Levee high caramel apple pecan pie
from The Blue Owl in Kimmswick, Missouri
Photo: Photo: SmarterTravel Staff
Attempting to name the nation's best pies is like arm wrestling a bear: It's a losing proposition. But finding uniquely unforgettable pies, now that's something we can really sink our teeth into. To kick off National Pie Month, hop aboard the Pie Express for a trip around the country. Along the way we'll stop for sour cherry pie in Michigan, fried peach pie in Tennessee, and green chile apple pie in San Francisco.
Levee High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie
The Blue Owl - Kimmswick, Missouri
Born on the banks of the Mississippi River, Blue Owl's Levee High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie is as much an architectural feat as it is a great dessert. A tribute to the levees that protected the town of Kimmswick against a rising river in 1993, this 18-apple pie is no mere trifle. With layer after layer of thinly sliced tart and sweet apples buttressed between crispy crusts, the jaw-dropping effect of this pie perfectly readies you for that first bite.
Shoo-fly pie from Dutch Haven in Ronks, Pennsylvania
Photo: SmarterTravel Staff
Dutch Haven - Ronks, Pennsylvania
If you're a pie and you can get both Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald to sing about you, you're clearly doing something right. The 1945 song "Shoe-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy" claims the dessert "makes your eyes light up, your tummy say 'howdy,'" and after a slice of Dutch Haven's shoo-fly pie, we're inclined to agree. The Pennsylvania Dutch classic, a brown-sugar-and-molasses-based pie has an utterly unique rich, creamy flavor and a crumbly top, prompting one taster to exclaim, "it tastes like magic," and another to say, "it's like a less uptight Boston cream pie." Dutch Haven is so proud of its pie, which it claims is America's best, that it gives away free samples at its store in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County.
Buttermilk pie from Tootie Pie Company in Boerne, Texas
Photo: Mustard Seed Photography
Tootie Pie Company - Boerne, Texas
Little known beyond the American South, buttermilk pie is a classic custard pie made with buttermilk instead of cream. Skeptical about a buttermilk-based dessert? Tootie Pie Company's signature pie was made to win over just about anyone with a sweet tooth. Arriving on the plate smelling like a fresh-cooked waffle cone full of cake batter, and tasting something like a buttermilk creme brulee (without the brulee), this is one pie you're unlikely to forget, for all the right reasons.
Chocolate Haupia cream pie from Ted's Bakery on Oahu, Hawaii
Photo: Jason Balmut
Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie
Ted's Bakery - Oahu, Hawaii
Choke grindz! The Chocolate Haupia (coconut) Cream Pie at the famous Ted's Bakery on Oahu's North Shore is so unique to Hawaii that it takes local slang—roughly "great food"—to praise it fully. Our on-site taster commended the flaky, golden crust, and said of the filling, "Haupia and chocolate seem to go together like sun and surf. Why try to separate them? They were made for each other." The near-constant long lines concur: This is pie that's worth the trip from the mainland.
Cherry crumb pie From Grand Traverse Pie Company in Traverse City, Michigan
Photo: Grand Traverse Pie Company
Cherry Crumb Pie
Grand Traverse Pie Company - Traverse City, Michigan
Think the most unforgettable pies celebrate regional flavors? Grand Traverse Pie Company in Michigan serves up delectable Northern Michigan Montmorency tart cherries—locally grown in Traverse City, the "Cherry Capital of the World"—in irresistible pie form. The short season and small growing region make these cherries something special. The cherry crumb pie delivers perfectly tart fruit topped with a crumble reminiscent of homemade Scottish shortbread. Inspiring its own flavor of piety, the cherry crumb prompted chef and serious food lover Mario Batali to call it "a religious experience."
Southern pecan pie from Yoder's Amish Restaurant in Sarasota, Florida
Photo: SmarterTravel Staff
Southern Pecan Pie
Yoder's Amish Restaurant - Sarasota, Florida
Chef hats are all good and fine, but when it comes to Amish bakeries, you know you're dealing with the real thing when your pie is the creation of a bonnet-clad grandmother. At Yoder's Amish Restaurant, that's exactly what you'll get. From its sweet, salty, and buttery Southern Pecan Pie to its popular favorite Peanut Butter Cream, Mrs. Yoder and her family offer plenty of reasons to take a break from Sarasota's sunny beaches long enough to savor a slice.
(Photo: Eric Lendl)Key lime pie from Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies in Brooklyn, New York
Photo: Eric Lendl
Key Lime Pie
Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies - Brooklyn, New York
Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies defies geography. First off, it's more than 1,000 miles from the Florida Keys. Second, its unlikely location in New York City is made even more unusual by its relatively isolated shop on the waterfront in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. The journey is richly rewarded, though, with tangy, custardy key lime filling and a crisp graham crumb crust. The bakery takes pride in being one of the few commercial key lime pie makers anywhere in the country to shun bottled key lime juice in favor of freshly squeezed key limes. Al Roker even called it "one of the last genuine key lime pies in the U.S." We call that authentically unforgettable.
Green chile apple pie From Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) in San Francisco, California
Photo: Joel Boardman
Green Chile Apple Pie
Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) - San Francisco, California
Adventurous taste buds rejoice at Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) in San Francisco. Its signature pie is a combination of sweet and savory that lends new credibility to the notion of skipping the meal and heading straight to dessert. The pie's crisp apples are punctuated by green chiles that offer just a hint of heat. Enveloped in a flaky, cheddar-laced crust and topped with a hearty walnut streusel, there's even the option to add an extra kick of sweet and hot with a drizzle of cayenne honey. Not wild enough for you? The shop will blend any of its pies and your choice of ice cream into an unforgettable pie shake.
A fried pie from Miss Carolyn's Fried Pies in Nunnelly, Tennessee
Photo: Kate Hamman
Miss Carolyn's Fried Pies - Nunnelly, Tennessee
For those who grew up on them, fried pies are best served with a warm cup of childhood nostalgia. For everyone else, they're uncharted territory that, when done well and eaten warm, are worth every finger-licking extra calorie. These hand-held Southern delicacies come in flavors like peach, chocolate, cherry, and apple. At Miss Carolyn's Fried Pies in Nunnelly, Tennessee, the pies are made from scratch to taste the way families have been making them for generations.
A savory pie from Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore, Maryland
Photo: Randy LeFaivre
Dangerously Delicious Pies - Baltimore, Maryland
Pie: It's what's for dinner, at least at Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In addition to an enticing array of sweet pies—including coconut chess, sweet potato, and the "Baltimore Bomb"—the bakery makes a half-dozen savory pies. From the traditional chicken pot pie to the Hot Rod Potato and the Pork BBQ, there are many ways to promote pie to the main course. And, if you are willing to grant quiche pie rank, there are even more savory options on the menu, including Cowboy Quiche and crab and cheddar.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com and Hotwire.)