“I remember going to Franke’s Cafeteria in Little Rock with my mom and my family as a kid, getting in line and then getting to the desserts. Oh my god, I couldn’t wait to get to the desserts. I always got the same thing: the egg custard pie. I want to say I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first had it. I’m 60 now, so I grew up on that pie. It was the best thing in the world. I mean, oh my goodness. Just heaven. I think a lot of people would say that it’s almost like a flan, because it has egg yolks and heavy cream and a hint of nutmeg. And butter—tons and tons of butter.”
Evette was the executive chef and owner of Little Rock’s 1620 Savoy. She now serves on the committee for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame.
“I grew up in southwest Arkansas, in Arkadelphia. My dad was a big fisherman so we would go to Lake Ouachita, and we would stay at the old Shangri-La Resort in Mt. Ida. I grew up eating their homemade pies. They’re wonderful, the best I’ve had in the state. If I had to pick a favorite—and I’m glad I don’t have to—it would be the blueberry pie. You don’t see blueberry pies at a whole lot of places. It has a rich, sweet, gooey berry taste, and it’s got what I consider to be a perfect crust. What is so wonderful about the Shangri-La Resort is that it’s like stepping back in time. It looks now just the same as it did back in the 1960s—like a movie set. So it’s the experience as a whole, and it’s as close as I can get in Arkansas to going back to my childhood.”
Rex is senior editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and blogs about all things food, sports and politics at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.
“W e have this group, and once a month, we go out and eat local and have drinks. Sharon [from Little Rock’s Honey Pies] was the last one to join us. At some point, she brought us all some mini pies. She’s got this chocolate fudge brownie pie that she makes. That night, we went out to Cajun’s. After we came home from a nice night out, my husband and I both kind of tore into the pie. We just stood at the counter, not even bothering to sit down or get a plate or anything. It was just so delicious. You really can’t go wrong with a brownie that has a pie crust on it. It’s got this crunchy top on it that looks crinkly. You get into it, and it’s this soft, rich chocolate. But then you get that pastry crust that’s flaky and cuts through the sweetness of the filling.”
Kelli is the owner of Sweet Love Bakes in Little Rock, but her newest venture, Cathead’s Diner, opens this spring in Little Rock’s East Village. On the menu: Pie. And biscuits. And donuts. Read more on page 80.
“W e had a barbecue dinner at someone’s house. A friend of mine brought two whole versions of the peanut butter pie from Three Sam’s Barbeque Joint in Mabelvale. It was so well-received that I barely got to try any of it. The place burned down in March of 2016, and just reopened recently. The first time I had it again was a month ago. For what you pay for it, I can’t imagine pie getting any better. It’s a chilled pie—a love letter to peanut butter. It’s got a traditional flaky crust, but then it’s got this really creamy center. There are layers of peanut butter fudge, with a ton of crushed Reese’s cups on top. It’s completely chock-full of peanuts. Just one look at it, and you know this is a peanut butter pie that doesn’t mess around.”
Steve is a Little Rock-based food writer and host of the Little Rock Foodcast.
“I had it about three or four years ago when Mylo Coffee Co. in Little Rock first opened. I go there at least once a week now—sometimes even more. Mylo’s is a good place because everything is fresh, and I like it when people make food with heart, with love. Every day, they make a quantity of everything and when it’s finished, it’s finished. The pie was crunchy, not too sweet and the perfect size. It had a very good dough. You know, some places don’t cook the dough enough. For me, I don’t like that. In Europe, when we eat baguettes and croissants, we like [them] to have a nice brown color. The most important thing is for the pecans to be nice and fresh. The one from Mylo’s was perfect.”
Joël is the executive chef at One Eleven in Little Rock’s Capital Hotel.
Editor’s note: This pie is not currently on Mylo’s menu. But it can’t hurt to ask, right?
“I’m from Montana originally, and Montana doesn’t have a super-definitive food style. I would say I wasn’t well-versed in pies before I moved to Arkansas. Not long after I moved here in 2006, we drove to The Family Pie Shop in DeValls Bluff. Quite a few local writers have written about it, so it was something I wanted to check out. It was in a garage, and as far as I could tell, there was no refrigeration. We got a coconut cream pie. Hers had a regular pie crust, coconut cream with toasted meringue on top. The unique thing about the pie was the combination of her coconut cream, her crust and the meringue. It almost had a real, pretty forward honey flavor. I think because the pies never got refrigerated after they were made, the meringue kind of sweated. It had these beads on it, and something about it was just perfect.”
Matthew is the executive chef at South on Main in Little Rock.
“T he pie that’s most adored—one that’s been in my family for generations—is the Paradise Pie, also called the Cracker Pie. It’s an old Southern tradition, and the original recipe predates my family, for sure. It’s typically made with saltine crackers, whipped egg whites, sugar and chopped pecans. But there are variations of it. My great-grandmother reinvented the pie for the Red Apple Inn in Heber Springs when they opened in 1963. She has a great cookbook that was published in the mid ’70s. It’s called Feasts of Eden, and it’s the original cookbook for the Red Apple Inn. There’s this quote from her in the book, ‘I first had this simple but delicious dessert 30 years ago in Booneville, Arkansas. It is still a favorite at the Red Apple. It is quickly made and freezes well.'”
Scott is the executive chef of Yellow Rocket Concepts, which owns and operates Big Orange, Local Lime, Lost Forty Brewing Co. and ZaZa Fine Salad and Wood-Oven Pizza Co.
“I was probably in my 30s when stumbled upon this lemon meringue pie at Craig’s in DeValls Bluff on a drive from Memphis back to Little Rock. It was so good that I thought it would make a bulldog break its chain. It starts with the crust. Any good pie, in my opinion, starts with the crust. It was beautiful and flaky and buttery. The meringue was really tall. It was coming toward me as the waitress brought it to me. My eyes got really big. It was a very proud meringue, and made a beautiful presentation. The lemon custard was especially tart, which I like. I don’t like things overly sweet. The combination of that tart custard, sweet meringue and the flakiness of the pie crust made it a wonderful experience.”
Allen is an author, television host, entrepreneur and conservationist focused on organic gardening, green design and garden-to-table cooking.
“Do you know Community Bakery? They have wonderful apple pies. Most apple pies that you buy in stores are very sugary and sweet. It’s cloying. I don’t like it when there’s so much sugar that it tastes like an apple mousse. The pies at Community Bakery—you can taste more of the fruit. You can see more of the fruit. To me, that makes it special. It has breadcrumbs in it, and it’s very crunchy when you bite into it. Also, the cinnamon, which is what I love about apple pies. When I’m in Little Rock, I go back to Community Bakery.”
Louis was the executive chef at Little Rock’s legendary Jacques and Suzanne, and is now co-owner of Petit & Keet.
“Sitting in the case at Batten’s Bakery in Paragould was a tray of fried crescent-shaped hand pies billed as ‘Chocolate Old-fashioned’ pies. Intrigued, because typically a chocolate pie is custardy, and this pie clearly wasn’t that, I bought a couple. Back in the car, I took a bite. And you know that scene in Ratatouille when Anton Ego, the food critic, takes a bite of the ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood? That’s what happened to me. That bite brought me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen in Gurdon, and she’d just handed me one of her chocolate pies, a simple, humble pie made with just four ingredients: dough, cocoa, confectioners sugar and butter. And it was warm and the chocolate was molten and it tasted like the best chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever had. That. Pie.”
Kat is a food and travel writer based in Little Rock, and has written the book on pie in Arkansas—Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State—and is currently working on a follow-up as well as an AETN documentary titled Make Room for Pie. Both debut in March.
“I was sampling pies for an event and the Nut Buster from Bizzy B’s Bakery in Bentonville was one of the pies in the lineup. I remember sinking my fork into a slice and falling in love, and it has been my go-to ever since. I’ve got one in my kitchen right now, and I’m going to go treat myself to a slice. Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! It’s chocolaty and you can taste all three of the nuts—the toasted almonds and pecans and walnuts—and the decadence of the drizzle of white and dark chocolate. It’s sinful. This is like a chocolate-pecan pie that’s been taken to the next level and given more nuts than it needs, but it is so delicious. So delicious.”
Steven is the host and executive producer of the AETN’s Cooks with Brooks as well as the executive chef for Tankersley FoodService.
“I was driving back from a cooking event in Mississippi and after about two hours on the road I became ravenous. I also had a headache. There’d been a bit of … um … imbibing the night before, so it was that kind of hunger. I suddenly remembered the mini-sweet potato pie I had stashed in the car from when we’d stopped at Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales in Lake Village on the way. I grabbed that pie and with one hand on the wheel ate it like a taco. It was so good. So. Good. It had that sticky, caramel-y sweetness to it, and was rich and creamy and the filling had just seamlessly cooked into the first layer of pie crust. Man. At that moment, that pie was everything I needed it to be.”
Matthew is the executive chef at The Hive in Bentonville, and a four-time James Beard semifinalist.
“T he meringue was like a glacier on top. It was my birthday, and when the waitress at Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets in England recommended pie for dessert, we were all kind of lukewarm about it. We were all just like, OK, pie. We’ve all had pie. But then she set the slice on the table and there was a collective Whoa!, and that meringue was there for more than just wow-factor. It was light and fluffy and springy. And the banana filling had that homemade banana-custard taste to it. And the crust was crunchy and really stood up to the cream and the meringue. The only bad thing about the experience was I had to share. But we all ended up going home with a whole pie each—it was that good.”
Vince is a chef instructor for pastry at Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food in Bentonville.