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What's Cookin' Behind the Curtain - Life of Pie
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Everybody has one fatal weakness. For Superman, it’s kryptonite. For R. Kelly, it’s teenage girls. For me, it’s pie.
It can be any type of pie, really, it doesn’t matter. The American classic apple. The Southern special sweet potato. The light and fluffy lemon meringue. Yum. Yum. Yum.
However, it’s not just dessert pies that get me going. I am also a huge fan of chicken pot pies. I always used to order it when we’d have a family dinner out at one of those homestyle American restaurants. And I would make sure to ask for those frozen Marie Callendar’s pot pies on the grocery list. Chicken, vegetables, gravy, and pie crust – what’s not to love? It’s really the crust that stokes my fire. Buttery, flaky tastiness.
So when I stumbled across La Palma Chicken Pie Shop in Anaheim, I was excited. Here’s a place that advertises its pies in its name, so while you don’t necessarily know how good the pies are, you know that the restaurant makes its living off of its pies. How could I not be a fan?
From the moment you first see the googie, half-lit neon sign off in the distance, you know that something is different about the restaurant. Indeed, La Palma Chicken Pie Shop is an anachronism, a place that is so old school, it pre-dates retro. It’s a diner-style restaurant, but the puke brown colored décor and vinyl booths are so old, it makes House of Pies in Los Feliz look modern. Literally, it looks like a restaurant that was pulled straight off of Leave it to Beaver. And like the interior, the wait staff doesn’t appear to have changed for the last 40 years. True to form, the store is shut down on Sundays and closes at 8 pm on every other night.
At the same time, the menus and food also appear to be similar to how it used to be more than 50 years ago when the restaurant first opened. La Palma Chicken Pie Shop is an institution in Anaheim, in part because while you’re filling up your jalopy with a $3 gallon of gas, a chicken pie a la carte will only cost you $3.25. A hamburger and fries costs $3.95, about the same as what you'd pay for a Big Mac meal. Other menu items include chicken giblets, liver and onions, and filet of sole; basically, your classic diner dishes. The dinner plates cost less than $7, and come with an entrée, soup and salad, potatoes, and dessert. And not just any dessert. Besides pie and ice cream, they also serve pudding and jello! Dude, jello!
Still, reasonable prices don’t necessarily equate to a worthwhile meal if the food stinks. Thankfully, the food does not stink. The trademark chicken pies are individual-sized, about four inches in diameter, like the size of one of those giant muffins from Costco. But don’t be fooled by their small size; these pies are actually quite hearty. Unlike pot pies you’ll get at most restaurants, which are mostly sauce and vegetables with little hunks of chicken, La Palma’s chicken pies are just what they say they are. Chicken pies. It’s literally huge, tender strips of chicken surrounded by crust. Yes, there’s sauce in there as well, but don’t go in expecting a liquidy stew with crust on the outside. Interestingly enough, you also won’t see any carrots or peas or onions or any other kind of vegetable that you would normally find in a pot pie. Not that they’re not there; supposedly, the vegetables are ground up into the sauce to maintain the flavor of the dish, which also allows additional room for more chicken. As far as my beloved crust is concerned, it’s definitely not the flaky, light pastry crust that you’ll find on some pies. Instead, it’s a doughy, heavier crust which is more consistent with the denseness of the filling. It feels like the kind of crust that comes from a homemade recipe, as opposed to a gourmet chef.
The restaurant also has an ample bakery where the scores of chicken pies are prepared, and you can purchase numerous types of pastries and deli items, as well as place your takeout orders. The chicken noodle soup is a meal in and of itself, with a ridiculously thick broth (which borders on gravy) accompanying big hunks of chicken and long strips of egg noodles. Pints to go cost only $1.80, and a full quart is only $3.25, which will be sufficient to coat your stomach for an entire winter.
And lest we forget about dessert (this is a pie shop after all), the pies are a solid finish to the meal (if you aren’t already pie’d out). In contrast to the pie crust from the chicken pies, the dessert pie crust is lighter, dusted with egg for the golden finish, and sprinkled with sugar like a pie should be, for that hint of sweetness. I had the peach pie, which contained pretty conventional sliced peaches and glaze (definitely not of the same caliber as a fresh peach pie).
No one is going to mistake La Palma Chicken Pie Shop for being revolutionary. That’s why it’s beloved – every once in awhile, people need comfort food to be reminded that in our crazy mixed-up world, not everything has to change. Especially pie.
La Palma Chicken Pie Shop
928 N. Euclid Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801
All photos by Ryan Young, who apologizes that his camera is too crappy to capture the crusty goodness of La Palma's pies, for LAist