Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Great Arkansas Pie Hunt.

Five years ago, everything changed for me when Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State came out. Now I'm back on the trail to see how the pie-loving landscape has changed, and to find all those pies I missed.

I could start this off "so I decided to write a book," but that's how so many of my stories have started these past few years and I feel like I need to give a bit more information.

These past several months, I've been working with producer Larry Foley and director Hayot Tuychiev on a special coming up for AETN called Make Room For Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State. It's going to debut next March. We went to ten different places to get good pie around Arkansas (in eight slices) and picked up on the stories of the people who made the pies and the restaurants where they are offered. It should be good.

But in the collection of pie stories, I revisited my first book. To my shock, so many of the places I talked about in the book have closed .A couple of places we visited for the show had opened in the years since the book came out. In short, the landscape for pie has changed in Arkansas.

There are significant reasons for this. First off, the restaurant business is hard. By no means is it easy to pick up and start a new enterprise, and keeping one going is as much a struggle. Many of the places featured in the original Arkansas Pie were newer restaurants, such as Hunka Pie in North Little Rock, which closed within a year of the book's printing. Others, such as Ed and Kay's, Chip's Barbecue and Silvek's European Bakery, were longtime classics that have closed their doors in the interim.

Second, I wrote Arkansas Pie in 30 days. It's not the book I wanted it to be. What I see people doing with it is amazing - taking the book from one location to another and having people sign the book, creating itineraries based off its entries, that sort of thing. The book has gained legs of its own.

Third... it's just time.

Chocolate pies from Skylark Cafe, Big John's Shake Shack, Terri-Lynn's Deli and BBQ and Wilson Cafe.

Choosing to drop everything in my life to tackle another book is, frankly, damn scary. I'm not certain it will be commercially successful. I've never published a book on my own before, but after my experiences I'm ready to try.

I'm also at an odd point in my career. Photographer Grav Weldon has spent seven years working with me, helping me hone my photography and develop my own style. So much of my early point-and-shoot work is miserably awful. The photos you see with this piece are my own. That's why we've made a decision - these photos, for the most part, will be my own.

This book, I'm not just writing. I'm shooting it, gathering all the information for it, laying it out, marketing it, the works. As I said, damn scary.

Lemon icebox pies from Penny's Place, Country Kitchen, Sandbar Grille and Mather Lodge.

How? Well, since I can't use the images from my previous books here, I am almost starting from scratch. I've managed to shoot a few dozen new pies in the interim, but most of what will go into this new book is new imagery. To comprehensively (and beautifully) document these pies, I'm traveling the state on pie runs. This video covers one of the many legs of my journey.

I'm about halfway there. There's an adage I learned in my two months of advertising work (I didn't care for it) - "the proof is in the pudding." If you take to account that the English call dessert pudding, this is absolutely literally true. I'm not just shooting these pies. I'm trying them. MOST have fit the bill. There will be exceptions. We won't talk about exceptions, right?

Pecan pie slices from Terri-Lynn's Deli and BBQ, Fayray's, The Hive Cafe and Bakery, and Bourbon Street Steakhouse.

The premise for the new book Another Slice of Arkansas Pie is simple: a travel dining guide featuring the best restaurant pies in Arkansas, with information about each eatery and gorgeous photography. It will be arranged by highways, regions and great pie cities, to make driving to these culinary destinations easy. And it'll include recipes for some of the best pies in the state.

That's going to take a lot of time and driving on my part. To give you an idea, I spent 58 hours away from home on a trip covering pies in the Upper Delta over the course of one December weekend. I drove 747 miles, visited 22 restaurants and photographed 18 pies for the book. An earlier overnight trip through Lower Arkansas saw me visit 15 restaurants, find 11 pies and spend 32 hours away. And even the short above covered six pies in six hours on a circuit from Little Rock to Pine Bluff to Malvern and back again. That's a lot of gas.

Coconut meringue pie at Lybrand's Bakery, pecan tart at Magnolia Bake Shop, chocolate cream pie at Paula-Lynn's, caramel apple pie at Honey Pies.

My goal is to have a completed book ready to go by the time Make Room for Pie arrives on your television screen. I'm going to be doing every bit I can, but I need help - places to stay on the longer runs, recipes for the book, cooperative pie places and gas for the road. For someone who's always done everything possible to be self-sufficient, the asking is hard.  I'm doing what I can, squirreling away what I've brought in on my stories and photographic assignments to make this happen.

I've taken a huge bite of responsibility. This is on me. I'm hoping I haven't put my foot in my mouth.

Fried pies at TJ's Place, Bailey's BBQ, Patty's Down The Road and One Of A Kind Cafe.

So I'll take it. Advice, suggestions, recipes, gas cards, whatever. Please, email me at if you have any input at all. Or if you're not shy, put it in the comments. This is a crazy world I'm getting myself into and I'm thrilled to bring you along with me. 

I hate to ask any money from folks because I know time is tight for us all. But if you'd like to buy me a cuppa joe or a tank of gas, you can do so on this link

And the best free thing you can do is follow along. I'm on the major social media channels and tend to post on the road the pies I'm trying out on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr. I drop video onto YouTube when I get the opportunity, and of course I have different Facebook channels, from Arkansas Pie to Classic Arkansas Eateries to my own Facebook page. Those little numbers mean a lot. Subscribe and like away - and please, comment the heck out of these places.

Chocolate meringue pie at Keeney's Food Market, Bistro on the Ridge, The Whippet Restaurant and Dairy Bar and Wagon Wheel.

Thank you for reading along with this. I'll do the best job I can.


  1. Hello! I have your pie book and like you I was so surprised at how quickly some of the places mentioned in your book closed. I'm looking forward to your second book and will be adding it to my collection. :)

  2. One very popular place with great pie that seems to be off of the reviewers' radars is BJ's Market Café, at the east end of McCain in North Little Rock (just past the new railroad overpass). Their chocolate pie is my favorite, but they also have egg custard, coconut, and your favorite possum pie, among many others. The Coca-Cola cake is awesome on the days they have it. And BJ's has its own produce market next door.

  3. This video promoting the upcoming Make Room For Pie special on AETN? That egg custard pie you see is at BJ's. Of course it'll be in the book.


Be kind.