Cheap Eats: Panbury's Double Crust Pies
Curb Market newcomer explores the savory side of pie
English cuisine has a bad rap. For years, Brits have endured insults and mockery for their spotted dick, their black puddings, their toads-in-the-hole. But one culinary epiphany for which we have the British to thank? Buttery, flaky pastries stuffed with savory stewed meats. In other words: meat pies. (Bless their liverwurst-loving hearts.) And that's what Panbury's Double-Crust Pies, newcomer to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, is all about. The counter-service pie stand was brought to life in mid-April by Lauren Duxbury and Adam Panayiotou, a pair of South African expats who grew up on a steady diet of meaty British pastries, a staple in the former English colony. The menu, however, draws influences from England and beyond, offering tastes from the American South, the Mediterranean, and even Asia — all packaged up in tidy hand-pie form.
EYES ON THE PIES: Panbury's looks conspicuously shiny and new in contrast to some of its more tenured neighbors. If you're coming in from the market's parking lot, head past Sweet Auburn Bakery and Arepa Mia, then look for the aqua-blue counter adjacent to the Edgewood Avenue front doors. (During lunch hours, you'll most likely spot a line of curious lunch-goers snaking around the counter, too.) The chalkboard menu includes about 10 savory pie options, including veggie options ($6-$7), beef ($6), and chicken pies ($6), plus a daily selection of bite-size mini pies ($2.50) and a seasonal dessert pie ($3).
TWICE AS NICE: The "double crust" in the shop's name refers to the two layers of dough encasing the whole pastry — a double-dose of the kitchen's buttery, golden crust recipe. The result is flaky, but still sturdy enough to pick up and eat with your hands. (Forks be damned!) Stuffed to the brim with filling, the pies are generously portioned: roughly the size and heft of a double cheeseburger, by unofficial calculations. If you don't want to ingest an entire pie, Panbury's also offers bite-size versions in the form of sage, onion, and Parmesan sausage rolls (95 cents for miniatures; $3 for large).
PIE WITH A PASSPORT: Traditionally, English pies are filled with hearty, slow-stewed fixins like stout-braised steak and black pepper stewed beef. While both of these staples are repped on Panbury's menu, the bakery also whips up several nontraditional varieties, reimagining the likes of Greek-inspired spinach and feta, Creole gumbo, and even Thai green curry into pie form. For vegetarians, a meat pie shop may not sound particularly inviting, but Panbury's menu offers a rotating selection of veggie options, including kale and mushroom, the spanakopita-esque spinach and feta, and a pie stuffed with Mediterranean roasted vegetables (also $6). Pairing your pie with a side of Panbury's mashed potatoes and gravy ($2) might seem like the right thing to do, but the almond-topped kale salad ($2.50), dressed in a tangy, sweet vinaigrette, actually gives some of the market's healthier merchants a run for their money.
THE SWEETER SIDE: While a few local pie places (think Pie Shop and the Pie Hole) are still riding out America's infatuation with vintage-style dessert pies, Panbury's is sticking mostly to the savory side of the menu. In contrast to about a dozen meat- and veggie-stuffed pies on the menu, the shop offers just one sweet offering daily — currently, an old-school apple hand-pie ($3), oozing with plump raisins, apple wedges, and syrup in a sugar-sprinkled golden crust. The only problem: After scarfing down an entire steak-stuffed pastry in one sitting, you may not have room.