16 August 2014

Good Pies

A good pie is hard to find. Today's world is plagued by the sorts of pies that you get from the grocery store bakery or the type you get by using pre-made crust and canned filling. And yet, a truly well made pie is a thing of terrible and awesome beauty. Obviously one way to guarantee that you get a homemade pie is to, well, make it yourself at home. However, sometimes you want to enjoy the fruits of someone else's labor, and so I've decided to share some great places to get good pie near Lynchburg, VA.

Montana Plains Bakery
in Lynchburg, VA
First, we'll start with a place in Lynchburg. Montana Plains bakery has been open for years and serving great baked goods. If you go there for breakfast you can get a sweet, yeasty brioche roll stuffed with your choice of ham and gouda, spinach and swiss, or cinnamon and cream cheese. A few years ago, though, Montana Plains opened a new location in another part of town with the atmosphere geared more toward being a place where you would sit down to eat; the original location is just a walk up bakery with no seating. And with the change of atmosphere also came a change of menu. Montana Plains started offering pies! You can buy them whole or by the slice. If you're in Lynchburg, this is the place you want to stop and get a pie!

The pies of Montana Plains
All right, let's move on to a different place with a slightly different type of pie. Mountain Fruit and Produce is in Bedford, VA, about a 30 minute drive from Lynchburg. For those familiar with the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is located off the parkway, just down the mountain from the Peaks of Otter. At Mountain Fruit and Produce, you can, as the name suggests, buy fresh fruit and produce from farms nearby, as well as a host of other homemade items like jams, jellies, preserves, and sauces. But there is a sweet alchemy going on in the bakery at Mountain Fruit and Produce every day that eclipses the rest: fried apple pies. Now before you say, "Meh. I can get a fried apple pie cold at the truck stop or for 50 cents in McDonald's drive thru..." Oh, reader! Could you only know the blasphemy you speak! At Mountain Fruit and Produce, the crusts are made by hand each day, the apples are cooked and sliced right there, and if you're lucky you can get them hot from the fryer. For the pie-lover on the go, there is nothing to beat it.

Mountain Fruit and Produce

Crossroad Store
An unassuming gas station
harboring a delicious secret!
Okay, leaving Bedford, let's head north from Lynchburg on Rt. 29 toward Charlottesville. Many Lynchburgians (Lynchburgers?) make regular trips to Charlottesville and drive right past the old gas station called Crossroad Store about 10 minutes past the little town of Lovingston. I always had previously. However, on a recent trip down Rt. 29, I was driven by the need for a bathroom to stop there and go inside. It's a fairly large place with all the novelty stuff and convenience items you would find in a gas station. Also, like many gas stations there was a place to sit and eat and a cooking area. But as I approached the counter, my breath caught in my throat. Surely this is not the sort of thing one would find at a gas station! And yet, there it was, a case of fresh baked goods, calling to me in their plaintive little doughy voices, begging me to take them home. So, of course, I had to buy a pie and take it home to share with the family. And wow, was it good! The crust was dense, but flaky, and the filling was perfectly set, not goopy and syrupy like store bought filling and not disjointed and loose like many homemade attempts. If you're ever driving to Charlottesville on Rt. 29, don't forget this most unlikely of places to find an amazing pie.

Inside Crossroad Store

Finally, we come to the end of our pie journey. I've saved this one for last because it is, without question, the best pie on the list. But also it is the farthest flung location from Lynchburg. If you're driving north on Interstate 81 through Virginia, you will go past the town of Staunton. Now Staunton isn't a huge place, but it's got some neat things there. You'll find the American Shakespeare Center (which is the world's only replica of Shakespeare's Blackfriars Playhouse), you'll see the Frontier Culture Museum, and, if you're interested, you can also visit Edelweiss, the best German Restaurant ever. But none of these places are the reason for your visit, oh no. You are stopping in Staunton for one reason and one reason only. Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant.

Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant
Open since 1947, Mrs. Rowe's sells good country food cooked the old fashioned way. It's kind of like what Cracker Barrel restaurants would be if they got rid of all the kitsch, and if they actually lived up to expectations, and if they were a lot cheaper. Mrs. Rowe's is a quiet, unassuming place just off the interstate, but once inside you feel like you're in Mayberry. The food is good, you can feed a family for less than you could at many sit-down places travelers frequent (like the aforementioned Cracker Barrel), and the people there are invariably friendly. But this isn't a blog post about restaurants, so let's get back to our main subject.

Pie Heaven at Mrs. Rowe's
Mildred Craft Rowe was known in her day as "the pie lady," and her restaurant has kept up that reputation admirably. Their pies are, really, the best you're going to find anywhere. Imagine a cherry pie, but rather than the oversweet, runny filling that cherry pies often have, you get the piquant taste of fresh dark cherries cooked in a homemade sauce and poured into a rich, buttery crust. Your taste buds will think they've died and gone to heaven.

Of course you could buy
Mrs. Rowe's Little Book ofSouthern Pies and make
your own. But it's not going
to be the same.
So there you go, four places within an hour or so drive from Lynchburg where you can get good pie. Enjoy!

3 comments:

Erica said...

I really want pie now.

I think I'll drive out to Iowa City to get a pie from Village Inn. Because last time I made a pie it totally didn't involve store bought pie crust and canned filling...

mom said...

Wow! Never knew my son was such a pie lover....lol!

Rick said...

I haven't always been a pie lover. Having a wife that likes to bake and a son that thinks apple pie is the greatest dessert in the history of ever probably has something to do with it.

Erica, Go get the pie!

Mary Beth wants me to point out that the best pie ever is actually at a restaurant in Lancaster, PA. I was just limiting my blog post to places near Lynchburg.