Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV
NV89 Discover Music
'Jazz'

an member station

Desert Companion

Summer Dining 2019

goodwich_pear_cheddar_csabinorr_014.jpg

Pear Cheddar
Photography by Sabin Orr

Goodwich pear cheddar pie

Summer’s here — the season for picnics, pool parties, and patio dining.  (And rushing inside every 10 minutes to stand under the a/c vent, weeping with euphoric relief.) And what’s a foodie’s summer frolic without that seasonal dessert mainstay, pie? Whether they’re bulging with fruit or laden with cream, pies are at once blamelessly domestic and shamelessly indulgent. Cake says: I’m here for the party. Pie says: I am the party. You can’t always throw a rager when you’re craving a piece of pie, so we fanned out across the valley to sample slices in every part of town. Here are our favorites.

 

Raspberry Pie at Lou’s Diner

My future pallbearers might not appreciate the extra weight it’ll involve, but I’m thinking about having a second slice of this. It’s hard to resist the flavorful aikido between the tart raspberries and moist crust. Lou’s, a bustling old-school diner on Decatur beloved by its regulars and staffed by sass-slingin’ waitresses, bakes these beauties in-house, and in some hard-to-define way, it shows, and … hey, wait‚ I just remembered: I’m being cremated. Bring on that second slice! SD

431 S. Decatur Blvd., 702-870-1876, lousdinerlv.com

Support comes from

 

Cherry Pie at Coco’s

Once a staple for UNLV students and now a haven for budget travelers staying in nearby hotels, Coco’s Restaurant and Bakery has still got the lock on thrifty charm. Sure, it’s a tad sketch, but it’s also highly reliable, serving up 11 signature pies at any given time, plus seasonal favorites. The award-winning coconut cream has a smooth, perfectly sweet eggy filling, topped with fluffy whipped cream and a sprinkling of chewy toasted coconut. And the cherry, loaded with sweet translucent filling and tart fruit, is finished with a perfect, flaky lattice. There’s something to be said for old reliables. KT

169 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-736-3936, cocosbakery.com

 

Pear Pies at the Goodwich 

For five years now, the Goodwich has been a Downtown Las Vegas go-to for adventurous “stacked-rite” sandwiches. Now, add pies to the list of munchables, including two of the more delectably unusual filling combinations in town: pears with chocolate and pears with cheddar cheese. Yes, please. Made by the owner’s mom, other family-style pies served this summer will feature seasonal fruits from cherries to plums — whatever’s ripe for the baking. GT

900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. #120, 702-910-8681, thegoodwich.com

 

Fruit Tarts at Batter Café

With a gleaming, white-tiled wall behind its front counter and farmhouse décor throughout its bright interior, The Batter Café is one of the cutest eateries in Henderson. And its staff bakes adorable mini-pies to complement the aesthetic. Traditional apple is a frequent filling. For a sunshiny alternative, look for colorful fruit tarts adorned with edible gems — think strawberries, kiwi, mandarin oranges, and star fruit — on top of pastry cream and crispy shortbread crusts. Take a picture! GT

709 E. Horizon Drive #100, 702-475-6360, madbatterusa.com

 

Coconut Banana Cream Pie at Lawry’s the Prime Rib 

The culinary fanfare at Lawry’s the Prime Rib is definitely old school. Start with the spinning salad, then move on to table-side carved roast beef with all the trimmings, like mashed potatoes with gravy, rich creamed spinach, and savory Yorkshire pudding. But save room for pie! The restaurant’s outrageous coconut banana cream slices aren’t the tidiest around, as they are generously sprinkled with shredded coconut that scatters about your plate. Even better, the toasty, crumbly crust is made of the same tropical ingredient with a bit of butter — no flour used here. Believe it or not, the chunky banana-vanilla filling isn’t overly sweet, but it is exceptionally luscious. This pie pairs perfectly with an elegant macchiato. GT

4043 Howard Hughes Parkway, 702-893-2223, lawrysonline.com

 

Cherry Pie at Pies Unlimited

You’re reminded of what a difference homemade makes at Pies Unlimited, the long-standing, family-owned bakery where every dessert is made from scratch. The Holy Grail is its classic cherry pie. Breaking into the perfectly browned and flaky crust reveals the stuff of dreams: a rich, bright-red cherry filling that’s the perfect balance of both sweet and tart. Coming in a close second is the coconut cream pie, with a coconut flavor that’s not overbearing, and lightly toasted coconut flakes to top it off, complementing the homemade vanilla pie crust. SM

2465 W. Craig Road, 702-433-7437, piesunlimited.com

 

Milk Bar Pie at Milk Bar

If you love butter and sugar, you’ll get both in spades in the Milk Bar Pie, a custardy confection whose genius lies in the generous salting and relatively thin layer of custard: Salt provides balance to the intense sweetness, and a Milk Bar Pie any thicker would be overwhelming. Instead, what you get is a caramelized, fudgey custard with a hint of corn (think sweet corn flakes) that gives way to a dense, chewy oat crust. SS

The Cosmopolitan, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com

 

Cherry Pie at Blueberry Hill 

Blueberry HillWe must insist that there are times when a cream pie or, God forbid, a “silk” pie — the equivalent of a perfumed magazine ad: too slick, not the real thing — are simply inadequate to one’s pie desires. When what’s needed is the hale authenticity of a genuine fruit pie. When those moments occur — and especially if they occur at, say, 2 a.m. — you want to be sitting at the counter of a Blueberry Hill. “Sorry it’s falling apart,” the server says as she slides you a collapsing wedge of cherry deliciousness, cut from a pie newly delivered to the counter display. She says it’s the restaurant’s most popular flavor (apple’s a close second), all runny cherry filling, firm crust, and a joyous plenitude of sweet crumble on top. But enough of the eyefeel — what about the mouthfeel? As good as it looks, a magical interplay of cherry goop and flaky crust. And those crumbles! SD

Various locations, blueberryhillrestaurants.com

 

Apple Pie at German Bread Bakery

There are jokes to be made about stark German efficiency, the no-frills utilitarian interior, the unfailing precision of perfectly square cuts and neatly stacked strudel. But there, between the pretzels and the linzertorte, a little sign will catch your eye and you’ll forget about your surroundings: “German Apple Pie.” What are these neatly-cut blocks coated in white icing? You will ask the woman behind the counter, and she will tell you they’re actually called “gedeckter apfel,” or “coated apple,” but that “apple pie” was easier. No matter. When your forkful of tender crumb, spiced apple, raisins, and shortbread crust makes its way into your mouth, they could call it anything and you’d be satisfied. SS

2237 N. Rampart Blvd., 702-233-2733; 9255 S. Eastern Ave., 702-648-0077, germanbreadbakery.com

 

Banana Cream Pie at Jerry’s Cafe

Banana CreamLike the best banana cream pies should be, the rendition served up at Jerry’s Cafe is positively theatrical, with its operatically quivering, whipped-cream top bedazzled with coconut crunch, its pudding-like Bavarian cream middle, and base of gooey banana slices on a firm, crisp crust. A sensible person will fork off bites containing all these strata for a holistic pie experience, but I soon found myself snipping and teasing out coconut blips and hunks of crust to savor the details like a fussy connoisseur. If bananas aren’t your thing, the chocolate cream pie is a worthy runner-up, a silky levitating entity you can nearly inhale. AK

1821 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-399-3000, jerrysnugget.com

 

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie at Du-par’s

Blueberry CreamAs a fruit pie purist, I was skeptical. I didn’t know where to stand on this chimera of a pie. Is it cheesecake with too much fruit filling? Is it fruit pie that has been corrupted by unripened sweet milk and cream? Enveloped by the button-tufted vinyl of this venerable diner, I am smitten upon the first bite of this amalgamation of fruit and cheese. A truly beautiful mutant has been birthed at Du-par’s, a testament to rich, comforting flavors that have made this eatery a West Coast mainstay. The crunchy cookie crumble-crust, the palate-coating cream cheese, and the bright beautiful pop of blueberry come together in an elegant trifecta. BH

Suncoast hotel-casino, 702-636-7111, suncoastcasino.com

 

Triple Berry Pie at Southwest Diner

Triple BerryIn Southern Nevada, it doesn’t get any more Americana than charming Boulder City and one of its notable dining destinations: the friendly, country-style Southwest Diner. Follow the arrow on its unmissable, mid-century modern Googie sign out front, and settle in for hefty slices of good old-fashioned pies like the triple berry, with its trio of plump blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Other summertime varieties include sweet/tart rhubarb and juicy cherry. Go à la mode for a buck extra. GT

761 Nevada Highway, 702-293-1537, southwestdinerbouldercity.com

 

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie at Lola’s

Sweet Potato Pecan PieI’m not the biggest fan of sweet potatoes. But the waitress hyped Lola’s Sweet Potato Pecan Pie hard, raving about its homemade baked potato custard encrusted with candied pecans. My slice arrived warm, enhancing the filling’s flavor, but making the crust a little soggy. The optional Chantilly whipped cream lightens the density of the custard and perfects the pie’s balance of crust, filling, nuts, and cream, with the slightest hint of salt. I also sampled Lola’s Fig Delight, a brownie-like pastry with a center of fig paste — delightfully tacky but delicious. HK

241 W. Charleston Blvd. #101, 702-227-5652, lolaslasvegas.com

 

Blueberry-Strawberry Pie at Rooster Boy Café

Good luck finding a better pie in Las Vegas than the Blueberry-Strawberry pie at Rooster Boy Cafe. Chef Sonia El-Nawal has an unfair advantage, of course: her résumé, which includes not only being the pastry chef at Nobu in New York, but also having helmed restaurants all over the world. These experiences culminate in Rooster Boy’s menu, and El-Nawal’s pie transported me to the French countryside. She painstakingly selects every ingredient, down to the salt and butter, to create a single-serve pie with a flaky bottom crust, tart fruity center, and sweet crumbly top. The combination’s richness made my jawbone tingle. Just one caveat: It’s seasonal, so you may get blueberry-strawberry, or you may get apricot, or apple — but something tells me they’re all equally good. HK

2620 Regatta Drive #113, 702-560-2453, roosterboycafe.com

 

Chocolate Satin Pie at Marie Callender’s

My tongue screams chocolate, Chocolate, CHOCOLATE. The Oreo cookie crust, rich cocoa cream filling, and little crunchy shavings of chocolate dotting the top provide a level of sensory stimulation usually only available to certain circles of occult practitioners and new age mind-expansion gurus. The wearisome presence of Marie Callender’s on the culinary landscape has always seemed to me a blight, with its monotonous decorations and pedestrian menu, but this pie completely redeems any and all affronts to good taste. BH

Multiple locations, mariecallenders.com

 

Custard Pie at Goldilocks

Goldilocks stays true to its Filipino roots with the two pies on the menu: classic custard and layered mango. If you can’t decide, go for the delicate, flavorful custard pie. The caramelized surface gives way to reveal a creamy center that has the slightest hint of vanilla. The dessert is light and sweet, from the crust all the way to the brown-sugar crumble on top. SM

2797 S. Maryland Parkway #18, 702-368-2253, goldilocks-usa.com

 

Banana Cream Pie at Delmonico steakhouse

The astounding banana cream pie at Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse is surely one of the most exuberant desserts in Las Vegas. It’s a graham-cracker crust piled high with fruit-stacked custard filling, lashings of whipped cream, and abundant chocolate shavings. And then there’s a drizzle of sticky caramel sauce. You know you want to say it — “Bam!” Pair your piece with a Liquid Courage cocktail (a rum cordial with espresso and heavy cream) for an over-the-top ending to dinner. Or lunch. GT

The Venetian, emerilsrestaurants.com

 

More from
, ,

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!