A Pit Stop in Pie Town
August First on the Road is a new series where we’ll follow Jodi and Phil on their adventures beyond the bakery. Grab a snack and buckle up!
There we were, rattling down the road in the camper, on a long haul from Las Cruces to however far we could make it into the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest before the sun got too low. The camper is loud. Very loud. Imagine a U-Haul full of plates and pots and 30 miniature bottles of maple syrup, and everything else you need to live, all right behind you, banging around for hours on end, day after day. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. But the rattle and hum of this rig gets under my skin at times. And the best remedy, in my book, is a stop for the heavenly combination of sugar, fat, flour, and, in this case, fruit, baked into a glorious little pie. Let me introduce you to Pie Town.
This little oasis town, with a population of a whopping 186, holds not one, not two, but three restaurants. All are dedicated to baking pies. Lots of pies. We pulled into town, which sits literally on top of the Great Divide, on a Sunday afternoon and slid right into the parking lot of The Gatherin’ Place. Phil patted the head of the old dog that lazed in the sun on the porch. The screen door slapped behind us as we walked in. Right there in front of us, even before we got to the dining room, was the open bakery where lines of small pies were ready to be baked.
The server greeted us openly. “First time? Here for some pie?” they said with a warm drawl. The dining room was hopping with a friendly mix of locals chatting about cows and fences and trucks, and eager road warriors like us looking for a sugar jolt to help make the rest of the day’s drive a little easier. She guided us to the case, which contained a variety of adorable 6″ pies. We settled on their most popular, the New Mexico Apple Pie, with green chiles and pinion nuts. Pie, ice cream, and cheap black coffee in a scrappy little cafe in the middle of the New Mexico desert? That, my friend, is my kind of oasis.
I took a trip back to the baking area and learned a bit more about the history and process. Pie Town got its start in the late 1920s when a local man named Clyde Norman sold dried apple pies at a little stand along the road. Over the years the community grew and more pie cafes opened up. Today there are three: The Pie Town Cafe, The Pie-O-Neer, and The Gatherin’ Place. In 2018, The Gatherin’ Place served over 18,000 pies. The bakers can kick out at least 60 a day, individually. That’s a lot of pie! And, to top it off, Pie Town hosts an annual Pie Festival every autumn to help raise funds to improve the community.
I smell a return trip cooking in the oven …
Pie Town is located on US 60 in New Mexico between the towns of Datil and Quemado.