Sweet! St. Louis thrives with pies

Marcia Mermelstein’s pie business, Pie in the Sky, offers an award-winning caramel apple pie (shown at left before and after baking).  File photos: Yana Hotter


You can taste it already, that familiar silky texture infused with deep notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and a hint of clove. We’re talking pumpkin pie, of course. But maybe you’re a fan of pecan or mincemeat instead, or you swear by the all-American favorite, apple pie. 

No matter. 

Today we celebrate pie – pie for Thanksgiving, pie for Hanukkah, pie for birthdays and even pie for breakfast, eaten cold from the fridge. Fruit pies, cream pies, meringue pies, savory pies and “pot” pies. We honor foot-high pie, oatmeal pecan pie, “pake” (that’s a pie baked inside a cake), apple green chili pecan pie, levee-high pie and even gooey butter cake pie. 

You can get all these and more in the St. Louis area, and we’ll tell you where. But first, a brief history of pie is in order, gleaned from the American Pie Council, based in Lake Forest, Ill. (See piecouncil.org)    

Pie dates back to the ancient Egyptians, and by the 14th century, pie was popular. Legend has it that the Romans published the first pie recipe, for a goat cheese and honey pie in a rye crust. (Silly Romans! Sounds more like an early cheesecake.)

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The American Pie Council teaches that meat pies (or “pyes”) were served in England as early as the 12th century. 

“There was actually more crust than filling,” it says. “Often, these pies were made using fowl, and the legs were left to hang over the side of the dish and used as handles.”

On a more pleasant note, fruit pies came into fashion in England in the 1500s, and Queen Elizabeth I gets credit for making the first cherry pie. (What – the kitchen staff was off that day?) 

When the English settlers brought pie to America, the crust served just to hold the filling and was rarely eaten. Eventually, a clever baker realized the value of a perfect, flaky pie crust. 

Here, in alphabetical order, are some of the bakeries around town that specialize in pie. 

Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery

The Blue Owl in Kimmswick makes 30 kinds of pies, but one particular variety enjoys a national reputation.  Founder Mary Hostetter’s Levee High Apple Pie, featured on the Food Network and named one of Oprah’s “Favorites,” stands 12 inches high, weighs 10 pounds and is made with 18 apples. 

“The Levee High Apple Pie is our most popular,” baker Tiffany Pfitzer says. “We also make a variation of it with a caramel pecan topping.” 

After 13 years on the job, Pfitzer’s favorites are blackberry and butterscotch pecan. 

Right now, the pumpkin cream cheese pie is popular. Year-round favorites include lemon meringue and coconut cream. In the spring, strawberry rhubarb pie takes the cake. (Sorry.) 

Pies range from $19.95 to $46.95. Mini versions of fruit pies range from $6.95 to $8.25. Sugar-free pies also are available. Call 636-464-3128 or see theblueowl.com


Blue Springs Cafe 

At this café and bakery in Highland, Ill., the foot-high meringue pies draw customers. 

“The coconut is the most popular, and chocolate pie is the second favorite,” says Brett Merkle, a server. “We also have lemon meringue pie and banana meringue pie.”

Double-crusted fruit pies also are available, including apple, peach, cherry, blackberry, blueberry and strawberry rhubarb. 

(That last is Merkle’s favorite, and mine, too. After devouring a piece one spring day at the dearly missed Duff’s, I bought the whole pie and served it that evening to company.)

A chocolate-chip pecan pie is the most unusual offering at the Blue Springs Cafe. And, of course, pumpkin pies rule just now. 

Any pie costs $17, and you can buy a slice for $4.95. Call 618-654-5788 or see foothipies.com

It’s Easy As Pie 

Pie for you is important, but what about pie as a business gift? Cindy Huger Grunik re-creates corporate logos on her specialty pies and then delivers the pie within a 25-mile area of St. Louis. 

“Delivery is one of my favorite parts of the job,” Grunik says. “When people from out of town send one of my pies to a friend or relative here, I always take photos at the delivery.” 

Grunik makes 25 kinds of sweet and savory pies, and she accepts custom orders. Fresh tomato, chicken pot pie and mushroom pie top the list of favorite savory pies. Key lime and lemon meringue pies, as well as her French silk pies and crème brulee pies, are the most popular sweet selections. Eight crusts are available.

Grunik’s seasonal specialty is cranberry pecan pie. 

“I get fresh cranberries this time of year from Michigan, from the place where I pick blueberries in the summer,” she says. 

Sweet pies cost $20; specialty and savory pies run $25. Call 314-282-5861 or see itseasyaspie.com. 


Pie in the Sky 

Marcia Mermelstein, who has baked pies since she was a teen, specializes in artisanal pies with fresh ingredients. 

“For a long time, I thought everybody made pie, but I learned that even good bakers are intimidated by pie crust,” says Mermelstein, a longtime social worker and educator. 

Her most popular pie is caramel apple, the same pie that won first prize four years ago in a baking contest in the aptly named Pie Town, N.M. Other favorites are chocolate chip pecan, oatmeal pecan and blueberry sour cream pie. Mermelstein also makes quiches, sweet galettes and savory galettes, including one with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions and Gruyere.  

Pies cost $20. Are you one of those people intimidated by the thought of making pie crust? Mermelstein offers pie parties – an in-home cooking class for four to eight people. At the parties, which are popular as wedding showers, guests enjoy one of Mermelstein’s pies after the class, and each guest takes home his or her pie. Call 314-496-4182.


Pie Oh My

“Everybody loves our apple pie, but other favorites are chocolate bourbon pecan pie and our new St. Louis-style gooey butter pie,” says Malorie Carr, a baker at this Maplewood business. “My favorite is our apple green chili pecan pie. We simmer mild green chili peppers with apples, cinnamon and sugar, so the pie is not spicy but has a hint of warmth.”

Over the course of a year, about 50 varieties will be featured, though some are offered only when the fruit is in season. Pie Oh My also collaborates with local businesses.

“We make a pear chai pie with a little help from a nearby tea shop, and an oatmeal maple walnut pie made with Schlafly’s oatmeal stout,” Carr said. 

Pies come in four sizes: mini ($3), tart ($5), regular ($21-$26.50) and a 5-inch deep-dish pie ($10-$12), perfect for two or three people. Single slices also are available for $4. 

For the whereabouts of the bakery’s food truck, which sells sweet and savory pies, see Twitter (@pieohmystl) or Facebook. Call 314-704-4416 or see pieohmystl.com.


Sugarfire Pie

This new pie shop, a collaboration between chef Mike Johnson and pastry chef Carolyn Downs, is next door to Sugarfire Smoke House, a barbecue restaurant in Olivette. So what’s cooking? 

“Our signature pie, the Sugarfire Pie, is like gooey butter cake, only a denser version, with brown sugar on a vanilla wafer crust,” reports Zach Cain, a server. “Our most unusual pie is a bacon apple cheddar pie, and we have a pie-cake called a fake – pecan pie inside a cake with ganache frosting.” 

Sugarfire also offers a “stack” pie, featuring the Mississippi Fudgy Brownie pie, the Sugarfire pie and a pecan pie, all covered in a ganache. 

Every day, customers have a choice of seven pies. A whole pie costs $30.52 with tax. A slice is $5.45. Call 314-736-6300 or visit Sugarfire Pie’s Facebook page. (Its website, sugarfirepie.com, is “coming soon.”)


Additional resources for pie 

Here is information on family-owned bakeries that sell pie, though it’s not the primary focus. 


Lubeley’s Bakery & Deli in Webster Groves specializes in German pastries and cookies, fresh-baked Danish, coffee cakes and custom-decorated cakes for all occasions. Thirteen pies are available. Call 314-961-7160 or see lubeleysbakery.com.


McArthur’s Bakery, with locations in south St. Louis  County, Kirkwood and Chesterfield, offers a half-dozen pies (including chocolate whipped cream) as well as European pastries, cakes for special occasions, doughnuts, Danish, coffee cakes and stollens. Call the Chesterfield shop at 314-894-0900 or see mcarthurs.com.


Party Pastry Shop in Ballwin specializes in custom-made cakes, cookies, doughnuts and bagels, with a variety of fruit pies also available. Call 636-227-7188.


Sugaree Baking Co. in Dogtown concentrates on wedding cakes, a wholesale business and a retail business, but from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, the mouth-watering aroma of baking pie fills the neighborhood. Six pies are available, and if you get on the mailing list, you will know the weekly selections in advance. Call 314-645-5496 or see sugareebaking.com.