We have a pie problem, America. A flaky, buttery-crusted, pie problem.

While the rest of the world indulges in pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we Americans mostly relegate pie to dessert.

But pie will no longer be confined by our sugar-loving tyranny. There’s a strong camp of pie lovers in this country who demand answers: Why the heck don’t we eat more savory pies?

“That was my question,” said native New Zealander Robert Morrow, who’s on a mission to convert Americans to the savory side. “I remember wondering 19 years ago why we can’t get good pies in this country. It just seemed crazy. That got me on a 10-year journey with it, figuring out why.”

Morrow, along with his partner Chris Carr, opened Tip Top Savory Pies in Lafayette in early 2019, and the little pie shack got so popular that they opened a second, larger location in Gunbarrel last spring.

Mushroom Veggie Mini Pot Pie from Colorado Cherry Company in Denver. (Provided by Colorado Cherry Company)

While business has been good, getting us to give savory pies a chance took some work.

“The education on this was huge. Every (staff) person in the shop was trained to go through the sequence of what it was and why it was,” Morrow said of the pies. “We figured out what was comfortable as a first pie for the American market, and we put those in the forefront… . I’ve watched guys come in and get four bites in and turn around a buy another one. Once people try a sample of what we do, they get it.”

That gateway pie was the steak and cheese. We’re already familiar with both of those very good things, and so why not stuff those very good things into a pastry? Of course it went over well, as did other comfort food combos, like roast chicken dinner and bacon and egg. While Tip Top sells sweet pies, too — cherry, apple and a seasonally rotating fruit are always on the menu — it lives and dies by saving pies.

Morrow isn’t alone on his pie conversion mission. Pie runs deep through Elias Lehnert’s body and soul. As a fourth-generation owner of Colorado Cherry Company, which opened a shop on Tennyson Street last spring and has been a staple in Loveland for 60 years, he’s the rare American who grew up eating pie for every meal.

“We’re trying to convince people pie can be an everyday thing and can be an every meal thing,” Lehnert, whose favorite savory pie is the bison bacon mushroom stout, said. “Not just dessert, but it can be a breakfast or a dinner. I think there’s definitely a mentality that it’s not a dinner thing, but as the world becomes more globalized and people are involved in social media, it’s become less of a barrier for folks.”

Savory wasn’t always the pariah of pie in America. In the 1800s, eating savory pie was common here, but at some point that century, it went the way of the hoop skirt and horse and buggy — just no longer fashionable. With the exception of the lingering chicken pot pie, pie as a meal mostly disappeared from our cultural palate. But not completely.

Up until a couple of months ago, Colorado Cherry’s savory pies lived in the back of the store. Lehnert wanted customers to see that they had all of these beautiful, fresh, savory pies, and so he placed them front and center, where they belonged. Flavors like spicy Buffalo chicken with cream cheese and cheddar; pork green chi with smoked pork shoulder from Post Oak Barbecu; and mushroom and veggie tucked into a creamy herb sauce. They all got top billing, flaunting themselves alongside the lemon meringues and apple bourbon caramels.

Now, the savory pies make up 40% of what Colorado Cherry sells at the Tennyson shop, and Lehnert sees an opportunity to grow that even more. With so many people still discovering the wonders of saving pies, there’s a very large, well, piece of the pie, yet to cut into. Because the “cherry” part of the name implies dessert, Lehnert plans to rebrand the store to a name that encompasses pie, and all of its savory potential, as a whole.

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