In this delightfully named town, enchantment is served by the slice.
New Mexico may be better-known for spicy dishes like posole and green chile burgers, but on Highway 60, 130 miles from Albuquerque and close to the Continental Divide, you’ll find a soft spot for pies.
Pie Town gets its name from a bakery that set up business at the side of the road in the 1920s and sold apple pies. The first customers were largely settlers from places like Texas and Oklahoma, heading west for a better life but stopping off for a New Mexico apple pie. Almost 100 years later, people are still stopping for pies.
Kathy Knapp, who runs the Pie-O-Neer restaurant (motto: We serve pie, that’s it), sells 25 to 30 pies a day in the summer and 40 to 50 per day on holiday weekends. There are two other cafés in town that also sell pies, and that’s about it as far as Pie Town goes.
According to Knapp, the census says the population is 186, but if that’s the case, she wants to know where they all are. “Pie Town proper is only a handful of families,” she says. “It’s isolated, and the elements can be harsh. If you’re not good at entertaining yourself, the quiet can be disquieting. I’ve left twice, defeated, but something kept drawing me back. Maybe I just like the challenge of being a modern-day Pie-O-Neer!”
Knapp had never made a pie until she moved to Pie Town in 1995 to help her mother. When she eventually took over, she called her mom a lot, cried a lot, and threw away a lot of pies. Now, during Pie Town’s Pie Festival (second Saturday every September) she’ll make 250 pies — always lots of the most popular cherry. The menu changes every day, and flavors are displayed on a “Pie Chart.” They also celebrate Pi Day, March 14 (3/14).
“New Mexico apple with green chiles and pine nuts is the most curious good seller,” Knapp says. “Coconut cream is the most popular with a crowd of a certain age, and chocolate chess pie with red chile always sells out.” Even when it comes to pies, it seems in New Mexico some like it hot. pieoneer.com
Photography: Courtesy Pie-O-Neer