THERE ARE TWO KINDS of people in this world: those who prefer pie to cake, and the rest of you silly assholes. My hope is that, over the last nine months or so, I've weeded out the latter and that those of you still reading this column fall into the former, more sensible camp. But in case the age-old argument needs a final nail, I'll offer this: How often do you see a roasted lamb sponge cake?
While Pacific Pie Company—which started out as a farmers' market stand, morphed into a brick 'n' mortar shop on SE Ankeny, and finally expanded into a full-service restaurant in the former Roots Organic Brewing space—does an excellent job with their strawberries and rhubarbs, they specialize in Australian meat pies. And god bless 'em. If you grew up with Stouffers chicken pot pies like I did, it's a far cry.
The new incarnation is part counter service—there's a case of sweet pies and a freezer full of take-away savory ones—and part pub. Both offer a lot for the price—frozen bake-at-home pies range from $4 to $7, and ordering in the restaurant will only run you about a dollar more.
My favorite pie, as I hinted above, is the Sunday roast lamb ($7). Tender bite-sized chunks of meat braised in a red wine and herb sauce, and complemented with roasted potatoes, carrots, yams, and onions. The crusts have been consistently buttery, flaky, and wonderful (but the lamb variety gets bonus points for the baby sheep icon baked onto the top of the pie... it's adorable).
Also on the heavy side, and similarly excellent, are the beef pies ($7). There's a standard beef and onion, a beef and mushroom, and—in my opinion, the best of the three—a stout-braised beef with carrots and Yukon gold potatoes. The meat was especially tender (I've been told that a beer or two does the same for me) and the stout gave it a deep, rich flavor perfect for a cold drizzly Portland July.
Rounding out the carnivorous options are a creamy chicken pie ($7), a sausage roll ($4.50), and a pulled pork pastie ($8).
Vegetarians aren't left out either. I had the veggie and cheese pastie ($6), and it was packed with slow-cooked turnips, yams, potatoes, onions, carrots, and butternut squash. The cheese made it hard for me to decipher what seasonings the veggies were cooked in—some kind of curry spices—but the flavor worked really well. The pie didn't feel like a tossed-off concession for vegetarians in what's traditionally a fairly meat-heavy cooking style; it easily stood on its own. I can't speak yet for the spinach, feta, tomato option, but it sounds promising.
Now that they're in the full-scale restaurant business, Pacific Pie has rounded out their menu with a few soups and salads, a satisfying pickled vegetable plate, and even a selection of appetizer-sized pies. They have a small but well-curated rotating tap selection (Double Mountain and Burnside Brewing's Oatmeal Pale Ale were on during my last visit), and number of Australian bottles (I was fortunate enough to visit right after countryman Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, so bottles of Coopers were on special for $3!). If you can get in for an early happy hour, 3 pm to 5 pm, a pie and a beer will only set you back $7. I don't know what time cricket matches typically air—the TV, on each of my visits, has been tuned to Oceania-centric sports—but that doesn't sound like a bad afternoon.
The new space has also opened up more room on the dessert side, and though I don't think the sweets quite live up to their savory brothers and sisters, it'd be a shame to pass on this course when the restaurant, after all, has pie right there in its name. Look for whatever fruits and berries are in season, or go with standbys like chocolate peanut butter, chocolate bourbon hazelnut, or apple sour cream streusel. Sweet pies are available by the slice, or you can take home a whole one.
The menu will change somewhat seasonally, depending on what's available from Pacific Pie's local vendors. They detail the sources of all their meat, produce, and other ingredients on their website, and it's clear that sustainability isn't being overlooked. Considering that, and their new overhead, I'm pleased that they've managed to keep prices low and remain a great option for cheap eats and take-out.