I often find myself driving to the city or the East Bay to eat out or pick up dessert. Marin has its high points, for sure, but exciting dining options don't rank up there as one of them. But I have to give San Rafael's 4th street proper credit: it's getting more and more interesting with each passing month. We have a great Arizmendi, Sol Food is expanding to an even larger location, and now we've even got pie.
Owner and baker Leslie Burnside opened The Pie Palace in late summer next to her popular restaurant Theresa and Johnny's. She makes all of the pie fillings in the big restaurant kitchen next door but bakes the pies all on site at The Pie Palace. The little five-seat spot offers sweet and savory hand-pies (although these struck me as almost too large to be called such) each day for $3.75 each. Much like Theresa and Johnny's, this is a sort of no-nonsense spot where, if they sell out of pies, that's it. And they close for the day, so be sure to call to check on the daily selection.
The menu rotates often, but generally they have close to three savory options and two to three sweet pies, all using local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Leslie also makes handmade sodas using fresh juices and flavored syrups. I'd return for the apple fried pie, which was brimming with flavorful fall apples and the perfect amount of subtle spice. And a friend brought me the cabbage and sausage hand pie the other day for lunch: a delicious, filling pocket that kept me going throughout the afternoon. I have to say, I wasn't blown away by the pumpkin pie. I found the filling to be a bit bland and sparse.
I've spent some time trying to figure out Leslie's crusts. They're not uber-flaky like a pure butter crust might be, so I'm guessing she uses a combination of shortening and butter. It's a really good all-purpose, pleasing crust although it's not the most flavorful I've ever had. From what I hear from the folks at The Pie Palace, they're not planning on doing whole, traditional Thanksgiving pies (it's just simply not their gig), but call to chat with Leslie about larger hand pie orders anytime.
The Pie Palace
811 4th St.
San Rafael, CA 94901
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11am-7pm*; Fri.-Sat. 11am-9pm*; closed Sundays
* or until pies run out...