Video by Christopher Figuracion.
Pie-making can be a labor-intensive process, taking up to two days when done right. For more than half a century, though, Long Beach has been a haven for people committed to taking their time and making pies the right way: by hand.
In the last few years, these stalwart bakeries have been joined by newcomers to the scene, who are bringing creamy, fruity and chocolate-y pies to the already rich dessert landscape.
From sweet to savory, Southern to northwestern, here are four restaurants and bakeries doing it right.
The Pie Bar
“I grew up loving to make pies with my mom,” says Laurie Gray, owner and CEO of The Pie Bar in downtown Long Beach. Gray started as a cottage business in 2015, grew into a small pop-up at MADE in Long Beach (now MADE by Millworks) and opened her first shop on Pine Avenue in 2016.
Gray sees pie as the ultimate comfort food and believes pie-making is a lost art. She felt a duty to keep that art alive.
“I didn’t want pies to die,” she says. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she started selling marionberry pies, which are still her favorite to make. Known as “the Cabernet of berries,” the flavor contains a tartness of a raspberry but is also sweet and jammy, like a blackberry.
Pie Bar is holiday-ready with apple, pumpkin, bourbon pecan, cherry and sweet potato along with savory pies like the Turkey Dinner pot pie, which is a kitchen-sink, Thanksgiving dinner in pie form. In December, expect Christmas flavors like egg nog and peppermint mocha.
450 Pine Ave., (562) 444-8743; thepiebarlongbeach.com
Some of the pie recipes used at Jongewaard’s Bake-N-Broil are almost as old as the restaurant itself. Others are more recent inventions for the 53-year-old Bixby Knolls institution. From chocolate brownie to double-crust cherry to the decadent Holiday Lush (layers of pecans, sweet cream cheese, cranberries, apples and more), manager Ryan Doerr says the pies piled up as more were added to the menu and none were ever taken off.
In all, it’s the largest pie selection in Long Beach, with more than 100 different flavors now being made at the family-owned restaurant and bakery throughout the year. In addition to the apple, pumpkin and pecan classics, Doerr says the most popular pie is Lemon Lush, a marriage of Bake-N-Broil’s signature handmade crust (which is equal parts flakey and salty) along with chopped pecans, more sweetened cream cheese and lemon curd. 3697 Atlantic Ave., (562) 595-0396; thebakenbroil.com
Kristin Colazas Delfs started Colossus Bread this year after returning to her hometown of Long Beach from San Francisco, where she worked as a pastry chef at some of the best bakeries in the city. This summer, she began offering seasonal pies such as peach and lemon thyme, strawberry rhubarb and cherry, preparing each piece of fruit and making each crust entirely by hand. Delfs likes that pie has a sense of humbleness to it.
“Its delicious and warm and it makes people happy. I think it’s one of the best desserts there is.”
For the holidays, Colossus Bread will be offering pre-orders through their website for popular fall flavors such as pumpkin, apple with cornmeal crust (can also be made vegan) and a rich brown sugar maple chess pie. In all her pastries and breads, Delfs makes sure to include dairy and animal-free options.
“I just feel that everyone should be able to eat pie, just like how everyone should be able to eat birthday cake,” she says.
For more than 35 years, Johnny Rebs’ has been serving barbecued meats to Long Beach out of an actual roadhouse, but the Southern-style pies are just as worthy of attention.
The servers say current favorites include key lime pie and Elvis’ Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (the King has an entire wall devoted to him at the restaurant), while L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold preferred the traditional flavors, like pumpkin, sweet potato and apple pie. Gold recommended Johnny Rebs’ because of its crust, writing that it “has that flakiness that is difficult to do on a commercial basis.”
For the brave, there’s also a deep-fried apple pie, smothered with equal parts cinnamon and sugar and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 4663 Long Beach Blvd., (562) 423-7327; longbeach.johnnyrebs.com
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