Bringing pie to the party is an important task. It’s the part of the dinner that everyone looks forward to, and some may even go as far as to leave room in anticipation of a slice. After the appetizers, salad, and main course, pie is a sweet ending shared by everyone around the table.
Pie is one of the most nostalgic desserts, bringing people back to fond memories of baking with elders, learning the delicate process of rolling out the crust, making the filling, and bringing those components together. Baked at the beginning of the festivities to be enjoyed at the end, pie is one of the few dishes that bookends a holiday.
Pies transport us back to the familiar flavors we grew up with and culinary traditions that have been passed down through the generations. “When I bake, I want people to think about their grandmother’s or their great-grandmother’s cooking,” says Amy Edelman, owner of Night Kitchen Bakery. “Pie evokes a sort of feeling of a family and cooking with the family.”
The idea of encasing food in a form of pastry crust dates as far back as Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, whose tomb has drawings of a pie-like food filled with nuts, honey, and fruits. The Greeks are credited with creating meat pies, which the Romans took and distributed across the Roman Empire. The predecessor to American-style fruit pies, including our iconic apple pie, stems from England with recipes dating as far back as the 16th century. Although pie’s popularity in the United States is a result of English colonization, the dessert tradition is seen as predominantly all-American.
Aside from the nostalgia, one of the best parts about pie is the variety. There are so many different pies — fruit pies, nut pies, custard pies, pudding pies, cream pies. If you can dream it, you can likely make it into a pie.
“Especially around the holidays when there are so many kinds of pie that people have memories of — you can have everybody bring a different pie,” says Elizabeth Halen, owner of Flying Monkey Bakery in Reading Terminal Market. “And then you have a pie smorgasbord, which is kind of the best part of a Thanksgiving meal in my opinion.”
Philadelphia has no shortage of incredible pie makers sharing this delicious piece of culinary heritage. Every recipe may be unique to each baker, but pie has a taste, smell, and tradition that resonate with so many of us. As we pass slices of it around the table, we share a piece of ourselves, our personal history, as well as our collective history. Here’s where to get some of the region’s best pies.
For Pennsylvania Dutch baked goods, Beiler’s Bakery in Reading Terminal Market is a trusted spot. In addition to its doughnuts, it’s got whoopie pies, cakes, and pies, including the Pennsylvania Dutch classic shoofly pie. Shoofly pie is a molasses pie covered in a thick layer of fine crumbs. Local lore says its name comes from the fact that the sweet pie would always attract flies, causing bakers to wave their hands over the pie and say, “Shoo fly!” Beiler’s shoofly pie is rich with a deep cinnamon sugar and caramel flavor, but it’s the textures of the crust, the molasses filling, and the crumbs on top that make this one of the best shoofly pies in town. It’s perfect for dessert or paired with coffee the morning after a big family dinner.
Bredenbeck’s is an institution in Philadelphia’s pastry world. The bakery has been churning out cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, and ice cream since 1889. If you’ve been to a Philadelphia wedding west of the Schuylkill, chances are you’ve eaten a Bredenbeck’s cake. If you’re looking for an old-fashioned pie, this is the spot. It’s got all the holiday pie hits like lemon meringue, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, apple pie, and cherry pie. For an extra $3, you can get a lattice crust on top, just the way grandma used to make it.
Flying Monkey Bakery doesn’t take any shortcuts when it comes to making pies. Every crust is rolled by hand and made from scratch using real butter. According to Elizabeth Halen, owner of Flying Monkey Bakery in Reading Terminal Market, crust is key. “The crust is the vehicle for the pie,” says Halen. “We’re committed to butter and our pastry craft.” It even goes the extra mile with its key lime pie’s crust, which is made with graham crackers that it bakes in-house.
Flying Monkey offers pies all year round, including a peanut butter cup pie, a flourless lemon coconut, and a s’mores pie made with the same house-made graham cracker crust. But come the holiday season, the focus is on its three traditional pies: a classic pumpkin, pecan, and an apple with crumb topping. According to Halen, the apple crumb is a customer favorite. “We’ve always done a version that has a really nice savory oatmeal, salty topping to it, so it’s a nice contrast to the sweet filling,” says Halen.
Pies are nine inches and feed up to 10 people. If you’re ordering pies for the holidays, be sure to place your order ahead of time. Halen says there should be some pies available to grab and go in the days leading up to the holidays, but if you want to make sure you get the pie you’re craving, call ahead.
Second Daughter Baking Co. brings the fun and joy of baked goods from childhood and elevates it, making playful desserts that all ages can enjoy. Rhonda Saltzman and Mercedes Brooks, the co-owners and dessert alchemists behind Second Daughter Baking Co., say that one of their favorite tarts is a sweet potato tart that’s heavy on the pumpkin spices including clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. They kick it up a notch with a whipped maple cream on top — a sweetness that balances the aromatic spices of the sweet potato tart filling.
Though Second Daughter’s bakery is located in the Bok Building, it doesn’t have a storefront so it only operates on a preorder basis. It also offers local delivery within 16 miles of Bok, with free delivery offered on orders over $100.
New June Bakery is cranking out delectable sweets that are modern takes on nostalgic desserts, like classic snickerdoodle cookies, cinnamon buns with orange and cardamom, and peanut butter brownies.
Owner and bakery Noelle Blizzard says the pie menu is available online for order and pickup or delivery from her cottage bakery in Fairmount. For fall she’s offering a spicier pumpkin pie with star anise, ginger, and brandy. She’ll also have a pecan pie with chocolate and coconut, and an apple and cranberry crumble pie. There’s a gluten-free cranberry curd with hazelnut crust, which Blizzard says is a customer favorite, and a blood orange curd tart flavored with a triple ginger cookie crust with hints of Amaro and lime.
Amy Edelman, owner of Night Kitchen Bakery, is passionate about making pies using only the best ingredients. Every apple crumb, for example, is loaded with six whole Granny Smith apples encased in a crispy, all-butter crust. If you order the apple crumb pie, Edelman recommends heading down Germantown Avenue to grab a pint of salted caramel ice cream at Zsa’s. Along with the classic apple, Night Kitchen Bakery offers pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan, and cherry crumb, as well as seasonal tarts.
You don’t have to be vegan to love Crust Vegan Bakery’s pies. Its pies are sweet and rich and the crust is just as luscious as your conventional pie. For the fall, it’s offering a decadent pecan pie, a perfectly spiced and creamy pumpkin pie, and an aromatic apple pie with a thick crumb topping. Whole pies are available for preorder and pickup either at Crust’s bakeshop in Manayunk or Grindcore Cafe, the all-vegan coffee shop with locations in West Philly and South Philly. It also has the option to make your pie gluten-free.
We all know Stock’s for its vanilla and marble pound cakes, but it offers pies, too. In addition to fall classics like the apple, apple crumb, and pumpkin pies, it offers lemon, coconut custard, and egg custard pies, all made with a flaky crust. However, one of its customer favorites is the lemon meringue pie made with a tart lemon curd and piled high in a sweet cloud of meringue. So next time you go grab a pound cake, order a pie as well. Cash only.
Reading Terminal Market’s first Black-owned bakery is all about the sweet potato — sweet potato cake, sweet potato cheesecake, and, of course, sweet potato pie. Sweet potato pie is a staple at Black gatherings, especially during the holiday season, and the recipes for this traditional dessert are oftentimes passed down from matriarch to matriarch. Tia El, the owner of Sweet T’s Bakery, is the keeper of her family’s recipe, which she shares with everyone who orders a pie at her Reading Terminal bakery. “I was making sweet potato pies for years with a recipe that my grandmother shared with me personally with my own twist,” says El. “My sweet potato pie stands out from everybody else because I still do things the old-fashioned way and I hand mix everything.”
Sweet T’s Bakery offers three sizes of pies: ranging from a small, personal-sized “sweetie pie” to a large pie for the whole family. Every pie comes with a creamy and spiced sweet potato filling that’s amplified by the subtle cinnamon graham cracker crust that is served with a love of tradition.
For four generations, this German bakery has brought sweet treats to neighbors in Mayfair. All pies are made from scratch and are baked with a touch of German tradition. Its pumpkin pies are thick and richly spiced, while the whipped cream pies are as lightly sweetened as they are airy. You can’t go wrong with a creamy coconut custard pie, or a cinnamon sweet apple pie with a crust that’s flaky but slightly gooey from absorbing the apple. But if you want to try a German classic, try the cherry crumb pie, a gelatinous filling with whole chunks of tart cherries topped with a buttery crumb. It’s gemütlichkeit in every bite.
Throughout the year, the Frosted Fox Cake Shop offers seasonal pies to customers craving a dessert other than cake. In the spring, keep an eye out for its summery peach, strawberry rhubarb crumble, key lime with meringue, and mixed berry pies. Come time for fall festivities, its pies shift to autumnal favorites like apple crumb, sweet potato, and pumpkin. If you’re on the hunt for a pecan pie, the Frosted Fox Cake Shop makes one of the best around, serving up a thick crust pie with roasted pecans suspended on top of a rich molasses filling. For nontraditional fall flavors, the pear ginger pie brings together the subtle notes of the late-summer fruit with the snappy pungency of ginger topped with crumbs.
It’s offering a to-go service so you can order at the door or place an order ahead of time over the phone.
If you’re going to a gathering where everyone has vastly different tastes, head to Tartes. It offers personal-size tarts (or tartes, as the shop calls them) in a wide range of flavors, making it easy to mix and match different desserts to please everyone around the dinner table. For chocolate lovers, grab the chocolate crème brûlée tarte, which is made with a vanilla bean custard coated in a chocolate espresso ganache glaze. For those who prefer fruity flavors , try the pear pistachio frangipane and the plum ginger brown butter tart. Its window is open on Saturdays for walk-up orders, but you are encouraged to order ahead of time — especially if you want a particular tart or you’re placing a large order.
Choosing which pie to get can be tough, and with the wide selection of incredibly decadent, made-from-scratch pies at Pie and Plate, it can be tricky to pick the best one. Honestly, you can’t go wrong, especially with the dark cherry crumb pie, which is a personal favorite of owner Kristen Wente. But if you want a little taste of everything sweet from Pie and Plate, give its Frankenpie a try. As the name implies, the Frankenpie is a whole pie made up of slices from all of Pie and Plate’s customer favorites, including the gooey chocolate crack with a soufflé top, bourbon pecan, Dutch apple, ginger pumpkin cheesecake, classic pumpkin, and the dark cherry crumb. Preorders for the Frankenpie are open for Thanksgiving. It’s highly recommended to order your pies ahead of time, especially for the holidays, but if you’re in a pinch, a limited amount of these tasty pies will be available to grab and go.
Bring a taste of Fiore Fine Foods to your Thanksgiving table with a homemade pie. There are traditional pumpkin pies and pecan pies available, but for a slightly salted, savory-sweet take on the apple pie, try the salted caramel apple pie. Order ahead of time and pick up on the day before Thanksgiving.