What do you think of when you hear this question: “Do you want to get some pie?”
Bourbon pecan, lemon meringue, mom’s apple? Pepperoni, margherita, supreme? Or do you get that heady, room-filling, buttery-crust-baking, potato-and-stew-meat aroma of a savory meat pie? Whether it’s a frozen chicken pot pie, a crusty handheld pasty, or a deep-dish cottage pie—I don’t have time for sweets or pizza when I’ve got pie to eat.
One purveyor of such a pie is Paiku, a longtime staple at the food cart pod and beer porch next to Kruger’s Farm Market on North Lombard, which earlier this year started pumping out pies from a brick-and-mortar shop in downtown St. Johns.
Paiku specializes in meat dishes ranging from pot pie to cottage, as well as sandwiches and salads, charcuterie boards, pancakes, omelets, and... okay, you get the picture, they’re doing too much. Yet some of the sneakier highlights are slightly off the beaten path: a surprisingly bright, tomatillo-y wild boar chili ($4 for a cup, $2 to sub it in for a salad on a dinner plate), and slow-cooked venison in either a cottage pie or sandwich (each $11).
Yes, 14-hour days are awfully ambitious. And no, Paiku’s not balancing all those things perfectly. Limited beer and unbalanced, oversweet cocktails mean it’s not a happy hour spot, and the breakfast menu just isn’t as compelling as lunch and dinner.
They’re at their best with (surprise) pie, including a very classic slice of chicken pot pie—chicken and veggies in a rich thyme gravy—and a rotating list of dessert options, all framed by a consistently impressive crust: perfectly flaky and never dried out or soggy. (This baking mastery is also apparent in the best part of the breakfast menu: the biscuits, which alone are worth the morning visit.)
But it’s odd to be served a slice of pot pie at a restaurant. It’s clearly the homier option, the way it would be served at a family table, but to see just the slice, alone, just serves to remind you that you’re not at home, not engaged in eating as a communal act.
More importantly, it has less crust than it could otherwise! This brings us to hand pies—specifically pasties, as they’re called in Cornwall (rhymes with nasties): fully closed half moons whose closest culinary cousin is the calzone, but are typically filled with beef and root vegetables because the British Isles favor heat and heartiness over, you know, a variety of fun flavors.
Lovers of the pasty can find great options at various places around town (like North Portland beer bar Saraveza or Kitchen Sink Food and Drink on East Burnside), but the newest purveyor comes along with the new religious-chic nightlife hub Chapel Hill (from the folks that brought you Church): a morning/afternoon pasty-and-cocktails spot, Painted Saints.
Painted Saints offers a dizzying bunch of pasty options for breakfast (including a Denver-style ham and bell pepper option) and lunch—everything from the traditional root veggies, onions, and meat to the more playful, such as a pastrami reuben, buffalo chicken, or the Hawaiian-ish Aloha with Spam and white rice inside. I treated the office to a handful of options, and the turkey broccoli club (amply studded with cheddar cheese and bacon) was a runaway favorite, though my carnivorous crew quickly scarfed even the veggie pie down.
Oddly, when I ordered a breakfast pasty to go, they reheated it in a prominently placed microwave, which was somewhat shocking—the microwave being the kryptonite of proper crusts. But where Painted Saints edges out the competition is in bulk pricing: $7 a pop is a fine price for one, but they’re also five for $25, which is irresistible. They come cooked, but cold, so tossing them in the oven at a low temp will bring them back up and keep those crusts crispy. (Just don’t overdo it and dry them out!)
I know what you’re thinking: Yes, I really, really wanted a nap after each of these meals. Handheld though they sometimes may be, none of these styles of pie could be considered “light” by any stretch of the waistband... er, imagination. It’s not everyday food if you’re not working to the bone on the farm every day.
So I know it’s foolish to hope that this kind of savory meat pie will overtake pizza in popularity and ease of access. For now, I’m just glad folks are fighting the flaky fight, from St. Johns to Hawthorne.