots. (You would love the back-and-forth bantering!) And yes, the "sazon" of the cooking here is exactly right. This is it! This is our Dominican.

            They have been in business for over two years now but strangely have managed to escape every single chow radar out there. I have gone up and down this strech of North many times and combed through it with care without seeing it:

            Tropical Taste Restaurant
            "El Autentico Sabor Dominicano"
            3330 W. North Avenue
            Tel: (773) 395-0804, (773) 395-0801
            Mon-Sat 10:30-7:30; Sun 10:30-5:30

            This is on the north side of North, about 2 blocks west of Kedzie.

            ****

            Also noted:

            A new Jamaican place in the North/Pulaski area
            Jah Jah's
            4040 W. North Avenue
            Tel: (773) 278-jahs
            This is a sit-down restaurant, not a to-go jerk chicken place. The menu is a standard Chicago-Jamaican menu (oxtail, curry goat, escoveitch, etc).

            ****

            La Humita has opened.
            It's on Pulaski, west side, about 2 blocks south of Addison.
            Because of the name, we think that it is either Ecuadorian or Chilean.

            RST

            1. re: RST
              v
              Vital Information

              I've been meaning to try Tropical Taste for ages. It's kind of in a VI no-man's land, it is too far for an easy trip from the bungalow, but not quite close enough to the people we meet in Wicker Park. We did very much enjoy it in its old PR form.

              But the place I REALLY want to try is Chester's Chicken which is also east of Pulaski on the north side of North Ave. You cannot miss the big chicken head, a relative of Harold's running chicken for sure. The big signs advertise both broasted chicken and pollo asado (roast chicken). Chester's seems to be open at inderminate times, and I am afraid that it may not even be open at all anymore. I will be pissed if I missed it.

              North Avenene seems to get a fair amount of try now or you'll never know kind of places. The Colombian coffee house with the truly lousy brew and interesting sticky pastries lasted less than a year. Fat Doug's the surprisingly good philly-cheese steak place with the fresh cut fries lasted even less--the grand opening sign remains.

              1. re: RST

                Richard,

                have you had the chicken at Papa's cache sabroso on division? if so how does Tropical taste compare?

                btw, a yuppie breakfast place not too far from there already exists - flying saucer. There are aslo other signs of first waves of gentrification near there, a few artists collective shows on humboldt ave (folks who normally show in bucktown/wicker park), the bar on armitage just east of california, across from the middle eastern place, though it's still gonna be a while before a lot of folks might feel comfortable in the area (my friend who lives in the area often gets a somewhat uncertain reaction when he tells folks his address)

                1. re: zim

                  Yeah, I was going to say, Flying Saucer is right by that Marta's place that I posted about not too long ago.

                  1. re: zim

                    Yes, the push has gone way out west on Armitage.

                    On Division, the move is checked right at the Puerto-Rican flag-arch (remember Dennis Ray Wheaton's stupid injunction not to walk/dine on the wrong side of Western?) That said, there are now plenty of Art Institute types on California (California Clipper is here and there's a chic/bohemian cafe/breakfast place about 1 blk s of the se corner of Div/Cal). It won't be long before the self-styled impresarios, the Dion Antic types (plus the owner-what's her name-of Mirai Sushi) start farming this "far side".

                    On North, I suspect that the long stretch of park also has some tempering effect.

                    On Fullerton, the immense areas of highways and industry and gigantic malls block the passage. At Western however, Fullerton (and Diversey) start becoming "Logan Square", and we all know what's happening to Logan Square.

                    Personally, I think that the texture and balance on Chicago are just perfect at the moment. There's still a lot of immigrant color and energy, both new (Mexican) and old (Ukrainian Village, Polish, Puerto-Rican). There are several "fringe" types of arts places (6Odum for instance presents cutting edge electronic music/noise jazz occasionally etc). There's a low-key, characterful "breakfast place" like Flo's which I have always adored (although I have not been back in 2 years). But at the same time, there are also higher-profile businesses, such as the Goss' West Town Tavern or that high-gloss new sound room owned (in part) by Madia of Blackbird.

                    The even greater danger of course is when Daley razes whole blocks down and plops another one of his stupid generic malls right next to a thriving neighborhood.

                    ****

                    No. I will have to go try Cache Sabroso soon.

                    RST

                    1. re: RST

                      Speaking of beyond Logan Square on Fullerton, I popped into the Colombian Restaurante a few doors west of Rinconcito Cubano last week-- a simple meal, which is why I didn't post on it before, but perfectly satisfying, a nice flank steak, not too greasy fried plantains, a hint of meat flavor in the black beans (as it should be! Who do you trust, me or JeffB's actual Cuban relatives?). Chimmichurri was all right, not as sharply-defined as El Llano's but certainly a welcome ingredient. Not a stellar place, but a decent neighborhood place I'll probably hit again. Anyone else tried it?

                      1. re: Mike G
                        v
                        Vital Information

                        >>a decent neighborhood place I'll probably hit again. Anyone else tried it?

                        You're joking, right?

                        Get the chicken next time, dolt! (and the beans are red not black)

                        1. re: Vital Information

                          Believe it or not... they were out of chicken. I got the impression that was as in, "He's out buying them right now," but I decided not to wait.

                          That said, I don't think this is your chicken place, is it? At least there's another place that I thought was that, which of course doesn't mean I was right to begin with. I will try to look along there and get actual names and addresses, but I thought your chicken place was further west.

                          As for the beans, now I'm not sure. Probably red, but turned pretty brown. But not as black as black beans, you're right.

                          Stay tuned for answers...

                  2. re: RST

                    "As to your "economic theory": it doesn't really hold. Restaurant owners can always farm out the piemaking to specialists to maintain quality at lower cost."

                    Actually, that was how we got into the whole discussion-- my suspicion that pies were either all coming from the same couple of bakeries, whatever they are (this is what I referred to as "Jewel pie," because it's not much different from buying one at Jewel), or that at best they were premade dough being filled with cans of Sysco pie filling. So yes, first off there are all the places that don't make pie at all, but serve a commercially made pie, or a pie made wholly of half-finished commercial ingredients. In higher-end places that is a way of maintaining quality and a respectable choice (as it is with the dessert-maker you refer to), selecting good desserts is like selecting good wines to offer in a sense, but I suspect in many cases it's just so they can have apple pie on the menu without a lot of effort, and the somewhat indifferent desserts you see in a lot of diners are the result.

                    Once you set those aside, then you come to what I'm talking about-- which was originally VI's question: where is the diner in Chicago that people KNOW has the great, made in house from scratch, pies? There must be one or two somewhere, but no one seems to be able to identify them, and yet pie is all over the country, starting not far outside Chicago. I have to think some combination of lack of demand and economic unviability is at work here. I'll go apply for a grant right now to establish exactly what it is...

                    1. re: RST

                      Richard, thanks! My brother-in-law (good memory) will be very excited. Do they have Presidente bien fria? BTW, the guy now works in Pilsen, doing community activism type stuff. The other day he showed up with the best, made from scratch, mole rojo I have ever tasted. Doubtless the cook made a huge batch to share with people from the church. I'm trying to get more info on the underground mole economy. Some of the best Polish food I've had in town came from a church basement (Roscoe Village street fest last summer, amazing stuff). Why not Mexican. Will check out this new Dominican soon.

            2. Sweet Mandy B's off Webster and Racine has pretty good pies by the slice and whole pie if you are looking for something to satisfy your pie craving other thatn Baker's Square. Not bad stuff but the only downer is they don't have ice cream only whip cream to serve with your pie. They are open late too for a bakery sometimes to 10-11 p.m. call in advance.

              1. Try B.J.'s at 87th & Stony Island, south side. Go hungry. And you might want to do a two-dessert run, because even if what your heart wants is pie, you really, really should have a spoonful of the peach cobbler. Open until 10 (I think they close earlier on Sundays). If you are still desperate, you could do a four-hour road trip to the Cherry Hut near Interlochen, Michigan. Last time I was there, the owner told me they sell about three hundred pies a day - the big problem is letting them cool enough so they can wrap them for takeout.