Slices of heaven: where to find the best pie

What you do with your time sometimes isn’t as important as who you’re with, so even the most simple outing can turn into a memorable excursion. Please keep that in mind while lamenting a lack of money for your next getaway.

Consider Dave and Leslie Armstrong, who organize an annual Pie Run for their Mad City Vettes car club. Their job is to find a place that serves great pie and can accommodate about 50 people. The ride occurs in summer, and it does not need to be a complicated venture: Form a caravan, drive to the pie, eat, yak and go home.

Good weather would help turn this jaunt into a pleasant day away, but more important is the company we decide to keep. Spending big bucks on a fancy meal isn’t necessary. Maybe you can use pie as a reason to reunite family, college buddies or former co-workers.

The American Pie Council’s annual contests determine who makes the best pie in the nation. Go to to see enough pie categories to make your stomach swell.

Among the 2008 winners: Lake Geneva Pie Company (150 E. Geneva Square, Lake Geneva,, 262-248-5100) whose blueberry pie and natural (as in no-sugar-added) apple pie were tops in two of the 130-some categories for commercial enterprises. This year’s competition commences in late April in Florida.

Where else should you head for an exceptional slice in Wisconsin? Dangerous question, because you likely already have your favorites. See if they make this list.

Upper Krust Pie Shop, 1300 Memorial Dr., Watertown – Sweet to savory, enough choices to make a full meal., 920-206-9202.

Burnstads European Café, 701 E. Clifton St., Tomah – Part of a retail “village” with an unusual European flair., 888-378-5985.

Gina’s Pies are Square, 400 Main St., Wilton – A beautiful drive through southwest Wisconsin, to a small town where some pie choices are unusual (baking sugar cream, shoefly, oatmeal stout) and slices are served as squares. Call first; business hours are shorter until the weather warms and Elroy-Sparta bike trail business picks up. 608-435-6541.

Northwoods Brew Pub, 3560 Oakwood Mall Dr., Eau Claire – Providing an odd but good combo: beer brewed on the premises and gorgeous pies of Norske Nook (Osseo, Rice Lake, Hayward) fame., 715-552-0510.

Norske Nook, 13804 Seventh St., Osseo – Pies routinely win national awards (Butterfinger Pie topped the candy cream category in 2008). Slices are obscenely, thick with your choice of berries/filling/meringue/cream. Norwegian lefse, meatball dinners and – for some – lutefisk are other reasons to visit., 800-294-6665.

Elegant Farmer, 1545 Main St., Mukwonago – Go during warm weather, so you all can find room to eat pie outdoors. The interior is an intimate market with many food samples. Known for apple pie baked in a paper bag, which the Wall Street Journal called “the best pie in the world.” Not really a restaurant/café, so bring your own utensils/paper plates to cut/serve what you buy., 262-363-6771.

Hubbard Avenue Diner, 7445 Hubbard Ave., Middleton – Excellent, fat pie slices are customary at this Food Fight restaurant, which has room enough to accommodate a crowd. For more intimate confines, head to Monty’s Blue Plate Diner, 2089 Atwood Ave., Madison., 608-235-7437, 608-244-8505.

Sweetie Pies, 9106 Hwy. 42, Fish Creek – I haven’t indulged here, but Rachael Ray includes the pecan pie on her list of top 10 pies in the U.S. Typically open on only Saturday, Sunday and Monday during winter., 877-868-2744.

What else makes Rachael’s list? The winner was the sour cream apple walnut, made by Manhattan-based Little Pie Company. Yes, you can order by phone:, 877-872-7437. How much? Ahem … $65, plus at least $10 for shipping.