Miami's Ten Best Pies

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Pie is the perfect food. It’s equally good sweet or savory — a dish that reinvents itself with the seasons and easily bounces between highbrow and low-rent.

Pie doesn’t care if it’s filled with peak-season rhubarb. It won’t judge if you shovel it full of Nutella. Pie is the quintessential American food. It’s not because of clichés like “American as apple pie.” It’s because pie, like good old 'Murika herself, owes its form to various nations’ hundreds of years of history and the melding that has since taken place.

Ancient people were pie people. As soon as humankind learned to cultivate and mill grain, it was bound with olive oil and fashioned into pastry pockets. The Romans filled pies with ham braised in figs and laurel. Pies became the battle standard among Europe’s working classes. Today, at English Premier League matches, you can catch surly, bespectacled men packing away pie no matter who’s on the pitch.

It’s this long and proud history that makes pie the perfect American food. It doesn’t matter if they're round or square. It’s not important if the crusts are mixed with lard or butter or if the fillings are steak and kidney or key lime cream. What matters is that we get to eat it, because so many people spent so long perfecting that which we now cherish.

Also, pecan pie is by far the best. 

10. Quiche Lorraine at Cafe Pastis
It’s difficult to decide which part of this towering delight is best. On one hand, you’ve got the crust. Chef and owner Philippe Jacquet offers the flaky, buttery texture of the best croissants with just a bit of give and crisp. On the other, you’ve got the filling itself. There’s melty, nutty Gruyère cheese tangled with salty ham cubes. But it’s the velvety, silken egg mixture binding them together that’s the highlight. It’s as though you took Julia Child’s French-style scrambled eggs (which call for low heat, constant stirring, and an unholy quantity of butter) and packed them inside the most luscious pastry. Order a plate ($10.50) and try to figure it out. 

9. Lemon Bar at Mignonette
Mignonette chef de cuisine Bobby Frank says his lemon bar isn’t a pie, but he’s wrong. It’s a quasi-crustless pie that he agreed could be called a bar pie or pie bar. Either way, the tart crayon-yellow delight ($7) topped with a frill of grenadine whipped cream has been a staple at this Edgewater seafood haunt since the place opened last year. It’s like a creamy lemon Jolly Rancher but, like the best key lime pies, also strikes a sweet-sour balance for the perfect pucker. 

8. Shoofly Pie at Knaus Berry Farm 
Yes, we know that you line up for Knaus' sticky cinnamon rolls and eye-poppingly fresh strawberry milkshakes. But if you're a regular at this Homestead sweets mecca and have never sampled the pie, you’re missing something. The shoofly pie ($9.45 for special order) is a Pennsylvania Dutch classic that gets its name from the heap of molasses at its center said to be a magnet for flies. The pies were initially made with sorghum syrup, according to Amish Country News, and some cooks like to fold in some chocolate before sprinkling on the brown-sugar crumb. Now get there before Knaus closes for the summer.

7. Apple Pie at Caporal Chicken
Don't be embarrassed. We’ve all secretly ordered a McDonald’s apple pie with devious plans to eat one in the car, away from judging eyes. Your karma quickly plays out at the first bite, when the searing sugary inside bursts forth and burns your lips. The pain for the impatient also waits at Vincent Herryman’s West Dade fried-chicken joint that is a reincarnation of the spots he once owned throughout New York City. All of his apple pies ($1.50) are folded in house and fried fresh, so feel free to indulge in public.

6. Blueberry Pecan Crunch Pie at Crackers Casual Dining 
This kitschy Miami Springs spot is equal parts tiki hut and backcountry kitchen. But at its heart are the cakes and pies. Jo Mitnick arrives early to get a jump on at least three hours of baking. Her pink grapefruit cake is a tangy, sweet delight. The cookie dough cake and fried bread pudding bring customers back. But pies ($3.95 to $5.95 per slice) like the blueberry pecan crunch show that you don’t need to bomb people with sugar to sweeten 'em up. This one is all about the blueberries’ natural sugars, spiced up with roasted, candied pecans.

5. Sticky Lips Pie at Sugar Yummy Mama
The name of the pie says it all. Pastry chef Giselle Pinto's Sticky Lips pie is a buttery, delightful treat of sugar and spice and everything nice. The oatmeal-and-brown-sugar pie sells for $3.50 for an individual four-incher. Look for it on the Sugar Yummy Mama food truck and at the Wynwood bakery. 

4. Key Lime Pie at Whisk Gourmet Food & Catering 
Brendan Connor is Miami's standard-bearer of Southern cooking. His biscuits are perfect, with or without melty, salty nubs of bacon fat tucked inside. His fried green tomatoes are little savory, juicy pucks that fly you to heaven and back. The Miami native’s key lime pie ($6.95) is one of the city’s finest and hits every mark that a wedge of the stuff ought to. It offers a firm body but remains creamy. The sweetness and citrusy tartness dance in perfect harmony. It’s a reminder why people love this pie so much.

3. Pen Patat at Tap Tap
In the summer when it’s hot, Tap Tap serves its smooth sweet potato pie, called pen patat ($7), chilled. Its hefty dose of sugar crystallizes a bit, giving each bite a little texture and crunch. Later in the year, when the sun backs off, it’s warmed up and becomes even creamier. Either way, it’s an almost-Thanksgiving-like assault on the senses. There are hints of allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and just a slight burn thanks to a shot of rum. Those who say it’s not a pie better think twice. “Why can’t it be pie?” a waitress snaps. “Just because it doesn’t have a crust?”

2. Blueberry Pie at the Dutch
Chef Andrew Carmellini’s South Beach outpost is a celebration of all things American. And when it comes to desserts, you rest in the steady headiness of pastry chef Joshua Gripper. His resumé includes some Michelin-starred outfits, along with stints at Daniel Boulud’s South Florida restaurants. What this means for you is an ever-changing rotation of pies ($12 per slice) that floats between his famed salted lime to coconut cream, blueberry, and banana cream. No one would blame you for visiting a few days in a row to gorge on little oyster sandwiches and a rainbow of pies. 

1. Crack Pie at Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop & Café
Years ago, Derek Kaplan was slinging personal-size key lime pies outside Coconut Grove’s now-shuttered Slice N Ice pizzeria. Fast-forward to today, and he has become one of Miami’s foremost sultans of sweet, with a Wynwood storefront in the hallowed space that once housed Jamaican standby Clive’s Café. Kaplan’s pièce de résistance is his crack pie ($5.40 per slice), dusted with a thick layer of powdered sugar. The heart of the thing is a thick, sticky layer of sweet salted caramel. But the magic lies in the space where the crust and filling come together and blend into a gooey, savory, otherworldly concoction that sticks to your teeth and melts in your mouth at the same time.

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