In lieu of a restaurant review, this week’s Reader is all about Hoosier Mama Pie Company, a brilliantly named wholesale pie concern in Chicago. The article, by Nicholas Day, goes into great depth about the company (run by wife-and-husband team Paula Haney and Craig Siegelin) and its history, and speaks lovingly of the pies: “Painstakingly made – the double-crust apple takes three hours – a Hoosier Mama pie has the taste of something bygone, something you’d given up wanting.”
Day goes on to mention that the pies are available at a few retail outlets in Chicago. A quick check of the Hoosier Mama website reveals four locations in the city: Dollop Coffee, Metropolis Coffee, Charmers Café, and Glenn’s Diner. You know what happens when four different places sell the same exact pie? That’s right, pricefest! We called up the contenders to find out which fillings they carry, and more importantly (not really), how much they charge for a slice. Turns out that each shop sells its slices for a different amount, with mark-ups ranging from 10% more than the wholesale price of a pie, divided into eight slices, to almost double that. Not quite a scandal, but still mildly interesting. Prepare yourself:
Dollop Coffee Co, in Uptown, usually has eight or nine different types of pie, including banana cream, lemon meringue, strawberry rhubarb and apple. Dollop is one of two retail locations where whole pies can be purchased for $18-$21, depending on the pie. Dollop sells its slices for $3.50 a pop, a 40% mark-up.
Metropolis Coffee, in Edgewater, sells slices for $3.75, or 50% up, and pies for price of eight slices. Today, they have strawberry rhubarb, chocolate pudding, lemon merengue, and apple.
Charmers Café, in Rogers Park, has apple, chocolate pudding and strawberry rhubarb (damn, everyone has strawberry rhubarb!) for $2.75 a slice. That’s really cheap! What else can you get for only 10% above wholesale that doesn’t come from Costco? A tremendous service to the community.
Glenn’s Diner, in Roscoe Village, is more of a real restaurant, and charges commensurately more for its pies. Slices of pecan or apple run $4.95 (98% over), and flourless chocolate pie tips the scales at $5.95 a slice. But that $5.95 is a bargain considering the price of the Venezuelan chocolate cake, which is what Hoosier Mama calls it (“a rich flourless chocolate cake made with Venezuelan chocolate prized for its complex floral character. It’s topped with a smooth Venezuelan chocolate ganache and sided with cacao nibs). An 8” cake goes for $30, while a 10” is $40 (a good deal, since it’s half again as large). Even if Glenn’s slice comes off the smaller cake, it’s still only 59% more than wholesale.
What does all of this mean? Not a lot, because none of the prices are that much for a good slice of pie. The mark-ups are influenced by any number of factors (rent, affluence of the customers, greed of the proprietor, etc) which are difficult to divine. We think the biggest determinant of where you should get your slice is which establishment has your filling of choice, for which you will need to call ahead.
[Photo: Hoosier Mama @ Fancy Food Show, courtesy of SuzanneK/flickr]