What makes a pie? There's the classic double-crust, with the bottom crust as well as a top crust, whether it's a sheet of dough or a lattice or repeating pattern. These usually are filled with fruit. If the baker is in a rush, single crust still counts as pie, whether that one layer of dough is atop or below the filling. Then, there are your meringue pies, your pumpkin pies, pecan pies, chess pies … the list goes on, but cobblers, crumbles and crisps are different creatures altogether.
And do crushed graham crackers make a crust? The debate rages on, but let's just talk about the best pies in Los Angeles — any kind, as long as they're sweet, not savory, because that's a different list. Before we dive in, let's pour one out for House of Pies in Los Feliz. It's not the most exciting restaurant in the city, but it's reliable and darn near legendary. I genuinely enjoy its … cheesecake. Which really is a pie, when you think about it. [The internet explodes in outrage.] Now, on to the very best pies in the city.
The Apple Pan
The Westwood classic is mostly known for its burgers (and cone-shaped paper cups and hickory sauce and U-shaped counter), but it's not a real Apple Pan experience until you have pie. Confusingly, but deliciously, the banana cream pie is really the way to go here. Bring it to a party and see how everyone flirts with you.
10801 Pico Blvd., Westwood; (310) 475-3585.
Pie 'N Burger
The Pasadena equivalent of the Apple Pan — one hates to be so reductive, but the two restaurants really are quite similar, though this one serves breakfast and more lunch items — serves a wide range of midcentury-style pies, including peanut butter meringue, cherry and blueberry. But absolutely get the peach pie, and get it with ice cream.
913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 795-1123, pienburger.com.
This Pasadena cafe is known for its excellent pie crust. It's flakey, and tender, and the cooks somehow get it to a deep golden color without tipping it over to “burnt.” Most of that crust is put to use on savory dinner pies, but some of it is used as God intended, atop sugared-up fruit. There's usually an apple pie on the regular menu, but call ahead to see if there's something else behind the counter.
345 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 844-8855.
Nicole Rucker is an L.A. treasure. She's some kind of pastry genius, and she cannot be contained at a restaurant — unless, perhaps, it's her own. That project seems to be in the works, as her pie shop is poised to open on Fairfax soon. Until then, pie fiends can email an order in, to be picked up at Cofax. Rucker uses a lot of fruit in her pies, often in combinations you haven't thought of before, such as green apple-rhubarb and orange-blackberry.
Order at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jongewaard's Bake n Broil
This Long Beach staple is the ideal all-American diner, with plenty of coffee and big portions of comfort food. But people go especially nuts for the pies. All the pies, but if you time your visit right, you can get your hands on the notorious, elusive olallieberry pie. This fruit, with an exceedingly short early-summer season, is a hybrid of one type of blackberry and a youngberry, which is a blackberry-raspberry-dewberry hybrid. Call ahead, and if you manage to snag a slice, get ready for fruit-pie nirvana.
3697 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; (562) 595-0396, thebakenbroil.com.
Atticus Creamery + Pies
In a fun twist, the pies at this two-location shop are very Instagram-friendly, but they taste good too! The shop mainly sells individually sized pies (Have two! Live your life) in a range of flavors that often make pretty pastel colors. These are custard pies (so bottom crust only), like the yellow mango-pineapple and the pink strawberry-pistachio.
Multiple locations; atticusinla.com.
Not all pie is served in a down-home setting. Margarita Manzke, the pastry chef at République, is a James Beard Award–nominated dessert artisan, and though she serves elegant European desserts at the pricey French restaurant, it seems as though pie might be a passion of hers. There's usually one on the dessert menu, and whole take-home pies can be pre-ordered, during the holidays, and probably other times, if you ask nicely. Both fruit and custard varieties make it onto the menu.
624 S. La Brea Ave., Miracle Mile; (310) 362-6115, republiquela.com.
Gus's Fried Chicken
Sure, it's a fried chicken restaurant, which is currently L.A.'s favorite kind of restaurant. But you could go just for the pies, which are something of a locals' secret. Not a very well-kept secret anymore. The Southern-style pies include sweet potato, pecan and regular and chocolate chess pies. There's also a coconut pie people go crazy for: It's coconut custard topped with shredded coconut. Truly excellent.
1262 Crenshaw Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; (323) 402-0232, gusfriedchicken.com.