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Looking for the best pie in the Bay Area.

I know it sounds crazy but I miss Marie Callendar. Not because of the food, but because of the pies. Can anyone suggest a place where I can find a delicious pie with a flaky, buttery crust? East Bay preferred but San Francisco is an option.

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  1. Pie Tiessere@444 Oak st. (same as Nido's) offers flakey, crisp crusts with complex flavors in the fillings. haven't noticed much buttery crust though.

    2 Replies
    1. re: shanghaikid

      Jaynelle St. Jean of Pietisserie uses an all-butter crust. Her piecrusts are very, very fine. We often get the mini-pies just to get more crust - and with other vendors we just eat the fillings and toss the crusts away! But not Jaynelle's - her crusts are actually worth eating.

      The only flavors we don't care for are the custards; we find them a little sweet. Her fruit pies are like eating fresh fruit, just barely sweetened and cooked. The spicy apple and the strawberry/rhubarb made us and our friends swoon.

      Her coconut cream pie is literally, TO DIE FOR. As is the amazing blackbottom walnut, for nut lovers!

      I will say that if you like Marie Callendars and Nations pies, however, you have more of a sweet tooth than we do. We don't like super-sweet desserts of any type.

      Disclaimer: I occasionally provide Jaynelle with free Meyer lemons from our three trees, so we've gotten a couple of free pies in exchange. But 90% of the time we just stop by and buy an assortment of different flavors to try, since she changes the flavors every month.

      1. re: jaiko

        I tried her strawberry rhubarb mini pie this past Sunday. Filling was mostly over-thickened fruit puree, with several large lumps of cornstarch. No distinct flavor of either strawberries or rhubarb. Crust was fine, but not "to die for."

    2. Crixa Cakes in Berkeley, my favorite East Bay pie.

      2 Replies
        1. re: sundeck sue

          Recently had their apricot pie--which I didn't love--there was a gumminess to the filling and a muted apricot flavor. I asked one of the folks who works there about the lighter-colored part of the filling that I experienced as the source of the gumminess--he said it's just the juice from the fruit--no fillers.

          I'd schlepped a friend there--on her b'day no-less--saying these pies are the best. The mixed berry (can't recall the name they give to it) was quite good, though not brilliant. Apricot as described.

          Apricot is a tough fruit to find in full, deep flavor--so often, the ones you get even at great farmer's markets are just OK. Perhaps that's the problem here.

          I might even go farther, though, and propose that where Crixa shines, pie-wise, is fall-winter (apple, pumpkin) more than spring-summer.

        2. My fave pies are at Chili Pies & Ice Cream at Baker and Fulton in SF (601 Baker Street) The pies are hearty, the crust is flaky and the cardamom ice cream is terrific.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Cynsa

            seasonal now: Cherry Apricot Pie is now my favorite pie of the day

            1. re: Cynsa

              Last month I had a chance to share two different slices of pie from Chile Pies. They were radically different from each other even though they were both "apple". I liked the scant amount of sugar in these pies.

              The one with the reddish filling was apple and rhubarb in a vegan pastry crust. The apples were cut into firmish cubes. The stiff crust was flat and not flaky. Interesting, but not crave-worthy.

              OTOH, the green chile apple pie with the cheddar cheese crust was brilliant by all our measures. The interplay between savory and sweet hit a fine balance, cheese adding richness and just enough sugar offsetting the green chile heat. The apples were sliced thinly and packed into a dense layer. Crunchy streusel on top added a change-up in texture. Lovely buttery, crumbly crust, and the drizzle of red chile honey deepened the spicy kick.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie, I love green chiles and apple pie (and apple pie simply must be accompanied by cheddar cheese IMO), but I had never heard of an apple-green chile combination. Now, I'm intrigued. I need to try this pie!

                Thanks very much for your post about Chile pies.

          2. Angeline's in Berkeley makes excellent pecan pie, as good as homemade.

            1. San Francisco's Three Babes Bakeshop makes some great pie. I particularly like the Apple and the Salty Walnut. There was a seasonal Apple/Toffee (?) pie last fall that was super. The fillings are flavorful and the crust is tender and flakey.


              1. I've always enjoyed the pies at "FatApples" in the East Bay Berkeley...and somewhere else...you can go in sit down and try a slice..they serve heavy cream for your coffee!

                2 Replies
                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  There's a Fat Apple's in El Cerrito at the top of Fairmount Avenue.

                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                    Is the chocolate dream pie still as dreamy. Since I moved out of that neighborhood a dozen years ago, I never think to go there.

                  2. Well, there are still Marie Callendar's in Sunnyvale and San Jose if it's any consolation. Cruelly, the one in Sunnyvale is in the same strip mall as my Weight Watchers meetings. I just avoid eating there in order to stay on course. :-)

                    1. Currently, I like the pie at The Bread Workshop in Berkeley. They have a very flaky crust (normally not what I look for in crust) and different fruit/nut filling combinations.

                      I recently had an apple pie that was aces when heated up. I bought it at the Alameda Methodist Church bazaar.

                      1. Point about Marie Callendar made in a recent related thread:


                        Marie Callendar locations are still around. But unless their crust recipe changed radically in recent years, and it may have done so, I think it's ironic to see that chain offered as a positive example in view of the lowest-common-denominator artificially hydrogenated vegetable shortening basis of their crusts when I inquired a few years ago of the bakers at one location, confirming what I thought I tasted. (Which might help Peter Yee to avoid the temptation reported in this thread, given that it was the very same location.)

                        1. For those on the Peninsula, delicious Gizdich Ranch Pies from Watsonville are available at DiMartinis Produce Stand on San Antonio in Los Altos. They are made from fruit grown on their own ranch. If you're ever in the Watsonville area, it's a fun stop, with a pie shop selling by the piece or whole, small deli, self guided ranch tours, U-pick fruit and an area with picnic tables/old farm equipment for the kids to climb on. Pies are made on the premises and it's a kick to watch the women in the back room rolling out and filling the crusts. It's quite an old-fashioned operation.

                          For lovers of Duartes pies from Pescadero, those are sold frozen at both Draegers Market and The Milk Pail.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: buoncibo

                            Duarte's crust is crap, although for that reason probably closer to Marie Callender's than the other recommendations here.

                          2. I've never tried the pie at Nations, but it might be what you're looking for. (Their wild salmon sandwich isn't bad.)

                            The apricot galette at Zut! got raves from my friends. It's not really my thing, but the crust seemed pretty good.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Glencora

                              I remember Nation's pies as heavy and soggy. I think the crust is Crisco.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                In rworange's loooong thread (I can't believe it was 2006!) you complain that you had to call headquarters to find out that it is indeed made with hydrogenated oil.

                                1. re: Glencora

                                  But that was before California banned transfats and many places reformulated their recipes.

                                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  If Marie Callender's is the standard, Nation's is similar. Someone I know craves their strawberry pie; cream pies are fine.

                                  1. re: rubadubgdub

                                    If we're talking seasonal strawberry cream pie or fresh peach pie, then Emil Villa's in Hayward and the Original Hick'ry Pit in Campbell and Walnut Creek need to be mentioned.

                                    There's an Emil Villa's in Livermore too.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      oh god I had long forgotten about hickry pit but in my taste memory I loved their pie. wonder how it tastes circa 2013?

                                      1. re: rubadubgdub

                                        I haven't had one in years either. You're closer than I am right now, so you go first. It's a little too early for peach, perhaps.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Back in the day, our all-time favorite was the apricot pie at HP, ala mode.

                                3. re: Glencora

                                  Nation's are not very good but may be sentimental for those that grew up on them,

                                  The Mission
                                  Pie shop's aren't bad but the crusts are often overworked and tough, made from whole wheat pastry flour I understand.

                                  Best pies were at Liberty Cafe when Kathi Gundli ran it. Super flaky crusts. But that was long ago though they still have a bakery.
                                  Worst were Bepples and Heidi's with tough crusts and unloved filings.

                                  Calendar's were ok if you didn't expect flaky butter crusts and wonderful fillings.

                                  There were some fabulous Crisco pie makers, I hate to admit, but it takes a deft hand and Crsico is unhealthy.

                                  Our southern cook Nora was masterful. We ate her crust, then the blueberry lemon, cinnamon, buttery filling, because the crust was outstanding: flaky and nutty.

                                  Butter is better. Lard is good if you don't mind the mouth feel and important for a pastry like sfogliatelle.

                                  Depends on what we grew up with I guess.

                                4. Does Bakesale Betty still make/sell pies? They use to make some of the better pies in the BA.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Has anyone tried the buttermilk pie at Aunt Mary's? It always looks so temptingly handmade but I've never ordered it.

                                    1. I haven't tried a lot of pie places, but Heidi Pies in san mateo (heidipies.com) is decent.

                                      1. Vive La Tarte is really really really delicious... their savory pies (Belgian quiches, etc) are actually the best I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. Their sweet pies are quite delicious as well.

                                        1. We've moved a discussion of fats and pie crusts to the General Topics board at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/905170

                                          1. I'll toss my vote in for Mission Pies (24th & Mission, just off BART). Yummy yum! Every piece we've ever gotten has been delicious!

                                            3 Replies
                                              1. re: stanbee

                                                The tarts I had from Mission Pie were first-rate and I'm very picky. Could be their bakers aren't all equally good so the results are inconsistent.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  I haven't noticed this either. Maybe a new intern at work.

                                            1. Vive la Tarte seriously makes the absolute best "savory pies" that I've ever tasted. I prefer all of their desert pies to any that I've tried at Mission Pie too. Do not miss their meal pies though... they're the best in the city bar none!

                                              1. I like the pies at Mission Beach Cafe, though I haven't been in a while.

                                                  1. Christine's Upper Crust pies have been way up at the top of my list for a long time. The "Christine's" was added to the name a while ago to distinguish it from another Upper Crust that started up north. I'm not good as describing pies or crusts, so I'll leave it to someone else to try some and report back. They're available many places in the Bay Area.


                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                                      available at Faletti's Foods
                                                      308 Broderick at Fell Street

                                                    2. This weekend I had the Blenheim apricot pie from C. J. Olson in Sunnyvale. The fruit was impeccable, as you'd expect from Olson, full-flavored and velvety with just a little bit of thickener. The crust could be flakier but had good flavor from good ingredients.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        I just had a slice of the seasonal apricot pie from Olson's. The filling of mostly apricot halves is as good as it gets. The crust was a bit tough but easily forgiven.

                                                      2. Stopped by Cirixa on Friday and scooped up the last 2 pieces of a pie that's new for me: pear with rose.

                                                        It's a variation on their impeccable apple pie, but with rose water added for complementary flavor. It was excellent.