Growing up in a Korean-American household, pie wasn’t something I really ate. The pies I did eat were those little hand-pies from Hostess, which were always good — but I knew deep inside, in my secret place, that those Hostess pies weren’t actual pies. I mean, they were a strange approximation of pie, I could just tell, even when I was a kid. If you want to be freaked out, check out how many calories are in one of those little things. It’s impressive. You doomsday preppers might want to pack a shitload of them in your meal kits, along with some insulin shots.
The only real pie I eat every year is defrosted-then-baked pumpkin pie from Sara Lee at Thanksgiving. The elders, like my parents, aunts, and uncles, still don’t really enjoy pumpkin pie all that much, and frankly, I think pumpkin pie is kind of gross. Most of us feel like we’re obligated to eat it but don’t understand why. I know, I know. Someone is probably going to come up to me and kick me in the balls for saying that. But a squash custard pie with nutmeg? Really?
Serious Eats sent me out to recommend a great slice of pie around Chicago, and after doing some thinking and some research, the same names kept popping up, like Hoosier Mama Pie Company, Bang Bang Pie Shop. Both of those places are fantastic. Hoosier Mama is ridiculously good, and is probably one of the best pie shops in the United States. I have a secret: Years later, I still haven’t been to Bang Bang Pie Shop yet. I know, worst food writer ever. Whatever. I’ll get there someday. But I read a lot of my friends food sites and another name kept popping up in quiet corners: Jimmy Jamm’s Sweet Potato Pies.
Jimmy Jamm’s is in a little stretch of stores that lines the street in the Beverly neighborhood. I drove past it by accident while I was looking for the place.
When I walked in with my roommate, Craig, the first thing I noticed were the round tables covered in white tablecloth, complete with tall-backed white chairs. And then there’s this beautiful masterpiece:
I mean, just look at it.
Aside from maybe one or two items on the menu, everything has sweet potatoes in it. But you’re really there for the pie. The original version of the pie (which’ll show up in the Serious Eats slideshow) is a beautiful unadorned sweet potato creation sitting in a graham flour-like crust. A plain slice is $3.00. I’m obligated to not say too much since the slide is being published with them. But trust me, it’s the main reason why you want to visit Jimmy Jamm’s. Even if it’s a long haul from where you live.
This second slice, though, I didn’t write about, and it’s the Honey Cream Sweet Potato Pie slice, $3.50.
The top has a sheen to it — I suspect they mix the honey and cream cheese base with marshmallow fluff, because it has a gummy and thick texture (which isn’t a bad thing, by the way, just interesting). It is, however very, very sweet. On top of the velvety roasted sweet potato filling, the honey cream adds a punch of tangy, creamy, and sugary flavor. But the sweet potato filling is really the star of the show. There’s something about it that’s extremely comforting.
The black gentleman behind the counter was happy to see me taking photos and enjoying the pie. For someone who normally doesn’t care about pie, I’m glad I drove down to Beverly, even if it was a haul. It reaffirms to me that making long trips for something small and delicious, is oftentimes worth the effort. My favorite part of the trip was when we left and said, “Thanks for coming in, Brother Lee.”
Brother Lee. That has a ring to it.
And now I can’t stop thinking about that damn pie.
[PS. On the way to Jimmy Jamm’s, my roommate and I totally saw a guy peeing in the middle of an empty parking lot.]