To me, summer food means eating simply: Fresh ingredients, minimal cooking and an unfussy atmosphere. Picnics, barbeques and alfresco dining reign supreme although in New York with limited outdoor space, this version of eating can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth. Enter Pies ‘n’ Thighs, a Brooklyn southern cooking spot that is about as close as you can get to picnicking without actually sitting on a blanket in Central Park.
After being shutdown by the Department of Health in 2008, fans of this fried chicken and pie joint feared that the owners Sarah Buck, Carolyn Bane and Erika Geldzahler would decide to remain closed. But reopen they did, moving from a somewhat dingy spot under the Williamsburg Bridge to a neat little storefront on the South Side of Williamsburg last spring.
The new location is on a fairly unassuming block but you can easily spot it by the crowds gathered in the front waiting for a table or for their takeout orders. My group visited on a Thursday night at 9pm and still had to wait 30 minutes for a table—needless to say this place is perennially packed.
There is a small outdoor seating area but because of recent soaring temps, we opted to sit in the red and white painted dining room complete with mismatched furniture and vintage knickknacks. The drink menu is limited to wine and beer and includes some nifty concoctions like a Michelada with Pacifico beer, hot sauce and lime juice and refreshing wine coolers in which white wine is mixed with watermelon, cherry mint or cucumber juice and poured over ice.
The dinner menu is short and to the sweet with Carolina-style BBQ choices like beef brisket, pulled pork sandwiches and fried catfish but what the real reason that people are clamoring to get in is for a taste of the restaurants succulent fried chicken. The Fried Chicken Box sets you up with three large pieces of thighs and drumsticks, one side and a house-made biscuit. The chicken was super moist and encased in a crunchy and well-seasoned crust and the biscuit—which I recommend drizzled with honey—was flaky and delicious. Trying to mix it up, my dining companions sampled each of the fried chicken sandwiches on the menu. Both the Chicken Sammy topped with avocado, bacon, pepperjack cheese and ranch sauce and the Chicken Biscuit with honey butter and hot sauce were a bit dryer than my fried chicken pieces so perhaps it’s best to stick with what the restaurant does best.
Like any good soul food restaurant, sides are definitely not just an afterthought. A plentiful order of crispy hush puppies came topped with homemade tarter sauce filled with large chunks of pickles and our black eyed pea salad was not particularly spicy as advertised but was a light accompaniment to our fried meals. The mac and cheese was a fairly traditional version and although the sauce was a bit runny for my taste, the cheese sauce had a great cheddar flavor and came with a drizzle of hot sauce on top.
Make sure you save room for desert because as the restaurant’s name implies, Buck’s baked goods are definitely worth saving room for. The standard selection includes classics like banana cream, deep fried apple and s’mores pie with rotating specials including blueberry on the night we visited. After much deliberation, we decided on chocolate pudding pie and apple cheddar slices.
The chocolate pie was not quite the consistency of pudding pies that I remember from my childhood. This was more like chocolate ganache pie but the flavors were spot on: rich dark chocolate, oreo pieces on top and a thick layer of whipped cream.
The apple cheddar pie is classic apple pie recipe with a flaky, buttery crust and sweet filling and came complete with a slice of cheddar cheese underneath. We all agreed that the cheddar would have been put to better use had it been melted on top of the pie instead of resting underneath but fans of the sweet and salty flavor combination will appreciate the fusion.
Pies `n’ Thighs
166 S. 4th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn