Chicago’s James Beard Award Winner Shares His Favorite Pie Spots
The best pies for Thanksgiving (or just a Tuesday)
Erick Williams loves comfort food.
The James Beard Award-winning chef from Hyde Park’s Virtue loves it so much that he recently opened two spots specializing in it. Mustard Seed Kitchen in the South Loop offers an array of comforting take-out items ranging from friend chicken sandwiches to cheeseburgers. Williams’ other comfort food spot hits differently: Po Boy and Tavern in Hyde Park specializes in southern comfort, from fried catfish to fried green tomatoes and of course, the po’boys.
“Comfort food has always been important: Food is soothing, celebratory and very necessary,” Williams says. “Although I cook and enjoy comfort food all year long, I love this time of year when the weather changes and it’s the perfect time for comforting dishes.”
But what’s comfort food without dessert? With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we grilled the comfort food expert on his favorite pie spots in Chicago to pick up dessert to go with his main dishes.
Go here: Virtue
Get this: The sweet potato pie by pastry chef Becky Pendola.
Details: “I don’t have that many spots that I would go to for pie and cake outside of Virtue for sweet potato pie by our pastry chef Becky Pendola, because it’s that good,” Williams says. This pie is subtly sweet, creamy and totally homemade. The trick is having room in your belly for it after a full meal at Virtue — or a post-Thanksgiving dinner, so we recommend eating the pie first. After all, sweet potatoes don’t technically count as dessert.
Go here: Justice of the Pies
Get this: Caramel pecan pie
Details: Williams describes this pie as “addicting.” Justice of the Pies, which is a pop-up at farmers markets and craft fairs throughout Chicago (and also on Goldbelly for those out of state) is filled with real ingredients that are twists on the classics. This one is sweet but not overly sweet for a caramel pie, and the crust is light and flaky. Heat it up, and it’s gooey and warm and robust. They also have a salted caramel peach pie that’s a great alternative if you don’t like nuts.
Go here: Brown Sugar Bakery
Get this: Caramel cake
Details: OK, it’s not technically a pie, but it still deserves a place on your Thanksgiving table. This has a thick caramel layer that’s similar in taste to dulce de leche, but it’s thicker. The cake is rich like shortbread but soft. We don’t know how this bakery does it, but they do it so well that the Brown Sugar Bakery in Hyde Park now has a spot at Navy Pier, and its pies and cakes are also sold at restaurants throughout Chicago, including at Mustard Seed Kitchen.
Go here: Mindy’s Bakery
Get this: Anything
Details: Formerly Hot Chocolate, now Mindy’s Bakery. We don’t care what it’s called as long as pastry chef Mindy Segal is at the helm. We are partial to her hot chocolate, which tastes like pure chocolate that’s been melted and is ready to be sipped — and she still sells her hot chocolate blend by the bag. But literally everything Segal makes is crave-worthy, from her mini Fleur de Sel Crust mini-pies to her Poached Pear and Pistachio Custard Streusel. Williams says he’s looking forward to the Turducken Pie, which is a brown butter graham cracker crust filled with pumpkin cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake, topped with a pecan caramel candy bar and toasted marshmallows. “That is killer,” he says.
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