Here in San Diego, we love us some high-concept casual dining. I don't know of a local restaurant this year that's captured more social media attention as the Pop Pie Co. And no, a pie shop itself isn't anything new. But start a shop that only serves sweet and savory food in pie form, and you suddenly had Facebookers clamoring for the place to open, months before it finally debuted on a street corner in University Heights.
4404 Park Boulevard, Suite A, University Heights
At the top of the menu you'll find the comfort classic that no doubt served as inspiration for the new eatery: the chicken pot pie. That heads up a rotating list of other savory fare: a steak ale pie, a veggie pot pie, and in the run up to Thanksgiving, a shredded turkey and stuffing-filled pie, complete with gravy.
I opted for the chicken, featuring chicken breast, pearl onions, carrots and peas. Since theses $8-9 individual portion pies are only about the diameter of a DVD, I also picked up a red chile pork pie. Inspired by tamales, this one was filled with braised pork shoulder, potatoes, and Spanish olives.
No matter how good the recipes, a concept like this could never take off without one key ingredient: the perfect pie crust. And Pop Pie succeeds — these crusts are crispy and flaky on top, yet soft and chewy inside, where they absorb the moisture of the pie's saucy innards.
The shredded pork in the second pie proved both succulent and spicy, and finding plenty of olives within added to its appeal. But the chicken pot pie especially hit the spot, nailing every texture and aromatic with sage. A little higher ratio of chicken to peas might have improved it, but I didn't really stop eating long enough to quibble.
Since I'm no fool, I also added one of the cupcake-size dessert pies: salted caramel chocolate fudge. Featuring a brownie housed within a small pie crust, this little bit of sweetness really took off thanks to a molten fudge center and a drizzle of caramel over cream cheese frosting and a chocolate-covered almond. The wee pie may have been just the right portion for something so decadent.
It's little wonder I found a long lunchtime line waiting to order — tasty, self-contained food items win every time in casual food culture. The good news is, once you order, the pies are essentially ready to go, so you may dine in or take yours to go almost immediately.