11 places for homemade slices of pie
Plus one pie-ish pie!
Pie. How can a word with only three letters elicit such a voracious desire to skip dinner and go straight to dessert? For some, the draw might be the buttery crust, made even better by a toppling dollop of whipped cream. Others might say the best part is the filling–whether it be a light cream, smooth chocolate or spiced fruit–that necessitates a beeline to the dessert table. While pie varieties are endless, there’s one thing pies need in order to qualify in our book: it must taste like it’s homemade. Because there’s a definite line between good pie and great pie. We’ve found more than a dozen shops and restaurants in the Madison area run by bakers who believe in waking before dawn to roll out dough by hand, to source local ingredients and to be sure no holiday gathering (or casual Tuesday night) goes without this classic dessert.
Sometimes the greatest things come in small packages. At Batch, big taste comes in petite pies you can hold in the palm of your hand and in house specialties such as chocolate cream and key lime. This little bake shop on Willy Street is cranking out pies like your grandmother made throughout the night when the rest of the family was fast asleep. Bakers here are rolling out pie dough and coming up with the flavor combinations of your dreams. Be sure to get there early in the day to get your heart’s desire. You can enjoy it at a window seat at the bar or grab and go. 1402 Williamson St., 257-1652
This 1954 diner (part of the Silk City series of diners that had a life on the East Coast) was originally built in Paterson, New Jersey, before finding its new home of 51 years in Groton, Connecticut. Then in 2015, after it was replaced by another building, the diner was sent for restoration in Cleveland, Ohio, before it was brought on a flatbed truck to Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 2011 by new owners, chef Jeff and Vonnie Castree. The owners/husband-and-wife team opened it in 2012 in Baraboo, fulfilling a passion to serve nostalgia and comfort food in a traditional, open-kitchen diner. With a menu featuring lots of Wisconsin cheese and ice cream, there had to be homemade pie. Flavors such as southern bourbon pecan, coconut cream and peanut butter with a bottom layer of chocolate ganache will keep you in a deliciously vintage state of mind. 304 Broadway St., Baraboo, 356-3287
It can be comforting to know that a favorite pie is on the menu of one of your favorite restaurants. Graze’s hickory nut bourbon-caramel pie is a steady, rock-solid item that customers simply love. It’s that good. True to Chef Tory Miller’s commitment to supporting local growers with fresh ingredients, this pie boasts a warm, gooey and buttery texture, spiked with the richness of bourbon and caramel with a generous crunch that can only come from a solid nut pie from one talented pastry team. 1 S. Pinckney St., 251-2700
The Green Owl Cafe
Yes, this pie is vegan and for that, let us rejoice. Pastry chef Cara Mosley has created the most sinful, creamy and both rich and light coconut cream pie that one may ever taste. If she even thinks about switching it out for something else, customers somehow pick up on her thoughts and respond with a resounding “Do not remove this pie from the menu.” There’s coconut in the cream, in the crust and on top. It can be found in the walkable, shop-lined Atwood neighborhood. 1970 Atwood Ave., 285-5290
Hubbard Avenue Diner & Bakery
We know pie lovers will search this list for Middleton’s beloved diner where pie holds its own against the diner side of the restaurant. Multiple pies spin slowly in the case, topped with peaks of meringue and double crusts that can barely contain seasonal fruit, warm spices and chocolate. It’s a sweet scent from the very moment you walk through the door. Have you tried the French silk pie yet? Fudgy and rich–it just might make you a bit delirious and distracted for days with the memory of it. Save room for this pie, folks. And don’t forget to check out the cheeky pie T-shirts the servers wear. 7445 Hubbard Ave., Middleton, 831-9437
Ah, Humble, Madison’s sweet little pie shop.. It’s a neighborhood spot that locals adore and out-of towners seek. Owner Jennifer Mans, the expert baker, lets her practiced craft be influenced by whim to conjure ideas for her delicious creations. Flavors such as chocolate pretzel stout, bourbon pumpkin, Alabama pecan, sour cherry and salted honey are always baked fresh and are a festival of butter, sugar and local ingredients. 831 E. Johnson St., 630-9130
Manna Cafe & Bakery
On the east side located in a strip mall, there’s a family-owned restaurant offering house-baked breads and pastries as well as Jewish specialties. On its full breakfast and lunch menu is a pumpkin chiffon pie so light and fluffy, nestled inside a gingerbread crust, that after tasting it you may need to pinch yourself, for this is not pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Owners Barb and Mike Pratzel, former owners/operators of the Collins House Bed and Breakfast in Madison (now the Mendota Lake House Inn), run this restaurant with the same warmth and hospitality that they shared with bed and breakfast guests. 611 N. Sherman Ave., 663-5500
Nick’s Restaurant & Lounge
Located on State Street, this longtime Madison favorite serves hearty American (turkey club sandwiches and bowls of chili) along with Greek comfort food. As soon as you are seated in a booth, your first thought may be, “I bet this place has great pie.” And you would be right. Nick’s offers house-made, baked-fresh daily pies in flavors such as cherry, apple, blueberry and pumpkin. When deciding on what filling to place in between the crusts, owner Dino Christ says, “We stick to the basics.” The basics have never tasted so good. 226 State St., Madison, 255-5450
Norske Nook Restaurant & Bakery
This is a blue-ribbon, pie-eating haven that can be found only in the great Midwest. In business since the early 1970s and with all five locations in Wisconsin, the bakers at Norske Nook continue to roll each and every pie crust by hand. Be sure to stop by for Pie Day Wednesdays, when this Norwegian-American restaurant features a slice of a special pie flavor along with a cup of coffee. From-scratch favorites include pumpkin cream cheese, harvest apple and pecan. 100 E. Holum St., DeForest, 842-3378
Ogden’s North Street Diner
Open since May for breakfast and lunch, this is the new kid on the block–one that is already becoming an Eken Park neighborhood favorite. Located at the corner of Commercial Avenue and North Street, this cozy spot has a flare for comfort food. Owned by Cari Scott and Will Tracy (both of whom have worked in Jane Capito’s restaurants, Lazy Jane’s Cafe and Mickey’s Tavern), it’s the kind of local joint with pot pie and pancakes on the menu. No surprise that there’d be a really good house-made cherry pie and a savory rendition of an apple pie topped with Hook’s cheddar cheese. 560 North St., 467-3930
Rosie’s Coffee Bar & Bakery
Owner and baker Coz Skaife says mini pies are the current trend in pastry. What’s better than sinking your fork into a slice of Rosie’s pumpkin, pecan or caramel apple walnut pie you don’t have to share? This restaurant in Monona knows that the best way to end a meal is by offering guests something sweet and decadent. Even better if said sweetness comes tucked inside an all-butter crust. According to Skaife, the “talented and creative staff at this from-scratch bakery” are ready to have fun making “any sort of pie flavor people can think of.” A very tempting offer, indeed. 4604 Monona Drive, 441-7673
Pie-ish: Madison Sourdough
Chefs Pierre Ferland and Molly Turner make up the pastry team at Madison Sourdough, known as MSCo, on Williamson Street on Madison’s east side. Together they fill the case daily with handmade desserts, most of which are French-inspired. Perfect on a chilly day is the tarte Tatin, a pie-like confection with basic ingredients of apples, sugar and butter. At MSCo, the apple mixture is covered with a shortbread-like crust and baked in a heavy pan and, once removed from the oven, is allowed to sit overnight, further developing its flavors. In the morning it is flipped to reveal the rich caramelized apples on top with the cookie-like crust on the bottom. The tarte Tatin is best served with a little crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. 916 Williamson St., 442-8009
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