Like everyone else should be, we at Portland Monthly are obsessed with pie—but it’s also one of the most divisive desserts out there. “I don’t care for Key lime,” voiced news editor Julia Silverman at our staff pie tasting in anticipation of Pi Day on March 14. “Pie is for fruit," she continued, but only certain fruit. "Peach pie. Blueberry pie. Apple pie.” Wondered managing editor Margaret Seiler as she worriedly crunched: “Does this pie have ... too many nuts?” She’s an excellent pie baker in her own right; I’ve had the pleasure of trying her Derby pie, a Kentucky classic that mixes chocolate, pecans, and bourbon. Staff kid Max, 10, swerved to avoid the fruit pies and went straight for a mini s’mores pie, though after sampling, he confirms he’s still a cake kind of guy. After swelling our bellies with pies from nine different shops, we’ve ranked them all for you so you can beeline straight for the best. Note that some places also offer pie intermittently or make pies for special occasions like Thanksgiving; you can find that list here, but we're focusing on spots that offer pies year-round (though there's plenty of overlap with our Thanksgiving faves).
What started as a farmers market stand and then held down a corner of a downtown parking garage, this decade-old Division Street pie shop is a Portland classic, and for good reason. “I recognize that Lauretta Jean’s crimp right away,” said Seiler of the signature rustic, clearly handmade wide-crimped crust. No one does butter crust quite like baker and owner Kate McMillen; it’s deeply flavorful with a hint of salt, flaky and tender. Our clear winner of this tasting was the tart cherry pie, a double-crust wonder with a lattice top and whole cherries inside that pop satisfyingly in your mouth with a pucker. In the past, we’ve also adored Lauretta Jean's Key lime pie, an ideal balance of sour and sweet. And while it’s decadent for a bite or two, most of our tasters found the salted honey pie to be cloyingly sugary and rich—though I can get behind a slice with a cup of black coffee. (I’m not a fan of the blueberry Victoria, though, which combines blueberry filling with sponge cake and cream on top of pie crust. This pie-cake crossover is simply too bready.) We also love this pie shop for its sheer selection; shelves are filled with fruit pies and nut pies by the slice or whole, and a rotating case displays all the refrigerated pies. Nowhere else can you get this variety of pie, by the slice or whole, at this level of quality, especially at the last minute on a daily basis (except Tuesday, when the shop is closed). 3402 SE Division St
Rose City Park
We're just gonna come out and say it: Bakeshop makes the absolute best pies in Portland. The catch, and the reason we didn't get to sample any at our staff tasting on a Thursday: they’re only available Saturday and Sunday as of now. Last Thanksgiving, I fawned over a brown butter apple buckwheat streusel pie that was probably the best apple pie I’ve had in my life (sorry, Mom—yours is a close second!), with a salty, flaky crust, nutty buckwheat topping, and swoon-inducing, caramel-like butteriness. Past options have also included double-crust apple, pumpkin, rhubarb raspberry, and raspberry rhubarb with ginger oat streusel. Whole pies are available for preorder, though I’ve also lucked out on walk-in slices before. 5351 NE Sandy Blvd
What looks like a neighborhood coffee shop from the outside is also a stellar pie bakery inside. The most visually striking is the Key lime pie, with tiny piped stars of whipped cream marking proper-sized slices (a sixth of a pie, people!), thin wedges of fresh lime on each slice, a spiral of lime in the center, and zest rained over the top. The custardy filling is simultaneously creamy, bright, and sour, while the graham cracker crust is thick, snappy, and full of buttery flavor. Other options, untested as of this writing, include Oregon berry, butterscotch, apple, and pecan; while a few pies, whole and by the slice, are usually available daily for walk-ins, a number of other options can also be ordered in advance. 1339 NE Fremont St
This Hillsboro bakery produces a number of delightful desserts, though whole pies are limited for walk-in pick up, and no walk-in slices were available at the time of writing. The PoMo crew tried the Barbara pie, which blends chocolate and Oregon hazelnuts. We liked the crisp, buttery crust, but we weren’t huge fans of the pie as a whole. “The nuts are so crunchy that I'm too aware of having to chew them,” said Seiler. The requisite chewing made it more granola bar-like than pecan pie-like, though we appreciated that this pie wasn’t overly sweet. We didn't have one for our group tasting, but arts editor Conner Reed, who famously loves anything that resembles a lemon bar and whose parents live in Hillsboro, is a big fan of the lemon brûlée pie. Other order-ahead options include salted pecan, chocolate chess, salt and honey, and berry bomb (the only fresh fruit option on the regular menu)—though there’s also a pretty amazing looking Pi Day special Frankenstein pie that consists of six different slices squeezed into a single pie tin. 171 NE Third Ave, Hillsboro
No single variety of pie from Banning’s has blown us away, and there are issues throughout: the crust is a little too soft and blonde for our liking, and the flavors are a bit muted. This is a (formerly 24-hour) diner, though, and for diner pie—which is often plagued with starchy, gelatinous clear stuff and fake-tasting whip—it’s quite solid. The banana cream, Banning’s most famous offering, is like a not-too-sweet fluffy cloud of whipped cream and sliced bananas, while the Elvis pie (banana, peanut butter, chocolate) blends a salty, light peanut butter filling with a mild chocolate mousse and chocolate shavings on whipped cream. (Despite the presence of banana, which is technically a fruit, Silverman was not a fan.) The lemon meringue and berry pies are solid, if nothing to write home about, but the key here is the selection and availability; if you need slices or a whole pie at the last minute on any day of the week for as low as $20, Banning’s fits the bill. 11477 SW Pacific Hwy, Tigard
6. Pie Spot
Pie Spot gets major points for its constant selection of mini round pies (hence the name Pie Spot—they’re like little dots of dessert) available for all your last-minute pie needs, or for indecisive pie lovers among us. If you’re looking for a more traditional full-size pie, you can preorder those, too. But none of the pies have really done much for us—the crust is too soft with a lack of butter flavor, and many of the fillings, from the s’mores to the marionberry, are too sugary. (Strangely, the caramel-drizzled banana cream doesn’t fall into that trap, nor does this March’s special, coconut cream, which we solidly enjoyed.) Great for a quick pie fix, but doesn’t top the charts. 521 NE 24th Ave
This Woodstock bakery and café has a wide selection of unique pies available for preorder, from the cleverly named Blue Goose (blueberry and gooseberry) to the apple mincemeat to sweet potato. On our visit, only two mini pies, a cherry and a strawberry rhubarb, were available (apparently someone had swooped in and bought several just before us). We grabbed the strawberry rhubarb, a good-sized dessert for two, and liked the crispy, sugar-topped dome of buttery crust on top. The filling, meanwhile, struck that delicate balance between bitter rhubarb and sweet strawberry. In terms of pie quality alone, we’d score it high, but it loses a few spots in the ranking for its limited walk-in offerings. 6239 SE 52nd Ave
The crisp, golden crust here is a solid improvement over Banning’s, though it doesn’t have the flakiness or buttery depth of Lauretta Jean’s. But we were pleased with the whiskey apple pie, with firm chunks of lightly sweetened tart apple enhanced by a hint of bourbon. The blueberry pie was a bit sugary for our liking, and the chocolate hazelnut was unremarkable. The other downside: only slices were available on our visit, so whole pies should be ordered in advance. 1520 SE Seventh Ave
In service to our vegan readers (and our readers with vegan friends, and our own vegan staff), we also grabbed a slice of bumble berry peach pie (blueberry, raspberry, marionberry, peach), the only slice of vegan pie we could find anywhere that day, from Petunia’s Pies & Pastries. Despite its promising-looking fruit filling, the crust and crumb topping were such turn-offs that I called it quits after a single bite. Both had a sandy, powdery texture that dried out my mouth, with a chemical aftertaste and sickly sweetness. I know it’s not fair to stack Petunia’s against these butter and flour-filled competitors, and I imagine it's extremely difficult to make a pie that fits both dietary requirements. But I’ve had plenty of good vegan desserts, and our former intern Cami Hughes did a great round-up of gluten-free bakeries that included Petunia’s for its doughnuts and cupcakes (and she did enjoy the pie). We’ll certainly give Petunia’s more chances for its beautiful-looking cakes, but we draw the line at grainy and artificial-tasting—this pie just isn’t it. 610 SW 12th Ave
Note: For what it’s worth, editorial intern and vegan Michelle Harris is a fan of the vegan desserts at Sweetpea Baking Company (1205 SE Stark St), but she hasn’t yet sampled the bakery's pies. Sweetpea was sadly out of slices that day, though limited slices and occasionally whole pies are available for walk-ins.