The team at Pop Pie Co. wants to revive San Diego’s love of an American comfort food classic: the pot pie. But, they’ve got another throwback up their sleeve that isn’t immediately obvious after stepping into their shiny, open-air digs.
“We want to promote conversation and have customers engage with others with minimal distractions,” says Pop Pie Co. co-owner Steven Torres. It seems unthinkable to revert to a time before social media, mobile phones and our reliance on them. But the space was planned with no guest accessible plugs, WiFi or even mirrors in the bathroom.
Instead, they’ve got communal tables, roll-up garage door windows that flood the space with light, three taps of craft beer and a start-of-the-art coffee bar. The community hangout sparkles with black, white and metal industrial design that allows the pies’ golden signature all-butter crust to shine. After all, it is a secret recipe with a two-day preparation time. And they’ve been able to replicate the taste in a vegan version.
How a pot pie place landed in University Heights stems from the fact that chef and co-owner Gan Suebsarakham is trained in pastry. He grew up in Thailand frequenting a popular Australian pie outlet called Pie Face. After teaming up with Torres, the duo bounced a number of potential ideas around but they kept coming back to pie because they felt a void on this side of the Pacific. “There’s a serious lack for exposure for pie, not only in San Diego, but the States as a whole,” says Torres.
While it’s still in early days for Pop Pie Co., the frequent lines out the door in sunny October--busting the myth that it’s mostly a cold-weather food--suggest he’s right.
An opening time of 7 a.m. makes beating the crowds as well as breakfast pie and coffee a definite possibility. Display cases are filled with pies baked fresh in-house daily that are waiting to be eaten in or taken away. First timers need not be overwhelmed. The menu is simple with a handful of options in each section.
Hearty five-inch pies include steak & ale, classic chicken pot pie, green hog & cheese, jackfruit pot pie (the vegan option) and green curry chicken (the chef’s special). The latter draws on Chef Gan’s Thai roots and is also one of the most popular orders at the moment. Pair any with a sides of kale slaw, mashed potatoes and gravy and/or a very popular creamed corn. The sweet three-inch pies, especially the coconut cream pie with its thin slices of soft young coconut wrapped up in the cream, are also tough to pass up.
The motto is “Eat Pie & Be Happy” after all.
4404 Park Blvd., University Heights. poppieco.com
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