Outside a quaint, Victorian-style bungalow on the oceanfront of a sleepy San Diego suburb, a line of about 50 people coils down the block every day — sometimes double that on weekends.
These folks are waiting in line for a chance to grab a freshly made hand pie from Tara Lazar’s new bakery, The Famous High-Pie.
The pies are great, but they are, in some senses, not the whole point. Some of the people in line are here because Lazar’s Oceanside bakery is located within an iconic part of American cinematic history: the actual Top Gun house.
If that little Victorian cottage looks familiar, it’s because it was the home of Tom Cruise’s love interest, flight instructor Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, in the original Top Gun. Built in 1887 and known locally as “the Graves House,” the bungalow has long ranked as one of the city’s claims to fame. Now, it’s been repurposed to serve the community, too. As Top Gun fever once again sweeps America, fans can take a little bit of sweetness home with them — and bask, however briefly, inside a famous corner of the Top Gun universe.
Since opening, the line out the door has been pretty much a constant for Lazar’s little pie shop; they’ve been selling out early since they opened for business.
“I am in awe a little bit of the reaction,” Lazar tells InsideHook. “I knew people really liked Top Gun, but I didn’t realize how much they liked Top Gun. We sell out of pies every day — we’re trying to not have to close down early each day — but we’re selling 1,500 to 1,800 pies a day, which is a little crazy. It’s really cute just how near and dear Top Gun is to our heart, and our culture, and our history. Especially in southern California, and most particularly in a military town like Oceanside.”
Lazar, the founder of F10 Creative, is already known for her restaurants like Cheeky’s, Birba and Mr. Lyons in Palm Springs. High-Pie is one of two new concepts she’s opened in Oceanside during the last year, along with the casual cafe High/Low on the ground floor of the new Mission Pacific Hotel. There, High/Low and the pie shop also join Valle, a new Mexican restaurant from celebrated chef Roberto Alcocer that’s a tribute to his hometown of Valle de Guadalupe, and Piper, a garden-to-table kitchen specializing in handmade pasta that just went in across the street.
Of course, none of the other spots have seen the reaction that High-Pie has. “I don’t know if there’s a soul who grew up in America that didn’t see Top Gun,” Lazar laughs. “It’s obviously so fortuitous for the sequel to come out now, and for it to be so great — it feels really good. It tied in nicely because I said, ‘What’s more American than apple pie?’ We had this Victorian house, and this Americana movie — that at the time, every little boy my age in the United States dreamt of — I thought pie was a nice match for that.”
Along with apple pie, Lazar also offers cherry and a rotating mix of seasonal varieties. Interestingly enough, the cherry flavor has actually been the most popular so far. All of Lazar’s pies are gluten-free. Having tasted quite a few during one of the shop’s opening events, I can attest to the fact that they’re just as delicious as the gluten-y ones. “All of our pies are handmade, so that’s exciting,” Lazar says. “Second of all, we use Cup4Cup flour from Thomas Keller so they’re 100% gluten-free — kind of just by chance. We set out to taste how it tasted, and we still get a nice flaky crust, which is really nice, because so many people are staying away from gluten. We also use really high-end butter, so it’s 83% butter — just really clean ingredients. No tricks.”
The real trick was converting the historical cottage into a repurposed memorabilia site with a commercial kitchen. “It feels like you’re working with this precious, fragile egg,” Lazar says. “Truly, there’s so many eyeballs on it, with so many opinions and ways they want that house to turn out, because it’s such a landmark for the town. As we were building it, you could sit outside the house and daily there’d be someone out there that had a relationship to that house. The stories alone were incredible.”
Now that the shop is up and running, they’re serving several styles of pie for takeout. Guests can order them alongside a slew of dipping sauces like chocolate, nacho cheese, lemon curd or sea salt caramel; you can also order pies à la mode, which means mascarpone ice cream fried inside. For larger groups, pies can get packed in bundles of 12 or 24, and the shop serves coffee to pair with its sweet treats.
“I loved the McDonald’s hand pies when we were growing up,” Lazar remembers. “We ended up putting ice cream inside the pie, so it’s a twist on what we grew up with, and just a little better, but all really great ingredients. In my restaurants, I typically like doing classics that we loved as kids and trying to tweak them so that they’re really homemade and as good as you can have. Oceanside has a lot of other great confections, and it felt like they were missing pie.”
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