There's no question in my mind, nobody knows pies like the southern states. Pie is the original comfort food. It reminds us of home, hearth and family. There's just something about a big slice of custard pie that reminds me of Thanksgiving with my family. Apple pie with cinnamon reminds me of Christmas, and nothing says summer in Arkansas like a big slice of strawberry pie.
You don't have to have an old southern grandma to get some great pie in Arkansas. There are a few stops that are doing pie just like your grandma used to make. They are listed in the order of my preference, but people like different things, so I tried to point out some high points. The "best" will differ depening on if you prefer cream, fruit or nut pies, meringue or whipped cream, what kind of crust you like, etc.
These are places suggested by you guys, and I've only had time to review about half of them. Did I leave yours off? You can suggest it.
1. Charlotte's Sweets and Eats (Keo)
Though my quest for pie is not complete, Charlotte's ranks tops in the custard pie arena. Their coconut cream pie has the perfect amount of crunchy merigue, the custard has a nice consistency and fresh taste and the crust has just the right amount of crumble. Unlike most meringues, the topping doesn't slip off the pie in a puddle of goo, either. Besides coconut, you'll find chocolate, pumpkin, caramel, egg custard and lots of cakes. In June of 2010, Southern Living named Charlotte’s coconut pie as the fourth best pie in the south. Everything is made from scratch every morning, except the cheesecake. Pies are available to go for $20, and require 24 hours notice to prepare. Located at 90 Main Street, Keo, AR. Open Tuesday through Friday from 11-2 and Saturday from 11-3. Cash or check only. 501-842-2123.
Whenever I talk about pies to the Little Rock lunch crowd, Chip's comes up. A friend brought one to a meeting, so I got to sample the coconut. If you don't like meringue, this is the pie for you. Chip's cream pies have a whipped topping. The coconut had one of the best coconut custard filling I've tasted. The texture is also really nice, but it doesn't hold up to be out of the fridge well. They have coconut, chocolate, banana, lemon chocolate walnut, banana walnut, pumpkin and pecan for the holidays. A cream pie will run you about $18. A nut pie is about $20. Slices are available too. Located at 9801 West Markham Street, 501-225-4346.
Ed and Kay's wins best meringue for their famous mile-high pies. If you love meringue, there's plenty to love with these pies. It's a little more slippery than I like, but people who love meringue praise it. Once you get past the meringue, you've got a pretty solid custard pie. Their apple pie is a sneaky hit. I really like the caramelized crust. Be sure to save some room for the food. They have a large menu with traditional soul food. Located at 15228 Interstate 30 in Benton. Wed-Sunday. 501-315-6283.
4. Franke's (Little Rock)
Franke's is most well known for their egg custard pie, but they also have pecan, brownie, pumpkin, coconut, sweet potato and more. Growing up in Little Rock, trips to Franke's and their custard pies were a tradition. Franke's does have an in-house bakery that makes their pies. I'm told they hand-roll their pie crust daily. A whole pie cost about $14. They also have good, cafeteria style food if you want something to eat to go with your pie. Located in the Market Place Shopping Center on 11121 N. Rodney Parham, 501-225-4487. Also, located at the Regions Center Building on 400 Broadway, 501-372-1919.
7. I-40 Restaurant
Community Bakery makes all their pies fresh at their 1202 Main St location. They are delivered to other locations (270 S. Shackleford Road) daily. The downtown location is the best place for service and sweets. Most of their baked goods are outstanding, their pie is only average. I've sampled many Community Bakery pies over the years, and their best are the cream pies. To me, their apple pie is mediocre. The crust is good, but the filling is too runny and the apples are too firm. Their chocolate cream and coconut cream receive no such complaints. 501-375-6418.
9. Add Your Own
I've shared my favorites, now you tell me. What's your favorite Arkansas pie? Do you have photos to submit? We'd all love to see them.