Some people travel for adventure. I travel for pie — or at least I plan my road trips around it. There’s something about stopping at a roadside cafe for a gooey piece of pie (preferably apple) with crumbs on top and ice cream on the side. It’s a reward for miles traveled or trails hiked.
There are lots of places to stop along Arizona’s many highways and byways. In my travels, I’ve found three places known for pie that have never left me disappointed.
ROCK SPRINGS CAFE
Scottsdale resident Karen Harrison is cradling a white box in her arms, and she’s a little embarrassed.
“I came for the first time yesterday and bought a (Jack Daniel’s) pecan pie and an apple pie, and they were outstanding,” says Harrison. “I came today for the chocolate. It’s just funny because I’ve only been here twice in my life, and that was yesterday and today.”
Rock Springs Cafe has that effect on people. Travelers from the East Valley and other parts of the state tend to plan their trips around a stop at this restaurant, which has been serving homemade pies for 23 years.
“This is a true crossroads,” says Rick Hamilton, the cafe’s manager. “We get people from all over the world.”
Penny Cooley, the woman responsible for the pies, arrives at 3 a.m. each morning to bake assortments of 15 pies (cream pies are only served on the weekends). Each year the cafe sells about 60,000 pies — not counting the slices sold in the restaurant — and the Jack Daniel’s pecan is by far the biggest seller, Hamilton says.
“She makes them from scratch,” says Judi Clewett, who with her daughter, Debra Rury, sells pies behind a vintage counter. “I work on Friday mornings just so I can taste the drippings coming off the crust.”
Details: 35769 S. Old Black Canyon Highway, Rock Springs. Take Interstate 17 north to Exit 242 and turn left. The cafe is on the west side of the highway. $12.95 for cream pies, $11.95 for fruit pies or $3.50 per slice. (623) 374-5794 or www.rockspringscafe.com.
PINE COUNTRY RESTAURANT
Walk into the Pine Country Restaurant and you’ll be immediately drawn to the left, where the pie case sits.
“ ‘Inundated with delicious decadence,’ ‘beautiful smile high,’ people have called them a little of everything,” says Karen Brooks, the restaurant’s manager.
The 47 flavors include cherry, apple and peach, double butterscotch, double chocolate and Hawaiian delight (peaches, pineapple and apple in a whipped-cream concoction).
“Sometimes it takes minutes for people to look through the list,” says Brooks. “By the time they’re through (reading the list), that pie might be already gone.”
The restaurant is across the street from the Grand Canyon Railway depot. Travelers on their way to the canyon or Flagstaff stop in for a piece of pie or to shop for crafts made by local artists. Details: 107 N. Grand Canyon Blvd., Williams. Open 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Whole pies start at $14.99, slices are $3.79 each. (928) 635-9718 or (928) 635-4568 or http://williamschamber.com.
STRAWBERRY LODGE RESTAURANT
Last summer I discovered the cool, clear waters of Fossil Creek … and the cherry pie at the Strawberry Lodge Restaurant.
Right at the corner of Fossil Creek Road and state Highway 87, the restaurant is a logical stop on the way back to the East Valley.
The pie recipes were handed down from the original owner Jean Turner, who recently passed away at the age of 89. The restaurant is actually known for the strawberry pie, which comes into season at the end of March and has been on the menu since the 1950s.
“We get a lot of people stopping from Phoenix who come for the pie,” said Jan Marnell, the restaurant’s owner since 2003.
Details: 8039 W. Fossil Creek Road, Strawberry. Take state Highway 87 north to Strawberry. The restaurant is on the corner of Highway 87 and Fossil Creek Road. $3.95 per slice a la mode. (928) 476-3333 or www.strawberrylodge.net.