Pies for the People
A taste of New Zealand in Nova Scotia.
By Grace Szucs
Written for SOAR Halifax
The newest fast food item and latest addition to the Downtown Dartmouth food scene has been a staple in New Zealand since the 1930s: The savoury pie. This isn’t your typical sit-down family pie. “You eat it like a burger, with your hands,” says Humble Pie Kitchen co-owner Shauna MacLean. “It’s comfort food--pastry and oozy-goozy filling,” says her business partner Denise Noakes.
This family-run business began in July 2014 when MacLean, Noakes and her Kiwi husband Mike opened a pie stand at the Alderney Farmers’ Market. The savoury filling – hand-made with local beef, and thick enough to hold its ground in a half-eaten pie -– is a recipe passed down through Mike’s family and adapted for local ingredients. The pastry is trial-and-error success story.
Their cobalt-blue storefront on the corner of Ochterloney and King Streets, lovingly nicknamed “the pie hole,” opened on May 18th of this year. Outed on Twitter by local retail and restaurant news site Halifax ReTales before they opened, Humble Pie was met by instant demand.
As the only “fast food” place in the downtown Dartmouth core, Humble Pie services shopkeepers, government workers, restaurant folks and anyone who only has five minutes for lunch.
“Out of necessity, I think, a lot of people are trying pies,” says MacLean. The unfinished space boasts no seating at the moment, making it more like a traditional New Zealand pie shop, and encourages Canadians to enjoy pies the New Zealand way: No forks, just hands.
Convincing fellow Canadians to treat a pie like a burger has taken some explaining. “At first people were intimidated,” says MacLean. But now there are “devout followers of pie.” She believes that once people understand that eating pie with your hands is part of the authentic Kiwi tradition, they are keen to go the whole hog.
Humble Pie is quickly becoming a meeting place. Residents of the Seniors Service Centre across the street drop in for a bite and a chat, as do local politicians, expats and locals alike. “We meet a lot of people,” says Noakes. “We support our local community and we’ve gotten so much back.”
Jimmy, a wheelchair-bound regular, comes by every day to say hello and, though Humble Pie isn’t wheelchair-accessible, he can always get his steak and cheese. “We service the street if that’s what’s needed,” says MacLean.
No pie goes uneaten. The owners donate unsold pies to Margaret’s House, which serves lunch and dinner to those in need in the area. “We don’t want to be throwing them away,” says MacLean. “It’s turned out to be great word-of-mouth marketing. Volunteers come by the shop and the market stand and tell others about the pies. It’s not just about pies. It’s about people.”