Pie Town History
The town got its name during the Dust Bowl era, when mining claims were available in the area. A man by the name of Clyde Norman opened a general store here to serve the fortune seekers, and eventually started to peddle pies filled with dried apples.
These were a hit, apparently, but it probably wasn’t popular demand that led to the town’s name. It was more likely the fact that one of the co-owners of the general store, and no slouch in the marketing department, was also the fellow to apply to the U.S. government for a post office. He suggested the name “Pie Town,” and legend has it that the good ol’ P.O. thought the name ridiculous at first. But as the huge number of places with ridiculous names1 in the United States indicates, the Post Office wasn’t much of a stickler for dignity.
Hence, Pie Town, New Mexico, a place that every lover of desserts should visit at least once. And if you love pie and history, this place is a double winner as a destination. During the Great Depression, photographer Russell Lee chronicled homesteading life here on assignment for the Farm Security Administration. You can read a Smithsonian Magazine2 story about Lee, his photographs and, yes, pie. You can also scroll through Lee’s evocative silver gelatin photos here3.
Pie Town Today: the Pie-O-Neer Cafe
The original trading post is no more — the highway itself has been moved — and several businesses have come and gone that have sold pie. Visitors today can find their pie fix at the Pie-O-Neer Cafe4, under its current ownership since 1994.
It’s a cheerfully friendly restaurant, serving a simple but satisfying lunch, so you can pretend that you didn’t just come all this distance just to eat pie. These are arrayed on a rack towards the back of the restaurant. Available flavors vary — on the day of my visit, there was a chocolate chess, a cherry, an Almond Joy, a sweet potato and pecan oat. A slice will run you $4.95, a la mode is an additional $1.50. And it should be said that after such a long trip, it’s not uncommon to pick up a whole pie to take home for $24.95.
Now let’s be honest, in places that are named for a foodstuff, the highlighted food in question is often not very good — something about the tourist trade acts as a drag on quality. But in this case, I’m happy to report, the pie in Pie Town is actually really, really good. The crust is perfectly light and flaky and the filling is not cloyingly sweet, which is handy since you’ll have quite a drive ahead of you to get back to virtually anywhere. Be sure to have a cup of coffee with that pie.
Speaking of the distance, you will absolutely want to call to verify that the cafe is open before you start the trip. Regular hours are Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., but there are exceptions. The phone number is (575)772-2711.
True pie aficionados will want to time their visit to coincide with the annual Pie Town Annual Pie Festival5. It’s held on the second Saturday of September, and includes a pie baking contest, a pie auction, a raffle and a barbecue.