Munchin’ with Michael: Pie

Michael Barthelemy, Food Critic

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Friday is pie day. Wrapping up the fall season, this has been the time of year for pie. In my opinion, apple and pumpkin season provide some of the most elite forms on the pie market, with apple in particular subject to review.

Apple pie is the greatest pie. No debate. So if I was on the search for the best pie in Evanston, I needed to get the best flavor. The spots up for review are Bennison’s, Hoosier Mama and Lucky Platter. Now I did have to adjust to the menus of Lucky Platter, as they don’t constantly serve apple pie, but I tried to make it work regardless. 

Alright enough talk, let’s get to munchin’.

Hoosier Mama

Hoosier Mama is the only spot in Evanston to specialize in serving pie so coming in, it held the highest expectations out of all of the spots. With the massive selection, I wasn’t sure if anywhere else could compete.

Flavor wise, this claim held up. The presence of apple-cinnamon kept me coming back for more. The cinnamon sugar filling made itself known, yet didn’t take over to drown out the apples. 

The crust fit directly into the structure of what a typical apple pie is. It was expectedly condense, which made a solid base for the filling. To wrap it up, the crust had that flaky quality you look for in a pie crust. While I am not a fan of classic pie crust in any regard, Hoosier Mamastuck to the basics, which I can appreciate.

The apples were in larger cuts, much like a traditional apple pie. While I don’t typically mind this style, I felt that the pieces were overwhelming. Instead of being soft and easy to chew, the apples were denser, making the larger cuts harder to handle.

Much of what went wrong in this dish can be traced back to one quality: it was cold. Sure pie often is presented cold, but in this case, it needed to be warm. The cool temperature dimmed the flavor of the filling and made it much less enjoyable. A warm slice of pie is tough to compete with, and Hoosier Mama needs to remember that.

Score- 3.4/5

Bennison’s

Now that Hoosier Mama, the only place serving single slices of apple pie, is covered, we’ve entered the realm of cutting into whole pies. 

Bennison’s is maybe the most iconic bakery in Evanston, so there are obviously high standards. Snatching the last apple pie of the day, I was excited to cut in.

In the first bite, you can taste the quality. The apples are not too hard, the only crunch is from the crust. The filling is extremely sweet and has a strong apple flavor. While the sweetness is high by itself, it does not take too much emphasis away from other aspects.

The real star of this slice was the crust. Bennison’s doesn’t appear to use the typical four ingredient blend like Hoosier Mama; they put in extra time into the dough to put their slice above others. The crust is dosed in a layer of sugar that adds a desired extra sweetness. In other pie crusts, the lack of flavor can hurt the slice dearly. Bennison’s is able to recognize this and adjust to a culture that loves sugar more than anyone else.

The texture of the crust was another key component. It was solid, yet soft when bitten into. My least favorite part of pie is the crust that work as brick walls you have to cut into it. An overly dense crust is the worst case scenario. Bennison’s on the other hand, keeps the crust easy to cut into to prevent this phenomenon.

Score- 4.2/5

Lucky Platter

Despite being an American classic, Lucky Platter does not offer apple pie. Instead, the diner was serving their key lime pie and pumpkin pie as a seasonal option. Not much of a pumpkin pie enthusiast, key lime was the clear choice for review.

The filling of the pie was magnificent. The lime flavor was strong, which is obviously important. It can be hard for restaurants to create a lime flavor not too tart and not too sweet, but Lucky Platter seems to do just that. 

The texture of the pie was ideal. The gelatinous quality you want in a slice of key lime pie was present; there was no sense of graininess. 

As for the crust, it was a sweeter crumb blend, which I prefer much more than a traditional crust. The added flavor elevated this pie to another level. Rather than rely on the taste of the filling like Hoosier Mama, this crust added a lot to the slice. The only improvement I would ask for there to be more.

While I am not usually a huge fan of key lime pie, here was the exception. I was blown away by the quality.

Score- 3.6/5