Nov 2011

The Pie Hole – Los Angeles (Downtown)

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

My sweets-obsessed friend Nastassia and I have been dying to try The Pie Hole ever since it opened for business a little over a month ago. After several weeks of pining and planning, our schedules finally meshed perfectly this past Friday. It was time to have our pie and eat it too.

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

Rebecca Grasley and Matthew Heffner, a mother and son team, are the passionate pie slingers behind the cafe. All of the pies served here are made using Ms. Grasley’s recipes. She’s been baking for over fifty years and has won the best pie award at the New Jersey State Fair seven years in a row.

The recipes are executed by head pastry chef Adrianna Sullivan, who has worked in of some of the city’s best restaurants including Providence, Nickel Diner, and M.B. Post.

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

Nastassia and I arrived at the restaurant just before noon and headed straight for the pie counter. We each ordered a sweet one and a savory one. I was hoping for a slice of the chocolate peanut butter pie that Elina Shatkin wrote about in The Weekly, but alas, it was unavailable on this visit. Shucks.

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

For my savory pie, I selected the Caramelized Mushroom Tart ($5). The base was comprised of an inverted sourdough puff pastry, while the topping was a confit of onions and mushrooms. I liked everything about this tart save for the onion’s nagging sweetness, which drowned out the mushrooms’ flavors completely.

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

Nastassia’s Shortrib Pot Pie ($6.50) was a more well balanced creation. The crust was perfectly golden and buttery. The stewed shortrib filling came topped with a mountain of mashed potatoes. The proportion of potatoes to meat was slightly off kilter, but the seasonings were spot on.

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

Moving on to dessert pies, I chose a slice of Lemon Meringue ($6). While the curd and meringue were both quite lovely, the crust was very much underdone. Instead of a flaky base to go with the smooth filling, we got a mouthful of raw dough.

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

The story was the same with Nastassia’s Banana Cream Pie ($6). The pudding and banana filling couldn’t be beat, but once again the crust was pale and doughy. If it weren’t for this grave misstep, these pies would’ve knocked it out of the ballpark.

The Pie Hole  - Los Angeles

My pie hole deserves better.

The Pie Hole
714 Traction Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213-537-0115

There’s more to eat in downtown Los Angeles:

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15 thoughts on “The Pie Hole – Los Angeles (Downtown)

  1. eww…raw dough! haha. Jk, jk…i’m still down to try it. I tried Pacific Pie Co. in PDX and was also pretty dissapointed with the crust 🙁

    A pie establishment must be harder than it looks!

  2. Yikes! How can a shop dedicated to pies underbake their cursts? Let’s hope this was just a fluke – I need more pie in my hole!

  3. I eat at the pie hole (it’s by my work) twice a week. I’ve never had ‘raw’ dough there although they never do the flaky butter dough thing either. It was either a fluke or your expectations are off. I’ve eaten pie all over this city and this place is by far the best. You should try it again.

  4. This place sounds interesting, I will give it a try even after hearing about the raw dough. But they sure messed up by giving raw dough to a food blogger!

  5. Ralph – I was hoping that most people would draw the same conclusion. The underdone crust was a fluke, I bet. I’d love to hear about your experience.

  6. Ugh, how sad that raw pie dough is. That’s a pretty bad fluke! I come from a long line of pie bakers and I’ve yet to witness anything like that. Two slices no less, it shouldn’t be that difficult, right? I mean, it is pie crust.

    Beautiful photos nonetheless!

  7. I work a couple of blocks from the Pie Hole, and have tried 3 or 4 times to give them a chance to prove me wrong – please note that I have only tried the sweet pies and not the savory pies. Also, I have been baking pies for many years now so I know what it takes to make a good pie.

    My first try was a lemon meringue pie, in which all of the lemon filling slid out before I could eat the pie, due to it’s liquidity (as opposed to the custard it should have been). The crust that time around was tough.

    The second try was a piece of apple pie. The apples were sliced thin and tasty, but not cooked enough – a little too crispy, and the crust, again was tough, too thick and did not complement the apples.

    Today I had what was called a Tarte Tatin on the menu. I’ve had stupendous tarte tatin before at a french restaurant I like on the sunset strip. A tarte tatin usually has thick sliced apples (1/4 apple per slice), caramelized using butter and sugar in a heavy skillet or tarte tatin pan, and covered with pastry, then baked. When the tarte is done baking, it is inverted onto a plate, the crust then residing under the soft and tasty caramelized apples.

    Not the case with the Pie Hole tarte tatin. The apples were thin sliced, not very many of them, not caramelized, on an underdone yeasted dough that was too thick for a tarte tatin. More like a danish, but not even a good danish.

    After my second experience at the Pie Hole with the apple pie, I wrote a note to Adrianna expressing what was good and what wasn’t working, but did not receive a response.

    I would love to love the Pie Hole, but it’s just not working for me. I can get better pies at DuPar’s. It’s a huge disappointment, since the cost of the pie is $6 per slice for something that is almost inedible.

    I wish them luck and hope they get a good pastry chef.

  8. first off, i am so sad for those of you that have had not so wonderful experiences here. i am actually shocked by the raw crust. i have been to the pie hole many times and never had that experience. secondly, i have had many conversations with the owners, and i’m sure any of them would have gladly taken those pieces back for alternates, but also they want to hear if their pies fall short in such ways. i’ve had a couple of their chicken pot pies, which are yummy, but one time it was all chicken and gravy, and very little veggies. i told them the next time i was in and they were thankful that i spoke up.

    if nothing else, you need to go back for the peanut butter with pretzel crust pie. it is THE best!

  9. I wanted to update my first review. Since I work a few blocks away from it, I’ve been to the pie hole several times with co-workers and friends.
    They still haven’t gotten the pie crust thing together yet. The crusts are still doughy and underdone. When the edge of the crust is cooked to a nice brownness it is still tough. Not sure why they can’t get this right.
    But onward to pies with graham cracker crusts. Yes the graham cracker crusts are perfectly fine. The Mexican chocolate pie is grand with a tasty GC crust, very tasty mexican chocolate filling, and a bit of cinnamon flavored whipped cream on top. This pie does make me a return customer. I did try the lemon meringue again, and was disappointed: The layer of curd, which was nice and tart, was too thin for the amount of meringue on top. The meringue overpowered the curd. The crust had the usual problems.
    The crostata is very good if you stay away from the thick parts of the crust, which, again, are tough. The serving is quite ample, so you won’t feel cheated if you stay away from the crust.
    In general, the Pie Hole has promise, but how can you have a restaurant dedicated to pie and not have a nice flaky tender crust? They have some really good sweet pies with graham cracker crusts, and the other pies have good fillings, but they really need to fix the pie crust problem.
    Still haven’t had the savory pies, so no comment there.

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