Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Slice of the Week - Pie Face

There's a new pie in town, and this one has a face. Selling both Australian meat pies and traditional sweet pies is Pie Face, a new 24-hour bakery-cafe on the corner of Broadway and 53rd in midtown Manhattan. Over 50 locations already exist all over Australia, but this is the first of what they hope to be a familiar face here in America.

The first thing you'll notice about this place is that it's small, even by New York-standards. It probably holds about 15-20 people at most and does not offer seats or tables, only a small section of counter that makes it more analogous to those ubiquitous $1 Pizza Slices places than to an actual restaurant.

Pie Face in New York City

Despite the rain and general dreariness outside there was still a healthy line of people waiting to order a pie, and there remained a steady stream of people throughout the duration of my visit. While I had intentionally sought out this new place on their opening day, I got the feeling that a large amount of their customers were there by happenstance as it is located in the middle of the tourist-Broadway-center-of-the-world-district, which bodes extremely well for the future of this new addition.

We were greeted by a cheerful and chipper server who gave us the run-down of the menu while we were still waiting in line (I brought an eating partner for this excursion, no one should have to try a new pie alone) and who tried to upsell us a large pie (as opposed to a mini) and "stack," a tactic that ended up working very well in the restaurant's favor.

It wasn't long before we arrived at the end of the line where we were greeted by a second cheerful and chipper server (did I mention that they all had Australian accents? Maybe it's just me, but an Aussie can say just about anything and it'll sound wonderful and delightful and I'll probably buy whatever it is they're trying to sell me) and a display case full of mouthwatering pies.

Pie Face meat pie display case

There are plenty of sweet pies to choose from as well

Having decided our order while still in line, we were able to place our orders, pay, and receive the food in a relatively short amount of time (it took my friend a few minutes longer to receive his food, but hey, it was their first day - I've been waitressing for almost 10 years and I still can't get a drink out in under two minutes. Disclaimer: I never said I was a good waitress). Things got a bit complicated because we wanted to eat our pies right then and there, and there was only that aforementioned counter, but we made do.


My friend ordered the Chunky Steak Stack Pie - a steak pot pie covered in mashed potatoes and peas (the "stack" referred to the potatoes and peas, you're able to add that combo to any large meat pie).

I waited a bit until he had worked his way through a good portion of the pie (I have a slight aversion to peas and most other green legumes) to try a bite, but I was pleased with what I ate. The beef was chunky and sweetly seasoned, and there was a really great beef-to-veggies-to-broth ratio.

Now, on to my pie. I was interested in trying something a bit different, so I ordered a Thai Chicken Curry Pie. Right off the bat, I knew I was going to like it.

I mean really - who can say no to this face?

I hereby declare that all pies from now on come with facial expressions. It just might be the key to happiness.

Anyway, the pie itself was fantastic - the chicken was moist, the curry flavoring was in that not-too-spicy-but-just-right level, and the crust was near-perfect - it tasted wonderful AND held together quite well under the stress of all the heavy ingredients. And at $5.95 for a regular-sized meat pie, it's probably the cheapest and most fulfilling meal you'll find in the entire area.

You almost feel bad eating it. Almost.

As we happily ate our pies, my friend commented on the strength of his coffee - I later learned that Pie Face uses espresso beans imported from Australia to make their drip coffees, and as a result pack quite the punch. For those of you who like your afternoon jolt a little less hair-raising, however, I should note that they do offer four different strengths of coffee ranging from "Still Asleep" to 'Kick My Arse!"

Upon leaving Pie Face, we were stopped by one of the staff members who inquired how we liked our pies (she didn't know I was planning to write about my experience). I complimented the new restaurant, saying that we had a great time and really enjoyed our pies and then learned they are planing to soon open more stores in Manhattan. They knew they were taking a bit of a chance by staging their first location in midtown, as one can never be too sure how tourists will react to facially expressive meat pies, but I have a feeling that this will soon be an explosively popular stop for both the after-theater and after-bar crowds. I know I'll be stopping in the next time I find myself stumbling home from the bars on 9th going home after my 35th viewing of Mama Mia hungry and in midtown.

Many thanks to my pie-loving friend for joining me on this excursion!

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