We went searching for the best pie in America – and we found the best pie on earth.
I am a big fan of food journeys. My dream vacation is a “salmon tour” of Seattle where I just hop on a plane and eat all of the salmon.
Seriously. Take me.
So when I found out that the best pie in America is a little less than two hours from where I live, I automatically put that to the top of my to-do list.
And here it is. Woodruff’s Cafe and Pie Shop. The Best Pie In America. (I’ll be using that phrase a lot in this blog.)
Now if you didn’t watch that video above, let me give you a few highlights:
- The woman who makes the pie is OVER 100 YEARS OLD.
- The pie shop is OVER 60 YEARS OLD.
- The pie is the BEST IN AMERICA.
- THIS PLACE IS ADORABLE.
Every morning these women – Mama Woodruff and her three daughters – wake and bake some beautiful pies. So if you want a certain one, you’d better call in advance. All afternoon they sell home cooking – like sammies and soup – as well as dessert the PIE (did I mention the pie), fried pie (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like), turnovers of various flavors, and cake. Aka the stuff dreams are made of.
And they sing hymns while they do it because honestly if this story gets any cuter I might die.
So we go into this tiny little store – nothing by 5 tables and a few more chairs – a counter of pies and a little table with a cash register on it. Seriously this place hasn’t changed since 1918. We are greeted by Mama Woodruff – sitting to one side of the restaurant talking to everyone and anyone who walks in – and are served by her daughters, aka my soon-to-be-grandmothers after I figure out how to adopt them.
We decide to order lunch. Foots gets the house special – the Woodruff’s Chicken Salad Sandwich. I get the Grilled Cheese (I’m a sucker for a good Cheese). It’s brought out to us in record time – and it is great.
There is something beautiful about the way food is when it is simple. When you’ve got just a couple of good, flavorful ingredients, it makes all the difference in the world. My grilled cheese was two slices of cheese and two pieces of bread – but that bread was baked this morning and the butter is local and it was the best grilled cheese you could ever eat.
With our lunch consumed, we get a piece of pie.
It’s almost 1 on a Saturday. They’ve been open for 3 hours, and there are only about 10 pies left. The Almond Joy Pie were were banking on left – whole – out the door about 5 minutes prior. People just walk in and snatch these things up. “You gotta get here early,” one of the grandmothers says. “Or call ahead and reserve it.”
We decide on Pecan. I’ve been having Pecan pie my whole life. From the snowy mountains of Rhode Island (where I ate my first piece of Pecan Pie at Grampa Dick’s Thanksgiving) to pies home-cooked by pastor’s wives in Virginia. We get it and as this piece of decadence travels the .05 inches from tray to the plate it collapses under the weight of its own succulence.
“Oh dear. It’s fallen over. Would you like another slice?” We say no – and she promises to give us a discount at the register. (We haven’t paid for anything at this point – we just keep eating and running up a pie tab.) Now comes the best part, heating it up in a little oven to get it to that point where your fork just slices through that pie filling like melted butter.
We sit down – eager forks in hand – and slice into that pie.
We went searching for the best pie in America. And we found the best pie on earth.
It has a sweetest not unlike honey – not as severe as sugar, not as delicate as fruit. It drips with juice – like a baklava does. The crust is perfect. It has soaked up all that honey dripping goodness and is now soft like a cookie that isn’t baked all the way through. I could eat that crust by the handful. The outer crust is just as good – crisp and flavorful – it’s got the same taste as those Italian cookies my grandmother makes at Christmas time, that taste the way an oven smells when its cracked open and cooling.
But the true star of this pie – the brightest star – are the pecans. They are huge – as big as my thumbnail with deep black ridges that are filled with leftover baked sugar. They are toasted and taste more like pecans than any pecans I have ever had. They crunch and splinter in your mouth making every bit of pie taste like them.
I eaten many things in my life. But never as quickly as I ate that pie.
As I am leaning back in my chair, Foots is scraping every last chunk and crumb from the plate.
“So… how many pies are we leaving with today?”
“I would buy a pie right now…”
“I would too…”
We came for a slice but we went home with a whole pie.
And an unfaltering mission to come back at least once a month for grilled cheese and a piece of pie.
And that’s why I’m happy to announce that Woodruff’s Cafe and Pie shop has just earned spot on my The Best Thing I’ve Ever Ate list for Pie! Congrats, Woodruffs!