A Slice of Heaven
The Royer family finally brings its pies to Austin
Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., Jan. 10, 2014
Sun.-Mon., 10am-6pm; Wed.-Sat., 10am-8pm
Many people might associate the tiny town of Round Top, nestled quietly between here and Houston, with its twice-yearly antiques fair, which draws scores of collectors and dealers from across the state. For UT alumni and theatre folk, the connection may be the renowned Shakespeare at Winedale program, where generations of UT students have studied and performed the Bard's greatest works in an un-air-conditioned barn many a Texas summer. But food lovers may know Round Top, population 90, for the kitschy cafe on Main Street, fronted by the flamboyant patriarch, Bud "The Pieman" Royer, and anchored by a diverse menu of "gourmet comfort food" along with the groaning table of pies that are the cafe's claim to fame.
After nearly 30 years, the Royers have finally embarked upon their first expansion of business beyond Round Top, with Austin as the landing pad. In November, Royers Pie Haven opened in a cozy little corner of the former Toy Joy complex at the corner of 29th and Guadalupe, offering a bit of heaven for pie-loving Austinites.
Run by Bud's daughter, Tara "Pie Queen" Royer Steele, the dessert shop-cum-coffee bar maintains the shabby-chic feel of the cafe, with knickknacks and gewgaws in every nook and cranny. There is a full complement of coffee drinks both hot and cold, plus smoothies, iced teas, and bottled soft drinks. Breakfast items include the "hee haw" sausage pie, savory biscuits, raspberry scones, hefty "pie muffins," and granola. Folks with smaller appetites can choose from an assortment of cookies, including raspberry and chocolate chip flavors.
Pies both sweet and savory are the main attraction here, and they are what the shop does best. Traditional sweet flavors like strawberry rhubarb and buttermilk shine, but the junkberry and sweet & salty chocolate elevate the whole operation. The former is a mishmash of apples, peaches, and four kinds of berries topped with a "crust" of caramelized sour cream – it's rich and devastatingly addictive. Meanwhile, the sweet & salty pie is exactly as advertised: a fudgy custard belted with caramel and salt, and sweet enough to stop your heart. Lunch options include margherita-chicken pizza and chicken pot pies ($5/slice), which rival their sweet counterparts in deliciousness (if not their nutritive value).
Royers also has a flair for the outrageous – and in some cases overkill. Take, for example, the piewiches, two cookies sandwiching a good six or eight ounces of toe-curlingly sweet frosting. Similarly, Brobdingnagian ding-dongs may be intended for a single consumer, but they could function as a small cake to be shared as a post-lunch treat between co-workers. For the truly courageous, there is the pie shake, a slice of pie blended with milk and a generous scoop of Amy's vanilla ice cream; it's definitely a treat to save for when one has a significant amount of calories banked for a serious splurge.
The shop offers seating for about 10 people, with a little alcove for reading or visiting quietly, but there is a sense of temporariness about the place. Pies are served in plastic takeout boxes, and utensils are eco-friendly disposables. Despite the homey, "grandma's kitchen" feel and the free wi-fi, there's not much of an enticement to sit and stay a while. That said, after a humongous helping of a dessert from the Haven, you won't want to linger. Rather, you'll want to head straight to the nearest treadmill or greenbelt and start atoning for your delicious sins in sweat – so you can do it all again tomorrow.