In honor of the 4th of July, we decided to go with an all-American battle this week and nothing is more American than a thick slice of homemade apple pie. (Except maybe for ribs, or hot dogs, or potato salad).
And who else would we turn to for an all-American apple pie battle? Arizona's most popular pie maker, Rock Springs Cafe and Chow Bella's Pie Social 2012 winner for best presentation, Urban Beans.
Can a little Downtown Phoenix coffee shop take down what some Arizonans consider "the best pie ever"? We're about to find out.
In This Corner: Rock Springs Cafe & Saloon
The Set Up: Just north of the Maricopa County border off the I-17 sits the almost century-old Rock Springs General Store. The cafe and saloon that flank the store are both dark and rustic with lots of dark wood and ol' timey garb. The general store offers whole pies to go and the cafe serves up homestyle meals and pie by the slice to weary travelers and tourists.
The Good: This is one pretty pie. Our double-crust apple pie was as fresh as can be. So fresh that it was still cooling in the back when we arrived at our pie destination (or so we were told). The golden crust was filled with fruit in a cinnamon glaze. It looked awesome.
The Bad: Looks can be deceiving. This pie filling tasted like it came from a can. It was saccharin sweet and lacked the proper amount of cinnamon or any other spice. The crust had a bitter aftertaste and didn't have that nice flake we were expecting. Plus, trying to get it out of the pan was a nightmare.
In The Other Corner: Urban Beans
The Set Up: This Downtown Phoenix coffee shop is much more than your typical java hut. The sleek space features rotating art installations, cozy tables, beer taps, wine bottles, and a mouthwatering pastry case filled with pies, quiches, and scones.
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The Good: Now this is a slice of pie! Thick cut crisp apples were loaded with cinnamon and spices and piled high into Urban Beans flaky sugar topped crust. We couldn't quite put our finger on it, but the filling almost had a smokiness to it that gave it a unique flavor. The sugar topped crust added just a hint of sweetness to flavorful pie and it looked pretty on the plate.
The Bad: The thick edge of the crust was slightly under baked. Tasty, but definitely could have used a little more time in the oven. (For the record, I love it when the pie crust isn't quite done but I figured I should mention this for those of you who don't.)
The Verdict: There is absolutely no need to drive to the outskirts of town for good pie. We're well aware that some of you have been eating Rock Springs pie for decades but you might want to expand your pie horizons. Urban Beans' pie was right on the money with flavor and crust texture. No canned taste, just spicy apple goodness. It doesn't taste like "mom used to make" and we're fine with that.