Ari's Picks

Fried Hand Pies at the Roadshow (Made by the Bakehouse)

a fried pie on a plate cut in half and partially lifted by a knife and fork

Fried pies are the perfect pastry to take on the road!

Once upon a time, about 15 years ago, we started selling pimento cheese. Back then, only a handful of folks in Ann Arbor seemed to have heard of it. Anyone who grew up in the South was excited to see it on the Roadhouse menu. But most everyone else—Midwesterners like me—really had no idea what it was! Most gave the menu listing a quizzical look and very few orders ensued. That was then. Today, in 2024, pimento cheese is one of our biggest-selling items! We still serve it at the Roadhouse (where it started). But the Deli has it as well, and the Creamery ships a whole lot of it to food stores and restaurants all over the country!

Fried hand pies, I forecast, are today where pimento cheese was 15 years ago. Although hardly anyone up here has heard of them, by the time we arrive at our 2032 Vision, the fried-hand-pie business will be hoppin’! They are, without question, a special comfort food pastry with deep roots in the Mid-South. Many Southern cities have bakeries that make next to nothing other than hand pies!

Fried Pies’ Origins

Made by the Bakehouse, and sold at the Roadhouse, the fried hand pies have deep Southern roots. They could be carried more easily out to the fields, into the mines, or, in more modern times, to the factory. Fried pies worked well too in the winter months when the fresh fruit season had ended, and dried fruit was all that was available. They were already well known around the time of the American Revolution and were particularly popular in the middle of the 19th century, especially so in Appalachia. Rossi Anastopoulo writes in Saveur:

In a region where life could be hardscrabble and unforgiving, fried pies proved to be a culinary balm for busy women with a high burden of responsibility. Unlike cakes, which typically took all day to prepare and required expensive ingredients that might be hard to access, fried pies were a quick, affordable way to enjoy something sweet. 

To this day, they evoke emotional reactions in folks who grew up on them. Arkansas restaurateur Jennifer Jones shares, “These old recipes connect us to our past, help define our reality, almost tell us who we are. It’s a way to talk to each other about something tangible.” The Mountain Association says, “Every time we reference our aunt’s fried apple pie recipe that’s written on the back of an old-school credit card receipt from the service station where she used to work, we connect to our heritage—our collective past as mountain people, hewn from hard-scrabble times.”

Fried pies are caringly hand-crafted with a traditional lard crust at the Bakehouse, filled right now with tart Michigan cherries. At the Roadhouse you can get a taste of this centuries-old tradition right by ordering one hot from the fryer for dessert after dinner (add some Creamery gelato too). And, we also have them cooked ahead and ready to grab from the Roadshow for breakfast. It’s like eating a jelly donut, but far better suited to “dining” while driving. They keep well for a day or so after they’re fried. (Remember it was typical to take one with into the fields in the morning to eat for later in the day).

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