“They do have pie, they all do have pie, they do not all eat pie, there are a great many who never eat pie, but anywhere and everywhere if you want pie you can have pie.” These are words that Gertrude Stein remarked after returning to America after years living abroad in Paris, but it could also be said of Los Angeles, which is currently experiencing a pot-pie revolution.
According to the Smithsonian, pot pies originated during Roman times, often baked in such a way that live birds flew out when the crust was pierced – the origin of the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” In the 1500s, the U.K. took up the dish and it migrated to all of the colonies, stuffed with every kind of meat imaginable, from mutton to pigeons.
As of late, Australian pies have been storming our beaches. According to Nick Bishop, owner of Aussie Pie Kitchen in Santa Monica, pot pies are “essentially street food” in his country — “a bit like hot dogs.” Are Americans ready to trade in their burritos and burgers for something a little more … exotic? One thing is for sure, there are more than just Aussie pies to savor here and all of the following will leave you fuller than a centipede’s sock drawer, as they (apparently) say Down Under.
The list below gathers up some of the best pot pies in the city. Whether traditional, Aussie or slightly twisted, none of these versions is half baked.
Garlo’s Aussie Pie Shop
Move over, pizza and falafel, there’s a new cheap, bountiful food in town. Perfectly situated in Westwood, where college students abound, Garlo’s Aussie Pie Shop serves up pot pies for less than $5. If you’re feeling extra lean in the pocket, there are even smaller “sliders” for just under $2. The pies make for a terrific late-night snack or morning hangover cure. Pair the curry beef pie with a flat white while you practice your “g’days." 1010 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles; 310-208-3777.
Winner of the KCRW pie contest in 2012, pastry chef Nicole Rucker brings her expertise to the new Gjusta in Venice. While there are a variety of options for savory pie, the Pork & Pea was the illustrious winner. The dish glows with golden health, sporting a flaky, buttery crust. The insides are both familiarly hearty yet specifically Gjusta, with a front-loading of herbs, like oregano and rosemary and just the right amount of salt without going over – as Bob Barker used to say on The Price Is Right. At $13, the price is a little on the hefty side, but sometimes a little bit of luxury is worth the cost of admission. 320 Sunset Ave., Venice.
The Pie Hole
The Pie Hole is pretty much pie heaven for lovers of the crusty treat, and whether you like them sweet or savory. these are pies good enough to be anyone's last meal (you might want to die of happiness if you eat one). The small, celestial eatery in the Arts District does all of its baking on site. The pot pies come in chicken-and-cornbread and Angel City steak-and-ale. The shop’s mission statement is “Happiness, one slice at a time,” and the product most certainly lives up to the hype – buttery, flaky and bursting with umami goodness. The sweet varieties, such as maple custard and Moe’s pumpkin, are impossible to resist. 714 Traction Ave., Los Angeles; 213-537-0115.
Aussie Pie Kitchen
Fifteen to 20 percent of Aussie Pie Kitchen’s customers hail from the Commonwealth (United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand), according to owner Nick Bishop. The new cafe on Main Street in Santa Monica proffers a wide array of savory pies, as well as “brekkie” pies, Lamington and scones. Unlike most pot pies, the Aussie version uses pie crust on the bottom and a croissant dough on top, creating a super flaky result. For those with an appetite, you can layer your choice of pie with hearty sides. The Tiger Stack starts with a generous portion of garlic mashed Yukon gold potatoes, then your pie, then minty mushy peas and finally cream gravy. The result resembles a glorious Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. 2510 Main St., Santa Monica; 310-399-0743.
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The K Bakery
The K Bakery’s chicken pot pie, found on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, is almost like a memory of a memory. A memory once removed. The coziness of rich, crumbly crust, with savory smells wafting up through the steam holes, evokes Grandma’s kitchen, ticker-tape parades and straw boating hats. The meaty chunks of white chicken, tender peas and carrots and creamy gravy, recall cobblestones, lorries and red phone booths. Co-owner Kim Kedeshian (with her mom!) uses only fresh ingredients to form such a Proustian pie. “I just assumed everyone makes their food completely from scratch,” she says. With plans to move when Rick Caruso (the man behind The Grove) refashions the downtown area of the Palisades, Kedeshian’s ambition lies in an even grander plan: food hall. 17338 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades; 310-573-9900.