If your parents were anything like mine, then you probably remember last-minute grocery-store runs to pick up a circular brick of pie for Thanksgiving. It was always one of three options—pecan, apple, maybe pumpkin—encased in a cage of plastic and aluminum with a white sticker label that seemed to announce that no, your parents didn’t cook anything, and, yes, this pie cost exactly $6.99, you’re welcome, now please pass the gravy.
While those days still exist—and honestly, I hope they always do (that was some damn-good pie)—the business of making pie has become a bit more involved. Last year, The New York Times dedicated an entire spread to making homemade, from-scratch pies, and more bakeries than ever are taking pride in pies in which everything from the crust to the filling is from fresh, organic ingredients without a hint of corn syrup.
I thought about this as I stepped into Pop Pie Co.’s carefully curated shop. From the neon “In Pie We Crust” signage to the meticulously stacked cardboard boxes covering the main wall, it’s clear what you’re in for. You won’t find bricks in plastic cages here! The store deals in both sweet and savory handheld pies fresh from the kitchen.
Founded by Steven Torres and chef Gan Suebsarakham, Pop Pie Co. is an extension of their mini phenomenon that first started in San Diego’s University Heights, where lines regularly creeped out the door. Pop Pie Co.’s newly minted Costa Mesa location on 17th Street once housed the similar concept Pie Not. And while the specialties here are savory, handheld meat pies—the Green Hog and Cheese, with Torres’ mother’s own tomatillo recipe and heaping stacks of tender, braised pork shoulder in every forkful, is really a dream—the vegetable-forward options are almost as good.
The vegetarian mushroom-risotto pizza pot pie is made with a generous helping of perfectly cooked mushrooms, olives and onions—supple, not soggy—and a light use of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. The crust, which is painstakingly hand-rolled layer by layer, is hearty and buttery, but flaky, too. Upon looking at the robust, compact pie, you might think you’re in for a knockout nap after, but the dish is surprisingly light.
If you’re keen on something vegan, luckily the sole option is done superbly. Coated in an almond-milk wash, the roasted-veggies-and-yellow-curry pie houses a torrent of spices and herbs, with an aroma that’ll cause anyone in your near vicinity to crane their necks in your direction. Cauliflower is roasted alongside soft, smoky sweet potatoes, mushrooms and squash, and coconut milk creates the base soaking up the curry spices and enveloping the whole thing in a creamy layer.
There’s also an excellent vegan apple crumble pie, but if you can manage it, try the key lime, which cuts like silk and finds that elusive balance between tart and sweet.
And for those who plan on stopping by the supermarket on the way to Thanksgiving dinner, Pop Pie Co. also offers freshly made pecan and pumpkin pies. It’ll cost you more than $6.99, but I guarantee none of your fellow dinner guests will mind.
Pop Pie Co., 270 E. 17th St., Ste. 17, Costa Mesa, (949) 524-3015; poppieco.com.
Charisma can usually be found eating cake with a cup of hot coffee for breakfast or walking around the OC with Toto, her awesome corgi-chihuahua.