From Los Angeles
CurvyMama goes to L.A. a lot, but often doesn’t get the time to scout out the great pie places lurking in the City of Angels. On a recent visit, though, we extended our stay and managed to squeeze in a joyous little jaunt to a pie shop worthy of your attention.
What’s going on in The Pie Hole’s kitchen deserves attention all by itself, but for another reason, too: it’s emblematic of the real ascent of downtown Los Angeles as a viable place to hang out and do cool stuff.
In the 25 years I lived in L.A., the city took a deep breath several times and tried to build a nightlife–no, wait, any kind of life–into its godforsaken downtown. Bounded by three freeways, it was a place that bustled during the day with City Hall, law firm and government types (along with less-well-dressed reporters such as myself). But most everyone who worked downtown deserted it as quickly as possible at 5 p.m., leaving the sidewalks to a vaguely menacing array of drug addicts, homeless folks and other down-on-their-luck types. Rounds of effort to draw residents with an artists’ loft community and alluring condos flagged.
In the years I’ve been gone, though, someone has figured it out. A new convention center, tons of cool restaurants, the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall, all helped click this scene into place. Downtown isn’t just alive and well, it’s thriving. And the Pie Hole is mainlining sugar into the mix.
The CurvyMama girlfriend and I saw all of this unfold from the window of a Toyota Highlander driven by a friend who’s an actress and tour guide. We had hoped to do a walking tour, but a pinched nerve sidelined me, so we drove instead. I was blown away by how much the area had changed; it was so inspiring that I resolved to spend a days downtown–on foot!–on another trip soon. The place is brimming!
In all the cheek-by-jowl newness, it took a little doing to find The Pie Hole. On tiny Traction Avenue, it’s holding down a scruffy, artsy little strip not far from the slick restaurant scene near the Staples Center. The shop has commandeered a generous amount of space, though; one room houses the pie case and open kitchen; another, decorated in spare, corrugated, industrial chic, offers tables. There are a few on the sidewalk, too, for al fresco pie consumption. Check out the cute sign they’ve got at the curb:
The day’s menu, scrawled by hand on brown butcher paper, offered us a baker’s dozen of sweet and savory pie varieties. Earl Grey! Mexican chocolate! What to do when we had only a few minutes to grab a couple of slices and run?
My GF, Barbara, ever the coconut cream addict, chose a coconut-and-raspberry concoction. I opted for maple
custard. Mine was wonderful; deeply flavored and creamy filling, supported by a nicely firm yet still flaky all-butter crust. The layer of raspberry under the coconut cream didn’t charm Barbara–a coconut cream purist–but I thought it was a creative approach to a classic pie, and the coconut filling was quite lovely.
The Pie Hole will be a required stop on my walking tour of the new and wonderful downtown L.A. in the near future!