Eating + Drinking

Chicago’s Ultimate Pie Bucket List

These pies take the cake

Hoosier Mama Pie Co.; photo by Rob Warner

If you’re someone who thinks of pie only at the Thanksgiving dinner table, well, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest year-round joys. Every season presents another reason to indulge in the trend-defying treat. From fresh local fruit and berry varieties to hardcore chocolate, pie’s super versatile, making for a killer breakfast (really), midday sugar rush or post-dinner sweet. Here are the tastiest specimens around town.

Best fruit pie: Hoosier Mama Pie Co.
Whether bursting with Mick Klug Farm berries and stone fruit in the summer or crumble-topped and stuffed with pears, apples and cranberries come fall, Paula Haney’s fruit pies are without rival. Paired with a mug of the shop’s (which has locations in both Ukrainian Village and Evanston) Metropolis coffee, it’s not just acceptable for breakfast—it’s ideal.

Best meringue pie: Spinning J
If the cosmically swirled strawberry-lemon meringue or raspberry-lime meringue pies are in the case at this Humboldt Park retro (but not gimmicky) soda shop, consider it your lucky day. A rich brown butter shortbread crust anchors the sweet-tart filling, and it’s topped off with perfectly fluffy meringue peaks.

Spinning J; Credit: Clayton Hauck

Best key lime pie: Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits
A flavor so iconic it warrants a category all its own, the simple yet mighty key lime gets the treatment it deserves at Bang Bang’s sunny cafes in Logan Square and Ravenswood. Pastel yellow custard nestled into a homemade graham crust and finished with a dollop of whipped cream; no element overlooked, and nothing is overcomplicated.

Best chocolate pie: Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf
It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t save room for dessert at Brendan Sodikoff’s sexy River North steakhouse. One forkful of the chocolate cream pie’s intensely fudgy filling, and your stomach will magically accommodate. With an eye-poppingly oversized orb of whipped cream on top, it’ll make your Instagram followers nearly as happy as you.

Best sweet potato pie: Jimmy Jamm Sweet Potato Pies
If you don’t love—like, really love—sweet potato, don’t bother visiting this Beverly bake shop. You’ll find the tuber glammed up in a dizzying array of options, including cheesecake, soft-serve and cupcakes. At lunch, there’s gigantic loaded sweet potatoes, sandwiches on sweet potato bread and hand-cut fries. But you’re here for the pie, and it’s a beaut—insanely velvety sweet potato custard with belly-warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, plus a hit of citrus.

Best chess pie: Baker Miller
A gooey Southern staple gets the full chocolate treatment at Dave and Megan Miller’s much-lauded bakery and café (with locations in Lincoln Square and Edgewater). Fair Trade dark chocolate custard is poured into a raw sugar and whole-wheat cookie crumble crust, and the result is a brownie-esque delight with the ability to scratch multiple dessert itches.

Best sweet/savory pie: Justice of the Pies
Baker extraordinaire Maya-Camille Broussard doesn’t have a storefront, but it’s worth seeking her out at the Daley Plaza Farmers Market or hitting up one of the Whole Foods locations that carry her goods for a taste of the savory-sweet bleu cheese praline pear pie. A flaky butter crust houses a tender filling of spiced pears, and it’s finished with an oatmeal crumb, praline sauce and a generous helping of bleu cheese crumbles.

Best reason to drive for pie: Spilt Milk
With Chicago’s embarrassment of pie riches, it takes a damn good specimen to justify a trip outside city limits. Sample sisters Meg and Molly Svec’s delicious creations and you’ll immediately forget about the commute to Oak Park’s Hemingway District. Molly, a pedigreed pastry chef who logged time at Blackbird, Hoosier Mama Pie Co. and Bouchon in New York, whips up imaginative flavors from salted honey to guava cream, and also nails the basics.