Hey, What's the Big Idea?
Reviewed by Rachel Feit, Fri., July 11, 2014
Everyone loves a small business success story and lately the Austin food scene has had its share of them. Austin's Tiny Pies is the latest installment in an entrepreneurial arc that strikes all the right heartstrings. It is the story of single mother Amanda Bates, who put her homemaking skills to work with a handheld pie idea suggested by her grade-school son. She teamed up with her retirement-age mother, Kit Seay, and began selling single-serving pies at the Barton Creek Farmers Market. Soon they were selling at multiple farmers' markets around town, and within little more than a year the duo were featured in the pages of O, Oprah Winfrey's magazine. At that point, the business really began to take off. They received catering calls for weddings and events, and began selling their pies in local grocery store chains.
By last year, business for Bates and Seay was growing so fast that they needed a larger commercial facility to run the wholesale operations. They found one in the vacated Lucky J's restaurant on Burnet Road and opened their doors in March. The new location not only has the space to allow the wholesale business to grow, it also enables the mother-daughter team to operate a suitably diminutive storefront from which to sell their Tiny Pies directly. After just three months, business is booming. In fact, sales are so brisk that the first few times I went by Tiny Pies in the late afternoon, I left empty-handed because most of the goods had sold out. By the time I final sampled a Tiny Pie, my expectations were running high.
The verdict? Definitely worth making the effort to visit.
The first test of any pie is crust. This is doubly important with small pies, which are more than half crust to begin with. I am pleased to report that Tiny Pies delivers with a flaky butter crust that is just as delicious as the filling.
Not to be outshone, Tiny Pie fillings are just as luscious. The sweet-tart blueberry lemon chess and suave coconut cream fillings are standouts for me. But I also really like the Key lime pie, topped with a cloud of meringue, and the Texas Two Step, a fudgy brownie filling packed with pecans. Peach pies are made with real peaches; I know this because I found a pit in one. I was willing to overlook the mistake because the peach filling was so temptingly delicious. The roster changes daily and usually features 8 to 10 varieties ($4). Pecan, buttermilk, apple, and chocolate cream make frequent appearances.
Then there are the savory pies ($6), quiches, and empanadas ($3). I could probably live off of the spinach and ricotta pot pie, or the potato and leek pot pie, both served in cute little Mason jars.
Everything at Tiny Pies is designed to be portable and single-serving sized. Get there early because the storefront usually starts running out of flavors by about 3pm.