Pie equals four. Photo by John Gilhooley
Pie equals four. Photo by John Gilhooley

This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

A chicken pot pie, like a Toyota Camry, isn't the flashiest or most enthralling thing you can buy, but its greatness is undeniable and unveils itself slowly, surely, wonderfully. Such is the charm of the chicken pot pies baked at KATIE MCGUIRE'S PIE & BAKE SHOPPE.

Here are chicken pot pies worthy of Nebraska: small but filling, flaky but sturdy, a yellow crust the tone of moist earth. Inside the crust is bouncy breast meat mixed alongside pea, potato and carrot bits. Nourishing the bird and veggie chunks like amniotic fluid is the gravy, a sweet, gooey liquid that will scald you if you don't blow on it for a couple of minutes. Nothing else adorns the pot pie save for a dill pickle and a tomato slice on the side—no need to embellish.

Like its culinary godfather, the La Palma Chicken Pie Shop, Katie McGuire's gets customers of all ages but concentrates its pitch on the coffin-dodger set; instead of Googie nostalgia, this Cypress dive decorates its dining room with quaint knickknacks: doilies, paintings, samplers and the like. The menu is also decidedly Americana. Each night highlights a different entrée, anything from a flavorful pot roast crispy with fresh celery to a chicken cordon bleu that doesn't go light on the cheeses. Dinner comes with a trio of soups that vary according to the day—visit Thursday to slurp up the sharp tomato Florentine, earthy sweet pea or a cream of potato, perfect for dunking opportunities with an accompanying wheat roll, but I like Mondays—that's when they boil up vats of chicken noodle, a cup of golden comfort perfect for winter (too bad global warming turned this February into the balmiest in recent memory). The only constant besides the pot pies are the three quiches: verdant broccoli and spinach varieties and the impossibly creamy quiche Lorraine, its many layers housing enough cheese, bacon and egg to double as an omelet.

Katie McGuire's doesn't try to wow eaters with its menu; tasteful simplicity reigns. And that also applies to the baked goods that make up most of Katie's business: large, cheap fruit pies with fruit chunks, simple cupcakes and cookies, everything just hours—if not minutes—old. About the most exotic things here are the luscious macaroons, white with coconut. Oh, and the rhubarb pie, the acrid root whose continued appearance in bakeries remains the biggest American conspiracy since the moon landing.



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