A great pumpkin pie is about contrast: sweet and creamy filling offset by flaky, buttery crust or crumbly Graham crackers. Here, the best pumpkin pies across the country.—Tommy Werner
Tartine; San Francisco
This famed bakery became legendary for its bread and French pastries, but its pies are predictably noteworthy, too. Tartine uses processed pumpkin (the results weren't smooth enough using house-roasted pumpkin), yielding a silky-smooth filling that's warm spices including ginger, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper as well as a mystery ingredient: a splash of brandy.
tartinebakery.com Pie Oh My; Maplewood, MO
This shop partners with Schlafly, a nearby St. Louis microbrewery, on pie experiments. For their third collaboration, the companies created a pie spiked with full-bodied pumpkin ale, which adds a warm bitterness and plays beautifully off the maple-syrup sweetened filling. They top the creation with walnut-crunch and use a crust that has equal parts Wisconsin butter and shortening flavor and texture.
pieohmystl.com Just Pies; Worthington, OH
Owner Peter Sterk makes a pie that features a layer of cream cheese between the pumpkin filling and the crust. He cites his grandmother's cream cheese strudel as an inspiration. The lard-based crust is extra flaky.
just-pies.com Tout Sweet Patisserie; San Francisco
As a chef who cites Nikola Tesla as an influence and has a store with an interior pulled directly from the spacey children's book
The Little Prince, it's no surprise that Top Chef: Just Desserts-winner Yigit Pura approaches his heirloom pumpkin pie differently, from the top down. Clove, Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean and a hint of orange flower water enhance the creamy roasted pumpkin, all enclosed in a crumbly tart shell. It's garnished with a vanilla bean marshmallow and pumpkin seeds. toutsweetsf.com Dangerously Delicious Pies; Washington, DC
This mini chain's founder, the fedora-wearing Rodney Henry, made it to the final round on
The Next Food Network Star. The pumpkin recipe has caramelized flavor from using fresh pumpkin that's roasted until it can fall out of the skin. Small bits of butter worked into the crust result in even flavor. dangerouspiesdc.com SusieCakes; Los Angeles
This California brand has mastered more than cake. Susan "Susie" Sarich opened her Brentwood bakery in 2006, with a minty-green design straight out of the 1950s and recipes (written on index cards) from her Midwestern grandmother. They are now the secret weapon behind eight SusieCakes stores. Sarich's simple pie highlights the pumpkin custard, which rises flush to the crust's edge.
susiecakes.com Michele's; Westport, CT
Michele Albano got her first taste of the pie-making business in the kitchen of a small Vermont ski condo in 2006. Since founding her Connecticut spot in December 2007, she has won 27 first prizes in national pie competitions. But the pie that made her famous is her maple pumpkin, for which she and her team process more than 6,000 pounds of pumpkin during the season. Albano adds sweet grade B Vermont maple syrup for a taste of her home state, and blankets the top with pecan streusel.
michelespies.com The Bakery House; Bryn Mawr, PA
Owner Sandy Stauffer is dedicated to doing all baking from scratch. So the holiday pumpkin pie demand turns this bakery into a residence: "We've even got a shower upstairs," Stauffer says, "so we can pretend we're at home." Stauffer believes half of the pie should be crust so makes a fairly shallow pie that's strong on cinnamon with just a touch of nutmeg.
thebakeryhouse.net Baked; Brooklyn
Star bakers Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis capture the bakery's "more is more" approach with their pumpkin pie. More spices, including black pepper, and and a sturdy whole-wheat crust laced with brown sugar create a complex slice. It might take more than one helping to comprehend everything that's going on with this pie.
bakednyc.com Upper Crust; Kansas City, MO
Elaine Van Buskirk turned her baking hobby into a living when she started hand-crimping and cooking pies in the basement kitchen of Pryde's Old Westport, a two-story kitchen store. Pumpkin is Van Buskirk's autumn best seller. "That first bite is the best of the season," she says. The light auburn color comes from a judicious use of cinnamon combined with Libby's creamy canned pumpkin.
uppercrustpiebakery.com Emporium Pies; Dallas
Among the clever pie names concocted by owners Megan Wilkes and Mary Gauntt—such as the Smooth Operator (French silk chocolate with pretzel crust) and the Drunken Nut (bourbon pecan with shortbread crust)—is the pumpkin-filled Drop Dead Gourdgeous. A buttery gingersnap crust rounds out the velvety pumpkin custard with a deep molasses note.
emporiumpies.com Mama's Daughters' Diner; Irving, TX
When "Mama" Procaccini took over the Davis Cafe in 1958, 65 cents could buy you lunch and a drink. Three generations of homestyle cooks later, the prices have changed. But the Procaccini family still treats the restaurant as a second home. The meat-and-three lunch menu is on a weekly rotation. Do call ahead: All five locations bake different desserts daily but one of them almost always has an excellent pumpkin pie.
mamasdaughtersdiner.com Duck & Bunny; Providence
Calling itself a "snuggery" (meaning a "cosy and comfortable place"), this tearoom has a great atmosphere for eating pumpkin pie.
theduckandbunny.com Huber's Cafe; Portland, OR
The oldest restaurant in Portland was founded in 1879 as the Bureau Saloon. A former speakeasy, Huber's now offers a tavern menu and a traditional Thanksgiving plate every day, with turkey, sage dressing and baked yams. The best way to end it is with homemade pumpkin pie and a Huber's Spanish coffee, a house specialty cocktail with Bacardi 151, Bols Triple Sec, Kahlua, and a splash of coffee.
hubers.com Ithaca Bakery; Ithaca, NY
This bakery has been open for more than 100 years. In 1989, the bakery's third owners, the Brous family, expanded the menu to include, among other items, pies. Pumpkin pie is available year-round. A nutty whole-wheat and pastry flour crust made with unsalted butter and nonhydrogenated shortening breaks into snow-like flakes.
ithacabakery.com Blue Stove; Brooklyn
There's nothing pretentious about the giant cans of Crisco on display in the shop, or about the golden brown crown of crust created with the shortening. Dense canned pumpkin and grounding allspice are given lift with eggs and get a boozy, honey-flavored punch from
Drambuie. There's so much crust on this pie, you could dip the extra directly into a mug of coffee. thebluestove.com Mackenzies' Bakery; Kalamazoo, MI
The founders' baking techniques and customer service goals remain the inspiration and standard here, more than 80 years after the MacKenzies opened their first roadside stand. Today, a third generation of the family ensures that the tradition lives on in the brown sugar–rich pumpkin pie, which is available only during October and November.
mackenziesbakery.com Ted's Pies; Haleiwa, HI
Located on Oahu's north side, this bakery turns the mainland classic into an appropriately Hawaiian dessert. Owner Ted Nakamura adds
haupia, a coconut milk pudding, to the pumpkin pie for a delightfully sweet, tropical contrast to the ginger-spiced filling. It's all covered with a crest of frothy whipped cream. tedsbakery.com Water Street Bistro; Petaluma, CA
At this restaurant on Sonoma County's Petaluma River, regulars look forward to the from-scratch pumpkin pie served every fall. The pastry team roasts sweet Sugar Pie pumpkins skin side up to concentrate the gourd's sweetness and make an intensely flavorful filling. The crust is made delicious with local butter.