Chicken Pie Shop2633 El Cajon Blvd.North Park619-295-0156
Few restaurants last as long as San Diego's venerable Chicken Pie Shop, which has been in business since 1936. Specializing in a particularly Midwestern style of cooking, the Chicken Pie Shop has a somewhat limited yet affordable menu. While the affordability is one of the main draws, the food's better than you might expect.
It's a common perception that restaurant writers are food snobs, looking down on anything that isn't haute cuisine or very pricey (a perception that any regular reader of this column knows is false). What this writer likes is good food, regardless of price or degree of fanciness. The food at the Chicken Pie Shop is cheap, and it certainly ain't fancy, but if you're craving old-school comfort food like you might enjoy at grandma's house, then this place is hard to beat.
The regular menu has dinners priced at around $5 for the chicken and turkey pie, all the way up to $11 for the grilled New York strip steak. The Chicken Pie Shop also offers daily specials priced around $7, dishes like meatloaf, chicken and dumplings and even forays into the exotic (for the Midwest, anyway) with chicken quesadillas.
The best bets are the traditional items like the poultry pies, chicken and dumplings and the excellent fried chicken. The pie dinner is more manageable for smaller appetites and includes a pre-entrée portion of coleslaw, chicken and turkey pie, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and a dinner roll.
The chicken and turkey pie is very good, with a tender, flaky and buttery crust surrounding tender chunks of chicken and turkey, topped with gravy. The pie's filling is a bit flour-heavy, but flavorful. The side dishes are tasty enough, if a bit prefab; the corn, for example, is frozen. However, the mashed potatoes are good, and the gravy rich and chickeny.
For those a bit hungrier, the fried chicken-thigh, drumstick and breast with a wing-dinner is a great choice. The chicken is crispy and plentiful. Instead of coleslaw, the fried chicken dinner starts with soup and a salad.
All meals come with a choice of pie for dessert, either fruit or cream. The fruit pies include apple, cherry, blueberry, rhubarb and peach, and the cream pies come in flavors like chocolate, coconut and pineapple.
The cream pies are topped with non-dairy whipped topping, and don't taste particularly fresh, so they are best avoided. The fruit pies, on the other hand, have a nice flaky crust, which makes up for their canned fillings.
The Chicken Pie Shop does sell their food packaged to go, which seems to be very popular, judging from the lines that form alongside the restaurant. Poultry pies are $1.90 each, with gravy going for $1.25 a pint. This would be a good option should you want better side dishes with your meal. The Chicken Pie Shop is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and accepts cash only. B