We drove five hours out of our way to eat pie for breakfast in Pie Town, New Mexico.
That’s right: instead of driving one hour from our starting point in Socorro to our destination, Albuquerque, we spent an extra half a day in the car just to eat pie for breakfast. Our decision begets a few questions: are we crazy? Couldn’t we find more conveniently located pie along our route? Was it worth it? The answer to all three questions is, of course, yes—and they were all factors in how Pie Town became a breakfast destination, an educational session, and a new favorite experience in one single morning.The reason this small town was added to our recent road trip itinerary was all thanks to my mother. Just a few years ago, while chatting about places on our bucket lists, my mom nonchalantly said, “I want to visit Pie Town.”
“What is Pie Town?” I asked, assuming it was the cute name of a new local bakery.
“It’s a town in New Mexico. All they sell is pie. It’s just a town for pie,” she said. I slid my sunglasses down my nose to be sure I could make eye contact with her; my next question was important.
“Are you lying to me?” I asked. She shook her head vigorously. I pressed on. “Are you sure you didn’t make this up? Are you positive this is a real place and not some wonderful dream you had?” She shook her head again. “I saw a segment about it on CBS Sunday Morning.”
Her source checked out; sure enough, I found a clip of the TV show she saw, and within just a few moments Pie Town vaulted toward the top of my bucket list, too.
What Is Pie Town?Pie Town’s delicious history dates back almost a century, and a variety of pie shops have kept the very tiny town in business on and off since its first bakery produced a highly-demanded New Mexico apple pie in the 1920s. With a population of less than 200 people, the town is centered around three pie-focused establishments: the Pie-O-Neer, the Pie Town Café, and the Gatherin’ Place. These restaurants—and specifically their pies—draw in curious tourists eager for a tasty dessert to fuel their travels.
Like some of the best places in the United States, Pie Town has a bit of a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it feel. We almost missed the Pie Town sign that juts 20 feet into the air; its faded paint almost blends into the red sand and blue sky that envelop the land around it. The restaurants, though, are easy to spot: heading toward the west we approached the Pie-O-Neer first, which is a quick walk from the Gatherin’ Place just a few hundred yards away. A little further down the road is the Pie Town Café, whose sign at the edge of town reminds you to, “Turn back for pie!”—just in case you somehow haven’t had your fill yet.
How Do You Get to Pie Town?Located on Route 60 and many miles from almost anything of consequence, the location isn’t really a place you stumble upon. Most visitors seem to specifically seek it out just like we did.
Pie Town is 90 minutes away from Socorro, two-and-a-half hours from Albuquerque, four hours away from El Paso, and five-and-a-half hours from Tucson, Arizona. For travelers exploring the Continental Divide Trail, which runs 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico, the location is really convenient—it’s just a few miles off the trail.
Just because Pie Town isn’t within a short drive of a major metropolis doesn’t push it completely from travelers’ radars, though. While eating pie at the Gatherin’ Place, I noticed a big wall map with hundreds of push pins scattered across it. As Rose, one of the terrific women who keep the Gatherin’ Place so well run, refilled my coffee, she said each pin denotes the hometown of a Pie Town visitor—from 2018 alone. With every US state and dozens of countries represented, it seems we aren’t the only ones who plan pie-focused road trips!
Which Pie Town Restaurant Should You Try?
Although each restaurant knows their pies are the best, there’s no real competition in Pie Town. The local proprietors know each other and like each other, and besides, there’s something about sitting around a table sharing bites of pie that will create a community out of any group. When you visit Pie Town, you can’t go wrong.
Before your plan a visit, it’s a good idea to know when you are going to arrive. Although there are three restaurants, they are not always open at the same time. After glancing through the information we could find, it seems the Pie-O-Neer’s website summed it up best: “Pie people have a way of making their own hours…” Because our visit to Pie Town was entwined with a carefully constructed road trip itinerary, only one restaurant was open when we arrived—and we knew it would surpass our expectations before we even made it through the door.The Gatherin’ Place welcomed us before we were fully out of the car. A kind gentleman standing on the covered porch welcomed us, tipping his hat as we walked by. Inside, before we sat down, we were given a thorough overview of the available pies in the glass case and recommendations about which ones to try. Although we intended to eat breakfast before our dessert, we selected the pies first. Rose told us, “If the pie is in the case it’s anyone’s to claim, but once it’s on the table it’s yours to defend.”
The Gatherin’ Place might be in Pie Town, making it famous for its pies, but breakfast was truly memorable. Everything on the menu is made to order, which meant my breakfast burrito was chock full of all of my favorites- eggs, potatoes, Hatch green chiles, onions, and sausage. I didn’t intend to finish my entire meal (after all, pie was waiting!), but the burrito was too good to leave anything behind. Looking at the clean plates around the table, I was not alone in my thinking.
Of course, that didn’t deter us from digging into the small army of pies we had chosen to sample.
The Gatherin’ Place doesn’t sell slices, but they do sell small pies that are flavorful and filling for a single serving—although none of us could have eaten an entire pie in one sitting. We chose five pies to try: blueberry butterscotch, coconut buttermilk, chocolate buttermilk, dark chocolate cherry, and almond joy. To ask which pie was the “best” or the “favorite” would be impossible, at least in part because they were all so good. The blueberry butterscotch pie was brimming with sweet berries, and the coconut buttermilk and chocolate buttermilk pies were perfectly balanced and creamy. As a cherry pie fan, the dark chocolate cherry pie took one of my favorites and kicked it up a notch with the richness of the chocolate, and the almond joy pie—a customer favorite—was the first of the pies to be completely consumed by the four of us. The Gatherin’ Place makes dozens of pies representing the spectrum of flavor combinations, and whether you prefer sweet or savory there was something for everyone in the pie case.
Why Should You Visit Pie Town?
Why should you plan a trip to a tiny town far from most other destinations with just three pie shops? Well, the pie is one good reason. But the people are another. As we paid our bill, fellow staff member Pam let us know that we should call ahead the next time our travels take us through Pie Town. “If you let us know you’re coming, we’ll make your favorite pie and save it for you,” she told us. “And don’t worry if you’re going to be late—we’ll stay open if we know you’re on your way.”
Of all the places we have traveled, we’ve never been received quite so warmly—or encouraged to return with such openness. I have no doubt that, when our travels return us to Pie Town, Pam and Rose and the rest of the team at The Gatherin’ Place will be excited to have us stop by—with our requested-in-advance pies waiting for us. We left Pie Town with a bag full of leftovers (which were greedily consumed over the course of the next two days) and a lingering feeling of joy that comes from meeting good people and getting to know them over good food. By the time we left, we had heard stories about Pam’s and Rose’s families and shared some of our own tales with them. The pie experience fed us, but the human connection fed our souls. Meeting new people sustains us as travelers; they enliven our journeys and help us to learn and grow in ways only great conversations can. Pie Town represents an incredible slice of Americana, a look back at when the United States was almost entirely comprised of individuals and families traveling throughout the country as they moved further west, passing through communities and bonding with people over coffee and pie just like we did.
Visit Pie Town for great pie. Visit just to say you went there, or because you also saw it on CBS Sunday Morning like my mom did, or because your journey took you along Route 60 or along the Continental Divide Trail. But also visit for the small-town experience and to meet some wonderful, friendly people who represent what it means to be welcoming.
But at the very least, visit for great pie.
The USA has a lot of interesting places off the major tourist paths. Explore a few more through these articles!
* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. This post includes our candid review of our experience in Pie Town, New Mexico. We selected these locations based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review. Learn more about our travel philosophy here.