When Honeypie opened in Bay View 11 years ago – at 2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., with plans to move to a new location this year – it rolled out a flaky, buttery path to our hearts with hip-widening fillings of black bottom banana cream, Door County cherry and many more. For a girl raised on Bakers Square, this birth was rapturous. Not that other bakeries weren’t making pies well. But something about Honeypie’s arrival was like going from a discount store training bra to Victoria’s Secret padded and underwired. (In homage to our love and sex cover story, yes, I am going there.) What owner Val Lucks and her team of pastry virtuosos did was help reinvigorate a trend that loves grandma pies, whether creamy, fruity, chocolate-y or what-have-you. And to gift someone a pie is as loving – or perhaps more so – than a Whitman’s Sampler.
A few summers ago, Val Lucks opened SmallPie (2504 E. Oklahoma Ave.) with an eye to reducing her pies in size (hence the name) and folding them freeform-style like French galettes. (Lucks has since opened a small satellite SmallPie counter at the East Side’s Crossroads Collective.) What I love about this is you get more layers of flaky crust and not too much filling. They’re also best suited to fruit fillings like blueberry and Dutch apple. Some refer to these as handpies, but oftentimes that label applies to pastries shaped more like a Pop-Tart with the filling fully encased.
Hatched, the Milwaukee bakery that supplies businesses like Birch + Butcher and has a stand every other Saturday at the Winter Farmers Market at the Mitchell Park Domes, makes handpies that attribute their supreme flakiness to lard. Owner Allison Cebulla goes seasonal with some filling varieties, including spiced pear and persimmon, but I’m a sucker for her everyday flavors like tart-sweet blueberry lemon curd.
If you’ve heard of Mr. Dye’s Pies, it might be from his Instagram handle where owner Johnathan Dye gifts a pie to a notable, such as MSNBC host Chris Matthews or actor Kiefer Sutherland, and snaps their photo, pie in hand. Starting with limited distribution of his terrific, classic sweet potato and other pies, Dye offers his creations – the newest is the fruit-filled Blueberry Hill – at Piggly Wiggly stores, Pete’s Fruit Market and restaurants like Miss Katie’s Diner. This year, he’s launching a peanut butter pie and working even harder to build his brand. Look out, Dem conventioneers! Dye’s Pies is coming for you.
Dye, like the other bakers here, knows that pie equals love – no disrespect to chocolate. There’s plenty of love to go around. So let’s make sure this Valentine’s holiday is the Year of the Pie.