A question, Portland pie lovers: Where do you buy your pie?
Of course, you can always buy yours from a corporate supermarket or national diner franchise, but keep in mind that purchasing pie from your local baker makes their slice of the local prosperity pie just a little bit larger.
Every time you order a piece from your local bakery or cafe, you're keeping your favorite bakers in business, and, in turn, helping your fellow citizens stay gainfully employed.
In other words, the money you spend at your local baker isn't wired to corporate coffers in another state—it stays right here, in your city.
Here's a look at six local pie makers that we consider a crust above their corporate competitors, and that we feel will have you crowing for more.
If you're already hip to this long-standing barbecue joint, you're probably a longtime local—it's been around since 1989. What you may not know is that the man in the kitchen, right now, has been preparing Campbell's dishes since the doors first flung open. That means he's had plenty of time to sharpen and polish the restaurant’s recipes, skills that are especially evident in the sweet potato pie. Smaller than a whole pie, but far larger than a tart, this pie has a sweet start (but not too sweet) and a savory finish. Are those traces of orange zest, brown sugar or whiskey in the filling? Maybe—Campbell's isn’t saying. But, it's well worth a visit to see if you can identify the ingredients in this outstanding southern dessert. And don't forget to ask for yours topped with whipped cream.
Campbell's Barbecue, 8701 SE Powell Blvd., 503.777.9795
If her flour-dusted apron doesn't already tip you off, Kate McMillen works hard. After a couple of years of hawking homemade pies at farmers' markets, McMillen opened a pie shop downtown and, within a year, opened another across the river. She offers a wide variety of pies, including savory quiches, but if you're looking for something out of the ordinary, stick your fork in her heirloom apple pie—a "deconstructed" take on America's archetypal dessert. First, she macerates an assortment of heirloom apples sourced from a grower in Ridgefield, Wash., who specializes in pink pearls, King Davids and other varietals McMillen says you’ve never heard of. Then, she turns their natural juices into a syrup, boiling it down with vanilla beans and dark rum. Mix in the apple slices, bake in a butter crust, and what you get is something mysterious—a complex, yet balanced pie that's neither that sweet, nor that tart. Ask for your slice to be warmed up, plus, á la mode is also an option.
Lauretta Jean's Downtown (Inside Cafe Velo), 600 SW Pine St., 503.224.9236
Lauretta Jean's East Side, 3402 SE Division St., 503.235.3119
This Monday to Friday, breakfast, lunch and early dinner spot was designed to give workers in Overlook's industrial district a good place to grab waffles, biscuits, burgers and fries. But the motivation that truly inspired TILT was to provide a space where you could sit back with a cup of joe and leisurely eat a slice of owner Brittany Jurj's homemade pie. Your only dilemma is to choose a slice filled with either fruit or cream. If you go cream, try the coconut cream, which is made of a dense coconut custard and a layer of whipping cream stacked neatly inside a light crust shell. The best part is not just the toasted coconut that tops the pie and gives it a slightly savory kick, but also the freshly shredded coconut hidden in the custard base.
TILT, 3449 N Anchor St., Ste. 200, 503.285.8458
Grand Central Bakery
If you're a pie lover, Grand Central, unfortunately, doesn't sell it by the slice. The good news is, you do have recourse, in the form of fresh baked hand pies and tarts, which let you do a little research before committing to taking a whole pie home. If you want to know how the crust tastes, order up a tart. Curious about fruit fillings? Try a fruit-filled, puff-pastry hand pie. Grand Central's crusts are crisp on the outside and hearty on the inside, and the fillings are spot on—where some bakers can lean heavily on the sugar, Grand Central's don't. Be warned though, both the tarts and hand pies can be a little messy (flaky), but that's what makes such research fun. And if you're game, you can always take home one of the bakery's U-Bake kits, complete with crust and a seasonal filling. Want a whole pie but don't feel like baking? Just give the bakery a day's notice and it’ll have yours ready before you know it.
Grand Central Bakery Northwest, 2249 NW York St., 503.808.9860
This cafe isn't just for people who like pies; it's for people who love them. And it shows. On any given day, you can find between 12 and 15 flavors available, including a couple gluten-free, agave-sweetened vegan options. How does Bipartisan do it? Proprietor Hobie Bender—who owns the space with Peter Emerson—or one of her fellow bakers starts the baking process sometime between 3 and 4 a.m., and they don't stop for another 10 hours. You can try whatever's in season, but, this being Oregon, you'll always have a marionberry option, which is made with a thick-set fruit filling and a crispy crust that turns pleasantly tender where the shell crests.
Bipartisan Cafe, 7901 SE Stark St., 503.253.1051
Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry
You might think something's gone wrong when the only way to a keep a slice of pie intact is to serve it in a bowl. But don't let the bowl fool you, because once you try a slice of baker-owner Gretchen Glatte's cranberry-peach pie, you'll know that everything has gone absolutely right. The slivers of peach are deep and earthy, the cranberries tart and tangy, and the crispy but tender, shiny crust, with its sprinkling of powdered sugar, rivals the best crusts you've ever tasted. If peaches and cranberries go out of season, don't worry. There's a reason filling is called filler, even one as good as cranberry-peach. Because it's not the fruit filling you're chasing, it's the perfect crust.
Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry, 808 NE Dekum St., 503.954.2412
Where do you buy your pie in Portland? Give your fave local pie maker a shout out in the comment section.