We pie lovers demand to know why so many family restaurants no longer have cases full of fresh homemade pies. Sadly, it's getting harder and harder to find pie that isn't commercially made, or frozen and served up limp and stale. To that end, we've been scouring Washington for first-rate pies and have found the following gems.
Who makes the best pie? Said one baker, a trifle sheepishly, "The thing about pie is that you're never going to make it as good as Mama does." But these places come pretty close, and we would go (and have gone) out of our way to tuck into thick wedges of their specialties.
Chimacum Cafe, Chimacum
Why do Olympic Peninsula locals flock to this friendly, family-style restaurant in little Chimacum? Because of the long list of homemade pies, all available daily. Try the rhubarb―it's refreshingly tart, with a flaky crust ― then think about working your way through the other two dozen or so pies on the menu. 9253 Rhody Dr.; (360) 732-4631.
Dahlia Bakery, Seattle
Triple-Coconut Cream Pie
The pies at Tom Douglas's restaurants (Etta's Seafood, Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen) are so good, so rich, creamy, and utterly satisfying that Douglas opened a bakery last year in large part to meet his customers' demand for slice after slice. "Everybody loves it," said executive pastry chef Toby Matasar. "It's a huge comfort food." She starts with an all-butter crust that's flecked with coconut and holds up a delicious custard of coconut, vanilla beans, heavy cream, eggs, and just the right amount of sugar. On top she adds more toasted coconut, hefty dollops of whipped cream, and shavings of white chocolate. Heavenly. Closed Sun. 2001 Fourth Ave.; (206) 441-4540.
The Shoalwater Restaurant, Seaview
Blackberry and Apple Pie
In late summer, when local wild berries are at their peak, Ann Kischner turns out these exquisite pies at her Long Beach Peninsula restaurant from a recipe passed down from her mother's Pennsylvania childhood. She tops them with a Dutch crumb topping for the perfect combination of crust and fruit. Great, but possibly bested by the pies she produces in the fall, combining pear, ginger, and locally harvested cranberries. 4415 Pacific Hwy.; (360) 642-4142.
Twede's Cafe, North Bend
This is the pie that launched a tourism industry when, in 1990, a character on the popular Twin Peaks television show raved about the cafe's cherry pie and "a damn fine cup of coffee." A North Bend staple since 1941, the cafe has been newly renovated with that slogan slapped on its side. Owner Kyle Twede says to make his crust ultraflaky, he adds a little vinegar and egg to the flour, sugar, shortening, and butter; sure enough, it makes a fine slice of pie. "We mostly sell it with about a half a pound of vanilla ice cream on top," said Twede. Any way you slice it ― with or without the ice cream ― the pie here is worth all the hype. 137 W. North Bend Way; (425) 831-5511.