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10 Best Pies in Los Angeles

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Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Philippe the Original's apple pie - RACHAEL NARINS
  • Rachael Narins
  • Philippe the Original's apple pie
Pie can become a fixation. For some, it's more than just something to eat, it's an experience. For us, it was a challenge. We polled and questioned, consulted the experts, prodded and called and narrowed our list to a daunting 25 local pies to sample. For our own sanity, this was limited to standard sweet pies that you can get in single portions -- either a slice or as a mini-pie -- and they had to come from a restaurant or storefront. Pies that are locally made and delivered whole were not included.

What makes a good pie? First, the crust, a tricky bit of culinary wizardry: It should be a rich golden color, not tough and should have a lovely flavor. Our ideal crust is rolled out thinly but evenly, and still sturdy enough to hold its shape. It should not be partly dissolved or tough as cardboard. The filling should be sweet, not cloying and never runny, gummy, rubbery or industrially gelled. Those are the hallmarks of bad pie. Nothing like that is on this list.

Of course the best pie in Los Angeles is always going to be the one you baked yourself, ideally just out of the oven. But if that isn't on your agenda, here are our picks for the 10 Best Pies in L.A.

click to enlarge Apple pie at Urth Caffe - RACHAEL NARINS
  • Rachael Narins
  • Apple pie at Urth Caffe
10. Urth Caffe Apple Pie:

Urth Caffe bakes all of its pies daily at its downtown location, and sends them out to one of its three shops around town. Aesthetically perfect, the pies are topped with a golden lattice woven crust made with butter and shortening and sanding sugar for extra crunch, a tip all pie bakers should catch on to. The individual, deep-dish pies come in an assortment of seasonal flavors. We didn't love the blueberry, but apple and cherry are both terrific -- either heated or cold the next day for breakfast. The pies are large enough for two people and usually are available on sale for half the price when they are day-old. We also like that there is a vegan option. 451 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles; 213-797-4534.

click to enlarge Marcie's Pies - RACHAEL NARINS
  • Rachael Narins
  • Marcie's Pies
9. Marcie's Pies Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie:

Not to get too sentimental, but this pie from Marcie Jimenez, of Jimenez Family Farms, is everything that is right in the world of pie. It's the product of an organic, local farm. It's handmade. It's filled with real fruit. It evokes wonderful memories you may not even have of lazy days and berry-smeared faces. It's in one tin -- the story of pioneers, of farm women throughout history harvesting their fruit and baking it into pie to be sold at the farmers market. This one just happens to also be top-notch, home-style and happy-making. Grab one, and go have a picnic while it's still warm. Available at assorted farmers markets, including the Sunday Hollywood farmers market.

click to enlarge Babalu pie - RACHAEL NARINS
  • Rachael Narins
  • Babalu pie
8. Babalu Banana Brownie Cream Pie:

Cream pies -- a diner standard -- should really be in a category of their own, since the crust isn't baked and the filling is just poured in. It's not about flakiness or shortness, it's just about decadence. Babalu, a Caribbean restaurant that makes and sells a lot of pie, takes the win with its sugar-shock confection billed as a Banana Brownie Cream Pie. It starts with a cookie crumb base, topped with banana slices, pudding, brownie crumbs, more pudding, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It's enough for three people, but why share. 1002 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; 310-395-2500.

Turn the page for picks 7 through 5...

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