Need something to do this weekend? Here are five Vancouver pie shops that will make you skip the bakery section at Costco for something better.
Savary Island Pie Company, 1533 Marine Drive, West Vancouver
There’s a reason why some of the best pie shops are in the wealthiest neighbourhoods. People who live in burgs like West Van can afford to drop $32 on a delicious cherry pie or $55 on a whole carrot cake to serve at a dinner party. But the origins of the Savary Island Pie Company are remarkably humble.
Founder Eileen Walkem-Hall used to bake pies for $4 an hour at a Bowen Island restaurant while living in a shanty cabin heated only by a wood stove. A student of Jungian psychology, her process of individuation and quest for integration of the Self led to the discovery of her inner entrepreneur. It culminated in the opening of this fabulous, sun-dappled Ambleside pie shop in 1989.
There are few pleasures as divine as devouring a slice of Savary Island’s ice-cream–topped raspberry-blueberry pie with a cup of java while perched by the window. If you want to take inspiration to a new level, try doing this while reading Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections or Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
A La Mode, 137-1689 Johnston Street, Granville Island
If we learned anything from Special Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, it’s that sometimes the most incredible pieces of pie are the simplest. Who needs double-salted caramel or Jamaican-thyme-infused blackberry creations when you’ve got good old-fashioned sugar pies and bumbleberry flans?
Serving up a mix of savoury (clam chowder, tourtière, and mushroom pot pies) and sweet (strawberry, raspberry-rhubarb, and apple), A La Mode has been a Granville Island Market mainstay for 26 years. You don’t stick around a quarter-century without being good at what you do. Might we recommend the company’s coconut-cream dream, for which Gilligan would give up not only dates with both Ginger and Mary-Anne, but also the keys to his island’s made-from-bamboo car?
Or you could just ask yourself, “What would Agent Cooper order?” and keep it simple with the cherry.
Black Rook Bakehouse, 2474 East Hastings Street
Part of the fun of going into this homey East Village hangout is the chachka-filled décor: cookie-cutters, pots and pans, blackboards, tall goodie jars, an old upright piano, chandeliers, mason jars, wall-hung quilts, and mismatched tables and chairs. Sure it’s known for cakes, breads, and monster-sized muffins, but the pies here are something to behold.
They’re hefty and homemade-rough around the edges, often topped by a crisp, bumpy crust, with the berry juice just starting to ooze out. The chunky, old-fashioned apple-cinnamon is a staple. A blueberry- or blackberry-apple-walnut version tastes fresh off a farmhouse table. Or go for a coconut cream, sprinkled with roasted shavings.
Aphrodite’s Café & Pie Shop, 3598 West 4th Avenue
Who thought pie could be good for you? The chocolate-banana cream pie at Aphrodite’s looks utterly decadent, with its velvety rich mountaintop, but it’s made from organic products. In 2003, farmer Allan Christian founded this funky hideaway, which is across the street from Banyen Books & Sound. Seven years after his death, the shop still relies on organic wheat and offers gluten-free pies on request, making it a favourite of those with celiac disease.
The selection of flaky and sumptuous organic pies is amazing: lemon meringue, raspberry cream, blackberry-apple, cherry, pecan, pumpkin, pineapple, raspberry-rhubarb, spinach-feta pot pie, turkey pot pie, and more. Like other organic products in grocery stores, they’re not cheap—$9.25 a slice for the cream pies and $7.50 a slice for basic fruit pie—but they’re well worth the price. Especially if you pair one of these babies with a Dogwood craft beer or a B.C. wine.
And when it comes to that chocolate-banana cream pie, keep in mind there are no trans fats in the nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. Yes, that’s organic Avalon cream that you’ll enjoy with the Callebaut chocolate.
The Pie Shoppe, 1875 Powell Street
Formerly situated in Chinatown, the Pie Shoppe made the move to the industrial sector of Powell Street last year, where you can often find owners Andrea and Stephanie French rolling out their handmade dough or pitting fruit.
The pies are to die for—with beautifully flaky, finger-formed crusts, they look like something your granny might have made, but the flavour combos are as cutting-edge as salted honey and pear-ginger, though there are killer apple and pumpkin-spice pies too.
The shop sources ingredients from the Fraser Valley, Okanagan, and local islands, as well as local green grocers and farmer’s markets, with a strong emphasis on organic and free-range. The fully degradable, brown-cardboard packaging fits in with the aesthetic. Order ahead: the Pie Shoppe closes when it sells out. And you will be sad.