Love blueberry pie? Find pie nirvana at the Quietside Cafe in Southwest Harbor, Maine.
by Bakery Boy
Like many people, I went to coastal Maine to eat lobster and didn’t know until I got there that I’d also entered blueberry-pie-lovers’ heaven. And like a hungry bear that wanders into town, I gorged on both delicacies during a blissful summer visit several years ago. The memory still lingers. My personal benchmark for terrific lobster and transcendent blueberry pie remains Mount Desert Island, home of the rugged Acadia National Park, the famous port town of Bar Harbor, and the lesser-known fishing village of Southwest Harbor, where I believe I achieved pie nirvana.
More recently (this summer) my friend Teresa vacationed in Maine with her husband and son and confirmed that it remains a sort of Paradise, Elysian Fields, Valhalla, Shangri-La, Avalon, and Kingdom Come of pie. A loyal follower of the Bakery Boy Blog, Teresa returned home to Alabama raving about those pies.
“At the Quietside Café in Southwest Harbor we ate terrific blueberry pie that was at least four inches high in the center,” she said. “I’ve never seen a fruit pie that huge! They had a good-looking chocolate pie and some other pies too, but we were on a blueberry pie quest and didn’t try anything else, though now I wish we had. At another restaurant, The Captains Galley at Beal’s Lobster Pier, we found blueberry pie made from the same small but really sweet berries that grow in Maine. The crusts at both were slightly sweet and insanely flaky. Those two places—less than a mile apart—serve two of the best pies I’ve ever eaten. They really know how to make ’em up there!”
Now I know two things: One, Maine still holds a deservedly pie-and-mighty place in the universe of pie. Two, I should get back there as soon as possible. Make that three: I have a fresh excuse to call Downeast Maine pie makers and chat.
FRANCES REED, PIE QUEEN After just three rings I got an answer and asked, May I speak to whoever makes those great blueberry pies at the Quietside Café please?
“That’s me,” said Frances Reed, the perky Pie Queen of Downeast Maine, in an accent that recalls her West African roots rather than her husband Ralph Reed’s hometown of Tremont, a hamlet a few miles down the road from the café they own together.”
It’s a pleasure to meet you Frances. What is it about your pies that makes people rave about them?
“The berries have a lot to do with it,” Frances said. “Blueberries grown here in Maine are small but very sweet. They’re loaded with natural sugar so you don’t have to add much processed sugar. You can really taste the difference. We order berries from local growers about four times a week to keep a fresh supply coming.”
And the impressive height of your pies, how do you achieve that?
“For one thing, I use a lot of filling, at least seven cups of blueberries in each 10-inch pie. To keep it from spilling out as it bakes, the crust has to be pinched tight along the edge.”
A good crust is key to any successful pie. What’s your secret?
“It’s just that—a secret! I’ll tell you this, I make it fresh every day. Pastry dough for pie has to be fresh to work right.”
But the price is no secret, right?
“A slice is $5.75. Served with ice cream, $6.75. A whole pie, $27. About two year ago we started shipping pies all over the country to people who just had to have them, even though the mailing cost is $138 to send two pies overnight in a refrigerated box!”
What other pies to you make?
“Apple pie is another big seller in summer, the busy season here. In fall we make pecan, pumpkin, and sweet potato pies too. We also bake brownies and cookies. We’re closed from partway through November to partway through April, when it’s cold and rainy here and fewer people visit.”
You don’t sound like you’re from Maine.
“I was born in Ghana in West Africa and grew up there, went to school in London, and lived in Germany for many years. I married Ralph 25 years ago—it’s our anniversary this month—while he was in the U.S. Army. He was in the service for 25 years and then we moved here to his home area. We’ve owned Quietside Café for 14 years.”
What else does the Quietside serve?
“Lobster, crab, pizza, burgers, chowder, soups, sandwiches, salads, ice cream. It’s a small place with six tables and a counter inside, plus five picnic tables and a row of stools outside. In summer the line to get in is pretty long. Just about everyone finishes with pie. I probably make 50 to 60 pies every day.”
Are you having fun?
“Oh yes! We work hard, but we have a great time. Ralph is here with me and our two daughters practically grew up in the café. Ebony is now an Airman Second Class in the U.S. Air Force, working in logistics, and Marlena is an Army ROTC Cadet.”
What do they want most when they come home?
“Pie, of course!”
WHERE Quietside Café, 360 Main Street, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 (14 miles southwest of Bar Harbor through the scenic Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island)
WHEN Open most days 11 a.m.-10 p.m. from late April through mid-November (all subject to change)
INFO Call 207-244-9444 or click here for the Quietside Café’s Facebook Page
AREA INFO Get more from National Park Acadia (a commercial site maintained by Downeast Directions, not the actual National Park’s site); from Captain D’s Ports Downeast; and from the Maine Office of Tourism (call 1-888-624-6345)
HONORABLE MENTION According to my pie-questing pal Teresa, the blueberry pie at The Captains Galley at Beal’s Lobster Pier, three-quarters of a mile from Quietside Café, is also among the best on pie-intensive Mount Desert Island, which we’ve taken to calling Mount Dessert Island for good reason. I missed reaching the owners because they’d already closed and headed south for the winter. My suggestion: Try pie at both places—and any others you find in the area—then decide for yourself.
SHARE YOUR FAVORITE PIE? If you’ve found nirvana-inducing pie in Maine or anywhere else, leave a comment below and share the details with the Bakery Boy Blog.