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HOLY HAND PIES, BATMAN: Flying Pi brings new meaning to the words “feel good food”

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The Flying Pi nails it on good, comforting savory and sweet hand pies and stuffed foods!

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Today I considered making love to a sandwich. Wait, I take that back. It was more of a savory-filled yeast roll.

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS: The Flying Pi’s breakfast sandwich layers tart apples, sweet potato rounds, cream cheese, and crispy bacon between toasted cinnamon-raisin toast. Photo by Holland Dotts Photography

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS: The Flying Pi’s breakfast sandwich layers tart apples, sweet potato rounds, cream cheese, and crispy bacon between toasted cinnamon-raisin toast. Photo by Holland Dotts Photography

Have you ever gazed into the window of Flying Pi on a weekend morning and wondered why the space was dark and empty? I have. When this quaint café first opened in my beloved NOFO neighborhood six years back, I was over the moon. I studied their menu and couldn’t wait to get my paws on some scratchmade cinnamon rolls and locally brewed coffee. Flying Pi screamed “Sunday morning spot,” but their hours didn’t quite match my expectations. The establishment, unlike most restaurants, closes for the weekend. Yep, I thought it was odd, too, but after one bite of their irresistible stuffed hand pies, it’s immediately apparent this badass business can do whatever it wants. Additionally, emphasized on Flying Pi’s menu: family comes first. Gotta appreciate a place that doesn’t let persuasion of profit get in the way of real-life loved ones.

Flying Pi is the beautiful brainchild of California-bred Carolyn Atkinson and her business partner, Kathleen Colton. This cozy eatery is far more than a traditional bakery serving up cakes and pies. Their unique, handcrafted menu expands from Southern-spun breakfast goodies, like melt-in-your-mouth grits to vegetarian-inspired lunch staples, and so much more—like Thursday’s fan-favorite butternut squash enchiladas. As for soups, salads and other specials: Check the chalkboard. Flying Pi keeps it fresh daily with locally sourced and rotating menu items. Years ago, I once asked Carolyn from where her inventive recipes came. She shot me a coy smile, a wink and pointed to her head.

God, I love this place.

First up: the Pi special breakfast sandwich. It’s an eclectic creation of layered sliced tart apples, thin, sweet potato rounds, cream cheese, and perfectly crisped bacon, between two toasted slices of glorious cinnamon-raisin toast. Every ingredient makes the other taste better. A mouthful of sweet, cinnamon-scented bread and bacon all in one bite is reminiscent of heavenly French toast. The sweet potatoes add an unexpected earthy flavor, while the cream cheese ties it into a luscious and rich bite. I really freakin’ like it!

A section on the menu, called “Very Special Treats,” features all the goodies! Flying Pi’s cinnamon rolls are baked from Carolyn’s grandmother’s recipe and tastes, well, like childhood. Plump raisins and a perfect amount of sugary icing top them.

The muffin, described on the menu as being an entire meal in itself, is overblown with blueberries, apples and chia seeds. Thanks to hints of nutmeg and carrot, it reminds me of my favorite Morning Glory Muffin from Whole Foods. The bran gives it an oaty, healthy flavor, so I didn’t feel like I was eating something shaped like a cupcake. (Muffins have no calories, right? More carbs, please.)

Yes, I’ve frequented Flying Pi on many occasions, but never have tasted their famous hand pies, indicative in their name. I candidly declare the savory nuggets are the epitome of comfort food. These decadent dough balls are house-made yeast bread wrapped around a fresh filling. My choice: cheeseburger or Reuben? The friendly cashier steered me toward the Reuben. Mid-mouthful, I suddenly wondered how I would describe such a special experience:

Imagine a buttery, golden-brown Kaiser roll stuffed with magic and topped with Caraway seeds. Cutting through the crisp exterior of the roll, inside, a fluffy white, yeasty dough surrounds a magnificent entanglement of salty, shredded corned beef, crunchy sauerkraut and tangy Russian dressing. The Caraway seeds make each bite pop with a hint of Rye-bread zing.

If anyone were to come home after a night of drinking and find one of these hand pies in the fridge, beware. Likely, it only takes one bite to make anyone fly.

Although indulgent treats are tempting, Flying Pi offers nutritious options as well. As a matter of fact, they have one of my favorite tuna salads in town. Just a scoop will do—but feel free to order it as a melt, sandwich or wrap. It is loaded with oniony chives, fresh fragrant dill and crunchy celery. The menu describes the chicken salad as memorable, but I say the tuna takes the cake—err, or pie.

The chicken salad wrap tends to get a little lost under the flatbread. On its own, it has similar seasonings to the tuna, but it’s not as vibrant a flavor, though light and refreshing. Alongside my wrap, their signature salad, a kale and apple slaw is wholesomely addictive. The typically-brittle kale leaves are softened and sweetened by an exceptionally light red-wine vinaigrette. It boasts a ton of textures, like sunflower seeds, apple chunks and tart cranberries.

It’s Flying Pi, after all, so let’s get to slicing. Diners should prepare for indecision, as each flavor in the case deserves a round of applause. Eeenie, meenie, miney, sweet and salty. Honey sea salt caramel pie completes me! All. Day. Long. This three-tiered delight has a buttery crumb crust, a smooth layer of whatever dreams are made out of, and a dark caramel-like top, sprinkled with flaky sea salt.

If you’re human, you will leave with a smile on your face and crumbs in your hair.

Flying Pi Kitchen
402 Chestnut St.
(910) 509-2739
Mon.-Fri.: 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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