This article was originally published in LOCALE Magazine.
Co-owners Steven Torres and Gan Suebsarakham debuted highly-anticipated Pop Pie Co. with a sold out grand opening last Saturday in University Heights. San Diego’s first exclusive pie shop – and 2016 Food Quart champion – specializes in individual-sized sweet and savory pies – with flavors ranging from green chili pork to classic chicken to a vegan jackfruit option.
Pop Pie Co. will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner options, along with a full espresso bar, a curated wine list and craft beer on tap.
LOCALE Magazine sat down with coffee connoisseur, brains behind the business and co-owner, Steven Torres, to get an inside peek at the new University Heights eatery.
Q: What was the inspiration behind a pie-focused eatery?
Steven Torres: It all went back to our chef [and co-owner] Gan’s training in pastry and the fact that there is a serious lack for exposure for pie in the States. It’s more about the holidays here. We just thought we can make better, delicious pies. We can use his set of skills to come up with innovative flavors – we have a Green Curry Chicken Pie, for example. We also stick to the classic pies as well.
Q: What are the pie flavors inspired by?
ST: We like to put out flavors that are refreshing, new, and delicious. At the end of the day, we like to test the limits of what we can put into a pie.
Q: What are your favorites on the menu?
ST: My favorite right now is the classic chicken—it’s just a classic. We use all-white breast meat, and it’s more herbaceous. Right now, I’m also on the Steak & Ale. It’s got beef, barley, butter beans, mushrooms and a dark ale sauce. On the sweet side, I’d say Coconut Cream. It’s Gan’s take on the classic. He took out the American gritty, shredded coconut and uses young coconut meat. It’s super tender and the texture…it’s killer. It’s all with coconut milk in the pasty crème. I also love our Apple Crumble too – super classic.
Q: Are there any beer and wine pairings with specific pies you recommend?
ST: At our grand opening, we’re doing a few beer pairings. One is Modern Times Blackhouse Oatmeal Coffee Stout with the Coconut Cream. We are doing Thorn St. Brewery Stranger Things IIPA with our Green Hog and Cheese. The pie has chili flavors, and it goes well with the refreshing taste of the IIPA. We also have Modern Times Roots of Coincidence. We’re pairing that with our classic chicken pot pie. The herbaceousness of the pie will balance the pale ale.
Q: Why did you pick University Heights for your location?
ST: It’s a community. Everyone knows each other. It’s a good neighborhood – a mixture of young, up-and-coming people, young families and the older, original University Heights people.
Q: I understand you’re a coffee connoisseur. What roasters are you featuring?
ST: We want to treat coffee as a specialty good. We chose James Coffee Co. because they’re all about the quality. We also feature Bird Rock – it’s a San Diego staple and another quality roaster. We carry more of their specialty coffees, not just their house blends. They’re offered other places, and we want to be different. Our third roaster is Heart Coffee Roasters from Portland. The reason we chose an out-of-town roaster is to have something different to offer our consumers.
Q: What inspired the unique design of the space? Pop Pie Co.
ST: We like the clean black and white look. Pie is new to people here. We wanted them to have the perfect introduction – the crust, the fillings, and the space.
Q: What’s the secret to the flaky, buttery crust? Pop Pie Co.
ST: It took us awhile to find the right balance. We went on a pie tour and tasted what other people were doing and came back to the drawing table. What did we like? What didn’t we like? We wanted to really break it down – how much sugar, salt, butter and the way it’s handled. That’s as much as I can say!
Q: What do you want guests to leave Pop Pie with? Pop Pie Co.
ST: We want guests to find the appreciation for the pot pie. It’s everyday life in many other countries. We want it to be the same here. We want to give customers the perfect experience – the space, the food, the friendly service.\