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CHEAP EATS: I spy ... lots and lots of yummy pies ... sigh

By Rosemary Boggs

This article was published February 24, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

chicken-and-broccoli-fried-pie-at-the-original-fried-pie-shop-in-jacksonville

Chicken and broccoli fried pie at The Original Fried Pie Shop in Jacksonville

— Fried pie. The words just roll off the tongue so sweetly. I mean really, all diets and eating programs aside, what sort of person doesn’t love the idea of a fried pie? They can be savory or sweet, they’re portable and versions of them are found around the world.

And now, deep in the heart of Jacksonville, is The Original Fried Pie Shop, a restaurant that only sells, wait for it ... fried pies.

The restaurant’s concept came out of Oklahoma, and there are now locations in Texas and Arkansas; they’re sold in Hope at Big Jake’s Bar-B-Q. A woman who calls herself Nancy the Fried Pie Lady started the restaurant using her grandmother’s recipe. The finished crust is light, flaky and crispy brown right from the deep fryer.

The Jacksonville store is located on the access road between James Street and Air Force Base exits, near Big Lots, Radio Shack and a Cancun Mexican restaurant. It used to be a burger place, as well as an ice cream shop in later years. The interior has been redone to give it a homey country feel. The walls boast corrugated metal coverings and red trim, and the pie production area is in clear view of patrons.

Upon entering, you’ll veer to the left and then right to see the menu board posted behind the counter. There’s not a large menu, but the selection is varied enough that if you’ve not been there before you’ll have to take a minute or two to take it all in. Once you place your order, it’s off to the beverage area, where you’ll fill your foam cup.

An employee I spoke with told me that since the Original Fried Pie Shop is a franchise, they use the ingredients and recipes provided by the corporate facility. The dough comes in dry form and the employees mix in the liquid ingredients.

It’s made into pre-formed discs, so when orders are placed, the cook takes a disc of dough and runs it through a machine that flattens it out to a round about 8 inches across. The filling, also supplied by the corporate office, is put on the dough, it’s folded over, crimped and placed in the fryer. It doesn’t take long, since the fillings are already cooked, and when the pies arrive at your table, they are even a bit too hot to dig into. But they’re well worth the wait.

The shop offers savory pies as well as dessert. The savory and breakfast pies are $3.75 each or $39.50 for a dozen, fruit pies cost $2.95 or $31.20 for a dozen, and cream or nut pies cost $3.49 each or $36.84 for a dozen. The lunch and dinner section of the menu offers several selections: chicken and broccoli, chicken or beef and vegetable, Tex-Mex, spinach and mushroom, pepperoni and Comfort, which is made with diced Polish sausage and potatoes in a light cheese sauce.There are two breakfast pies made with bacon or sausage, egg and cheese, and we were able to order one during an evening visit.

We were extremely pleased with all the versions we tried. My son loved the Tex-Mex, which is made with refried beans, beef, jalapenos and cheddar cheese. I found it a bit too spicy. The spinach and mushroom, made with chopped spinach, sauteed mushrooms, cheddar, parmesan and cottage cheeses, was another favorite as it reminded me of the Greek dish Spanakopita. It’s possibly something even spinach haters just might like.

The beef and vegetable version is like a soothing pot pie made with ground beef, potatoes, carrots and peas in a flavorful gravy, and the pepperoni was good, but not as pizza-like as I’d hoped. I prefer light sauce on my pizzas, and forgot to ask for that when I placed the order. The Comfort pie was OK, but the Polish sausage was diced so small you almost couldn’t tell it was there. My son’s sausage, egg and cheese pie didn’t have quite enough sausage in the mix, but it was a nice change from the usual breakfast sandwich or platter you get at a fast-food place.

As for dessert, they offer fruit pies in regular and sugar free versions in apricot, apple, blackberry, cherry, peach and pineapple. There are cream pies in chocolate, coconut, lemon and vanilla flavors, and pecan, which turned out to be my favorite.

We tried the cherry and apricot fruit pies, and both were amazing. The chocolate pie filling was reminiscent of pies you find at church potlucks, minus meringue, and the pecan was out-of-this-world delicious. Pecan pies are great, but warm and gooey ones are even better.

The restaurant will let you personalize your dessert pies by mixing and matching flavors, and a patron I spoke to recommended mixing pecan and chocolate, which I hope to try.

When you visit The Original Fried Pie Shop, you can have your pies made hot, choose from already made flavors in their display case, or take home some day-old pies they wrap and keep in a freezer ($1.75 each, $18 a dozen).

When reheating pies at home, the microwave just won’t do it. To help revive the crust to its original glory, you’ll want to bake it at 350 degrees for eight to 12 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. We reheated several and they were just as crispy and flaky as the ones we ate in the restaurant.

The Original Fried Pie Shop Address: 1321 T.P. White Drive, Jacksonville Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily Cuisine: Fried pies Credit cards: AE, D, V, MC Alcoholic beverages: No Wheelchair accessible: Yes Carryout: Yes (501) 985-0508 OriginalFriedPie.com

Weekend, Pages 40 on 02/24/2011

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