It's strange to eat pie while drinking, but it's better than you'd expect. Even better than that, and even less expected: drinking a cocktail made of pie. Capitol Hill's Pie Bar specializes in such drinkable desserts. Pie Bar's "pietinis" are like the middles of your favorite pies mixed with booze, served in martini glasses dipped in a butter, sugar, and pastry flour concoction that identical twin owners Lyss Lewis and Natalie Delucchi call "crack." I sat at the bar—the place was packed, not a table to be had—where I had a view of the hydraulic pie press and a row of fresh pies cooling, grandma-style, on a windowsill. The bar's flagstone walls and chandeliers create the atmosphere of a tiny pie castle. I drank a pumpkin pietini ($11) while eating a buttery, melty slice of marionberry/strawberry/apple "Desserted Island" pie à la mode ($8). Maybe it was the vodka, or being served by twins, but simultaneously eating pie and drinking a pie cocktail was slightly dizzying. I felt possibly on the verge of existential thoughts, and definitely of wanting more pie.
Lyss, the former owner of Seattle Pie Company, showed me the pipe she designed to carry the aroma of pie from the bar's oven to the street and the doorbell a neighbor installed in their pie pickup window. "We've both worked as general contractors," she told me. "We did Pie Bar's build-out ourselves. Check out the bathroom!" (Indeed, the bathroom is impressive—the smallest I have ever seen containing a chandelier.) I watched the bar's flat-screen TV after Lyss told me she likes to play a mixture of baseball and Mr. Bean, but seeing only baseball, I accepted with some disappointment that she meant she alternates between the two.
Lyss's first business, Seattle Pie Company, was wildly successful. Her pie was featured in Food & Wine and voted Seattle's best pie by Seattle magazine in 2009. By the time she closed down in 2012, Lyss was producing up to 1,500 pies a day. "I was a little crazy during that time," she says. Being approached to film a high-drama reality show, Life of Pie, about Seattle Pie Company and her family's largely fictionalized life on a houseboat surely contributed to this craziness. "They were like, 'Can you make a pie that looks like a carousel? How about a football?'" she said. I watched the show's pilot, in which she actually creates these items, as well as a pie taller than herself in the shape of the Space Needle. The Oprah network offered Lyss $15,000 an episode for the show, but she felt she didn't have enough control over its content. Watching the pilot, she winced when her grandma said, "Cake is for pansies!" "That was so scripted," she lamented. She plans to create a similar show, on her own terms, in the future.
After Seattle Pie Company closed, Lyss took a long vacation in the San Juans, where she wrote a memoir called Piecology. Upon her return to Seattle, she joined forces with Natalie, who had been bartending in Arizona. Lyss baked pies, Natalie mixed drinks, and thus Pie Bar and the pietini were born. They had worked together before—as teenagers, they served milkshakes at Zeke's Drive In in Gold Bar. The key-lime pietini, made with Licor 43, was both creamy and tart. My favorite was the Dutch apple pietini, which was like an adult version of a Caramel Apple Pop; someone else said it tasted like "a fire in a circus." After scooping out the last drops of the drink with its apple wedge garnish, I asked Natalie what was in it. She replied, "Caramel and about seven kinds of booze. We're going to get you schnockered!"
Lyss prepared slices of Pie Bar's cottage pie ($13) and their farm savory tart ($12) while we discussed the pros and cons of spray-tanning. The farm savory tart was a golden, quiche-like pastry, full of fluffy eggs and goat cheese; hidden pieces of sun-dried tomato made the process of eating it a treasure hunt. Though I was less impressed by the cottage pie—it lacked Pie Bar's immaculate crust, and it should definitely contain peas—the puff of garlic mashed potatoes floating on its foundation of beef and carrots was everything potatoes should be. Both slices came with a good-sized arugula salad topped with goat cheese and shredded beets. So as not to neglect the cream pies, I ordered coconut custard pie, which was served hot, in a martini glass, covered in crunchy toasted coconut and whipped cream.
Lyss and Natalie seemed to be in every corner of the bar at once, dispensing multiple slices of pie, and to have known everybody who came in for years. When asked if people do strange things to pie when they're drunk, Natalie told me about the bar's pie-dough-sculpting competitions. "The winner gets a free slice of pie," she said. "One guy made a really nice pie rose."