The best pie shop in America is hands down Miss Lena’s Pie Shop in DeValls Bluff Arkansas. Granted, I have not undertaken quantitative research to arrive at this conclusion. I have not for example visited every pie shop in America. Truth be told. I rarely eat store-bought pies. I’m a pie baker by passion and a purist when it comes to crust. Usually when someone tells me about a seller of great pies, I’m sorely disappointed by a soggy crust and a heavily flour-thickened filling. A pretty pie is not the same as a good pie people.
Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats is my food spirit guide. He’s also a regular consumer of my own pies and once proclaimed a pie I made for him, “Among the greatest of peach pies I’ve ever eaten.” (Just sayin, I have videotape record of this proclamation). When Ed heard I was traveling through Arkansas, he insisted we take a side trip to DeVall’s Bluff Arkansas to taste Miss Lena’s pies. Oh Ed, how right you were. This was worth the detour and more.
“Serving the Lord is my Business, baking pies is my hobby.”
A bit about Miss Lena’s pies. Miss Lena is no longer with us, having departed her earthly, pie-baking body in 2005. That’s the sad news. The good news is she passed on all her secret recipes and trade secrets on to her daughter, Viv, who bakes the pies and manages the pie shop. The word “shop” is a bit of a misconception. Miss Lena’s pies are sold out of a red-trimmed house just down the street from the Mount Olive Baptist church in town. The signage out front is quaint, with a hand-painted testament to the many reviews, including Serious Eats. I trembled when knocking on the screen door. I had high hopes for this pie.
Viv greeted my enthusiasm with a slight wariness. I can’t blame her. I have a tendency to come on a little strong when I’m excited. And I was excited for this pie. However, we got to talking crusts and our mothers and their proclamations about pie and before long, I almost forgot what I came for. Hubby, David Lewis, reminded us of the mission when Viv showed us the pecan pies literally crying out to us from the oven. The day we arrived, Viv had an assortment of coconut cream, apple, turtle cheesecake and pecan. I got the coconut cream and David got the apple.
Dreamy Coconut Cream Pie
This was the coconut cream pie of my dreams. The filling stands a good two and a half inches tall, golden yellow with little flakes of coconut throughout. The meringue was pert and creamy and not the least bit sticky. Viv explained, “We bake our meringue before we put it on. People don’t understand it, but that’s how we do it.” Well, Viv. I don’t get it either, but that’s one delicious meringue.
Apple pie baked to perfection
David’s apple pie was baked to perfection. So many pie bakers make the mistake of overstuffing their apple pies, creating a mountain-sized mound of apples that always cooks unevenly. Viv does not. Her apples are baked to perfection, the right combination of crispy and syrupy, with just a hint of cinnamon. Her lattice crust lays down on the apple like a well-worn blanket on a doughy mattress. Yum is an understatement.
I tried to pry Miss Lena’s crust recipe out of Viv, but she wasn’t having it. She wouldn’t even comment on Crisco versus lard versus butter. We did talk about how baking pies can be trance like, you go into a different mental zone entirely. She has a sign over the door which reads, “Serving the Lord is my Business, baking pies is my hobby.” We agreed, there’s no better way to get close to heaven than baking pies.
Remember those pecan pies literally crying out to us from the oven? Viv pulled them out and we agreed that it made sense to eat it that pie BEFORE it cooled. Sweet, syrupy, crunchy and divine is the only way to describe this amazing slice of pecan pie.
So, make your way to DeVall’s Bluff. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Little Rock. But before you enter Miss Lena’s pie shop, take note of the sign over her oven which says it all you need to know, “Before you Break into My House, Stand Outside and Get Right with Jesus.” To that, I say, “Thank you Jesus for bringing us Miss Lena and Viv’s pies.”
- There is no website for Miss Lena’s but here’s the Facebook page.
- Address: 2895 AR-33 South, De Valls Bluff, AR 72041
- Call ahead to make a special order: 870-998-1385. Tell Viv Danica sent you.