Fruit pies and cream pies are delightful, but there's something extra-special about a pie that is extremely nutty. For an over-the-top sensation, grab a fork and break into a slice of pecan pie at Royers Round Top Cafe in Round Top, Texas (population 77), midway between Austin and Houston. At Royers—one of the nation's premier pie palaces—the pecan pie is layered with crunchy, plump nut halves piled generously on top of a thick, amber ribbon of sweet filling.
Proprietor Bud Royer knows that a good nut pie is always better served a la mode. Skip the ice cream and you just might be charged 50 cents extra, according to the Round Top menu.
Because pecans are big in Texas, Royers isn't the only spot where the nuts are flaunted. From Round Top, head west to Kyle for pecan pie perfection at the Texas Pie Company. Their motto: "Life's Short—Eat More Pie."
Continue your trek westward toward Fredericksburg and the Fredericksburg Pie Company, where the specialty is bourbon orange pecan pie. Or steer toward Georgetown, north of Austin, where the Monument Cafe does it upside down. The cafe offers a fudgy chocolate pie with a crust that's actually a thick bed of pecans held together by a sweet glaze.
Beyond pecans, in the hill country town of Marble Falls, the Blue Bonnet Cafe hosts a Pie Happy Hour every weekday from 3 to 5 p.m. The nut-crowned peanut butter cream pie there is presented with the brilliant flourish of chocolate syrup served in a cup. Diners can dip each forkful of pie into the chocolate, or lavishly pour it over the entire slice.
Peanut lovers know all about Virginia peanuts, considered by connoisseurs to be the biggest and tastiest of the goobers. The Virginia Diner in Wakefield, Virginia, stocks a full inventory of large, meaty peanuts roasted to blistery perfection. Plan on ordering the "world famous" peanut pie, which is surprisingly more earthy than syrupy-sweet—a subtle reminder that the peanut is not really a nut at all, but a legume.
Farther up the East Coast, in Waldoboro, Maine, maple syrup rules. Maine bakers combine it with walnuts in a to-die-for twist on the classic pecan pie. A slice of maple walnut pie, a local favorite at grand old Moody's Diner, tastes righteous and sinful at the same time, especially when served under a billowy cloud of whipped cream. Another nutty state is Oregon, where the fall harvest in the Willamette Valley nets 20,000 tons of hazelnuts each year. It's no wonder that the crunchy little spheres, also called filberts, find their way into a variety of savory and sweet dishes throughout the Pacific Northwest. At a charming little Portland food cart called the Pie Spot, small single-serving pies are dense with the combo of chocolate and hazelnuts.
Head farther out in the Pacific Ocean to find the queen of all nuts, the macadamia. Its rich flavor permeates each legendary piece of Mac Pie served at Sheila Everitt's Mac Pie shop in Kona, Hawaii. Her adaptation of her mother's recipe for Southern chess pie results in a fantastic fusion food that starts with a butter-macadamia nut crust under a filling blanketed with the nuts. There's a hint of coconut macaroon in it, too. If your calendar doesn't include immediate travel plans, tide yourself over by making your own nut-filled pies from recipes offered by Taste of Home readers.
Nut Pie Recipes
Mixed Nut 'n' Fig Pie
Can't decide on a favorite nut? This pie settles the question by using mixed nuts, then makes it even more interesting with figs and a hint of orange.
—Barbara Estabrook, Rhinelander, Wisconsin
Greek Honey Nut Pie
It's all about the walnuts in this sweet treat fancied up with ready-made phyllo dough. Find phyllo in the frozen food section of your market.
—Rosalind Jackson, Stuart, Florida
Velvety Chocolate Butter Pecan Pie
Serious dessert lovers go nuts over this one that combines the best of two classics: pecan pie and chocolate pie. Bittersweet chocolate tames the sweetness and adds a richness that is simply irresistible.
—Helen Fields, Springtown, Texas