Hoosier Mama Pie Company has expanded since it opened as a minuscule storefront that was little more than a kitchen, plus two little tables up front and one four-top in the window that provided good daytime light for taking pictures of the beauteous pies. The good news is that its growth has in no way diminished the virtual spell it casts over pie lovers, many of whom contend that this is the best pie shop anywhere.
Whole pies, sweet and savory, as well as quiches are sold to go. Slices as well as six-inch pies (for two) are available to take away or eat here. On Friday nights, Hoosier Mama offers “pie flights,” which are three small slices of different pies, providing maximum variety. The pie flights are a grand idea, especially if you are a party of two, three, or four, because that way you will be able to taste most of the different kinds that have been baked that day.
No matter how you do it when you come to this gem of an eatery, choosing is sweet agony. Fruit pies are made with real fruit. Cream pies are made with real cream. Crusts are buttery. Some of the available flavors we did NOT taste last visit are: Grapenut, Chocolate Cream, Chocolate Chess, Ginger Custard, Oatmeal, and Banana Cream. What we did taste: Apple Cherry with Oat Crumble – a brilliant balancing act of sweet and tart, soft fruit and streusel top; banana cream so rich and eggy and filled with slices of perfectly ripe banana; coconut custard with toasty shreds on top and within; and my favorite, Hoosier Cream. That last one is an utterly simple mix of butter, sugar, and vanilla-flavored cream, baked to become a custard that is like a Midwestern analog of dulce de leche, but richer. It is the official state pie of Indiana. In our book, Hoosier Mama could be the official state pie bakery of Illinois.
Note: A second Hoosier Mama is located at 749 N. Chicago Ave. in Evanston. Currently, masks are required for entry. Several years ago, Roadfood maestro David Sanders, who took many of the accompanying pictures, wrote the following review of the Evanston location:
David’s review is for the Evanston location: 749 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL.
Hoosier Mama’s pie shop has become one of my favorite places to go. I think about her pies way too often, and one of the first things I do every morning is check the pie list for the day. The atmosphere of the place is great, because just about everyone there is in a good mood. Who wouldn’t be, with those pies. The shop is owned by Paula Haney, who was the pastry chef at Trio. She is very engaging and friendly, and works very long hours. But those hours have paid off.
The menu has other things besides pie; scones, muffins, biscuits, turnovers, sticky buns, plus quiche, biscuit breakfast sandwiches, a few sandwiches, a few savory pies, and some limited salads, served as a side to the savory pies. Everything is pretty much fantastic. It’s just that some things are more fantastic than others.
I went to the shop the first day it opened, with the line out the door. I waited about 20 minutes for my first two slices, apple and pecan. They were fantastic. I’ve had great homemade pies, but never have I had pie like this in a restaurant. The crust, which is all butter, is flaky, light, yet has wonderful substance to it. The pecan pie is made with maple syrup, and does not have the gooey filling of a lot of pecan pies. The apple has such a rich flavor, I don’t know how to describe it. She came out with a cookbook shortly before she opened the Evanston store, which is her second location. Her first is in Chicago, also on Chicago Avenue. You can get slices( $5) whole pies, and small pies ($8-$9 each).
After going pretty much four or five times a week for several weeks, I started having some conversations with Paula. The first thing I wanted to know was when she was going to have cherry pie. She patiently explained to me how cherries were not in season (this was October or November) and that she wouldn’t make a fruit pie unless the fruit was in season. A few weeks later I noticed an apple sour cherry pie on the menu. She said that she can use last season’s fruits (frozen) when they are in combination with other fresh fruits. The apple sour cherry is one my favorites. The tartness of the cherries combined with the sweetness of the apples is perfection. I brought a slice to a friend of mine in the Chicago Symphony who is a wonderful baker who told me it was the best piece of pie she had ever had.
Among my favorite pies at the shop (in addition to the apple and pecan) are key lime, orange cream, peanut butter and chocolate cream. She also makes wonderful chess pies, and the turnovers and scones are also fantastic. As is the quiche, which also has an all-butter crust (and possibly some cheese…I’m not sure).
Now that it’s summer, I have had the pleasure of having her cherry pie, her blueberry pie, her cherry berry pie (made with sweet cherries) and I’m anticipating that there might be a peach pie in my future. She also has a flight of pies, three half-slices, which I have had on numerous occasions.
I can’t think of enough superlatives for Paula and her pies. My advice is…go there…now!