Good to Go is a column in which our food writers explore Dallas' restaurant scene through takeout orders, delivery boxes and reheated leftovers.
In 2013, we interviewed Mary Gauntt and Megan Wilkes about their blossoming, adorable pie shop, Emporium Pies. Gauntt talked about the exacting process of developing pie recipes, and Wilkes explained that her business plan had 17 reasons why their pie shop would fail, yet no scenario for if the opposite happened (which it did).
The thing that stands out most about that interview though, the first thing that comes to mind every time time I think about Emporium Pies, is how Gauntt made herself sick testing recipes. Never puke-sick, but for sure need-to-lie-down sick.
“I've felt sick like that for a month sometimes,” Gauntt said.
What dedication, right? What commitment to your craft. Like Michael Jordan staying later and working harder than anyone else, Gauntt tasted so many pies, the mere sight of them made her stomach queasy. But she stuck to it. It’s downright laudable. (Stand up and clap!) And that dedication is how Emporium Pies has attained pie greatness.
Almost a decade after they started their venture, the foundations they worked so hard to establish — the pie crust for the massive Lord of the Pies took a month to get right — Gauntt is still turning out solid gold hits.
Great pie doesn’t stop for a pandemic either. On Bishop Avenue near the entrance to Emporium Pies, there's a giant A-frame sign on the sidewalk alerting passersby of the “Pie-Thru” with instructions to “Wait here 'til we wave you forward.”
In the alleyway next to the shop are pie attendants under a canopy in masks and gloves. There’s an energy of excitement tinged with seriousness.
We waited patiently, me and one kid, the luckiest kid that day. The tall menu near the store was tough to see from the street; we craned our necks to make out words. A sugary anxiety hung over the pie-thru.
A pie-pusher waved us forward and stood 6 feet from our car to take our order. The classic hits were all on the menu, but there was also a Key lime pie called In the Limelight. I asked the attendant if they recommended that or Lord of the Pies (apple).
She worked through this answer very thoughtfully: “Well, they’re both great,” she said, eyes looking skyward, searching for the right answer and pausing.
“But,” she said excitedly, like she found the answer in the clouds, “the Lord of the Pies is always on the menu, but the Key lime pie is only for a limited time. So, I’d say In the Limelight if you really like Key lime pie.”
Like it? No. Love it.
A slice of Key lime pie for me and Smooth Operator (chocolate silk) for my kid. The whole pie exchange is no-contact. The card reader is on a stand and is easy to reach from a car. After paying, drivers are instructed to roll forward, “With your window up.”
The detachment of the transaction is sort of a bummer. One’s intuitive response when buying pie is to smile excessively, maybe with a bow of the head when the pie is actually passed from one hand to the other. But, none of that can happen here.
Instead, after pulling forward to the "table station," we wait for about a minute. Then, another masked and gloved pie pusher springs out the door, sets a bag on a table near the alleyway, then quickly retreats back inside. I get out of the car, get the pie, bow my head to the table and place my hand lightly over my heart, then get back in the car and drive away.
We parked about a block away to enjoy. There are a lot of people sheltering at my shelter right now, and I’m in no position to buy pie for them all. Some days a certain kid gets a treat. Another day, it’ll be another kid. It’s sort of like running a zone defense on a family; they’ll eat you up on man-to-man coverage. You have to spread out your resources.
We quickly found a parking spot in the Bishop Arts District, which was weird and another reminder of “all this” that’s going on. We thoughtfully worked through our slices of pie with the tiny wooden forks from Emporium Pies.
It was a peaceful, quiet moment, the sun casting a late-afternoon glow as bright as each bite of the tart Key lime pie. The velvety-rich chocolateness of the Smooth Operator anchored by the salty pretzel crust looked delicious. There were no leftovers to report, nor notes on how the pie tasted the next day.
After disposing of all evidence, we went home to eat dinner with the rest of the family like nothing ever happened.
Emporium Pies, 314 N. Bishop Ave. (Bishop Arts) and 107 S. Tennessee St., McKinney. Open for drive-thru pickup 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The Deep Ellum location is currently closed.