Donna’s Pie House Cafe
Three days before Thanksgiving and Christmas, Donna’s Pie House Cafe shuts down its restaurant side and serves nothing but pies. “All we have is pie pick up,” says owner Brian Benedict, who works side-by-side with his parents, Jim and Donna. “People just go crazy over the chocolate.” The chocolate icebox pie is the bestseller. An inch of whipped cream (dusted with chocolate shavings) tops creamy chocolate that’s mixed with butter and sugar.
Mama’s Daughters’ Diner
There are few things you can rely on in life. Peach cobbler, every day, at Mama’s Daughters’ Diner is one of them. “We’ve been here for 25 years, so we’ve been making it for a long time,” says Bonnie Jaggers, granddaughter of Norma Manis, who founded the restaurant. The homemade filling is made with peaches, cinnamon, and sugar. The restaurant also serves cobblers in mixed berry, blackberry, pecan, apple, and cherry.
Some pie slices are meant to be shared, and Lord of the Pies—a deep-dish apple dessert—is definitely one of them. Co-owners Mary Sparks and Megan Wilkes cut 10 tart apples into paper-thin slices and bake them with house-made caramel, then top off their whopping Tower-of-Babel creation with cinnamon streusel. This conjugal mess of sweet and sour makes it one of the best slices in town. Make sure to order with a scoop of ice cream. Life is too short to skip the ice cream.
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Keith “Buttons” Hicks’ fixation on bananas and sweet potatoes inspired him to make the sweet potato pie that’s so popular at his restaurant and jazz club. His creation looks innocent enough, but Hicks has a secret ingredient that he adds to the mixture of sweet potatoes, eggs, condensed sweetened milk, and brown sugar: a half-cup of Captain Morgan rum. The 5-inch-wide mini pie is served with a cool bananas Foster sauce on top. And that rum gets the party started.
Al Biernat’s coconut cream pie has undoubtedly been the most popular dessert since the restaurant opened in 1998. This decadent combination of flour, coconut, and Coco Lopez cream of coconut is topped
with whipped cream, toasted coconut shavings, and a crescent-shaped coconut cookie. Amaretto cream sauce, blueberries, and strawberries add pizzazz to the plate.
Oak St. Pie & Candy Co.
Even though owner Carol Southern’s pecan pie outsells everything else she makes, there’s no way you can go wrong ordering randomly off the menu at this destination. The key to these charming pies, Southern says, is having the best possible crust. Southern’s dough is hand-rolled with butter, which creates a perfect amount of flakiness, and this lifelong pie-maker adds more Millican Pecan Co. pecans than the recipe calls for.
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The recipe for the almond buttermilk pie at this Highland Park establishment has only changed two times in the past 85 years, going back to when Grandma Goodman developed it. Now it has less fattening buttermilk and less vanilla. But everything else about this crème brûlée-like pie, decorated with slivered almonds, tastes the same as it did back in 1925. It’s just healthier now. Though everything is relative.
Ed Lowe started Celebration in 1971 when he was still a little hippie boy at 21 years old. Ever since then, his made-from-scratch hot fruit cobbler has been the most popular dessert on the menu. Ninety percent of the time it’s a peach cobber, but general manager James Wilkinson says they also have blackberry, blueberry, cherry, and apple, too. Fillings change according to season.
Peggy Sue BBQ
As soon as susan Hall and her husband, Marc, took over this Snider Plaza barbecue joint in 1989, Susan went on a fried pie quest. Finally, inside an old State Fair of Texas cookbook, she found the holy grail of recipes and started making her famous empanada-shaped desserts. The pie fillings—apple, cherry, apricot, chocolate, and coconut—are wrapped inside hand-rolled dough, fried to order, and served with a scoop of Blue Bell ice cream. “We crimp them with a fork just like my mama used to do,” Hall says.
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In 2011, when cupcakes were trendy as could be, Norma’s Cafe decided to ride the popular tidal wave and see if it could make a splash with its mini pies. These local favorites stand about 3 inches high and come in the same flavors as the regular pies (coconut, chocolate, lemon, Oreo, and chocolate peanut butter), and they’ve got the same flaky crust and rich, gooey ingredients. A thick poof of meringue tops each pie, making it just big enough to hold in your hand.