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Clucking for pies

A friend in our trio quipped, “I feel like we’re in North Dakota,” as we settled into a blue vinyl booth at the San Diego Chicken Pie Shop, which celebrates its 74th birthday on May 8. Indeed, a backcountry sentiment is struck by the constant rattling of food carts pushed by waitresses who address you as “sweetie” and “honey.” In addition, several high shelves serve as nesting grounds for flocks of ceramic chickens, all donated over the years by avid consumers of the eatery’s homey chicken pies.

Concealed beneath their tan, flaky piecrusts are big, tender chunks of chicken that are combined with pulled turkey: a serious poultry fest bathed in flavorful, viscous gravy. Nearly 1,500 pies fly out of the kitchen each day while adhering to the exact recipe used when the late George Whitehead opened the original shop downtown in 1938. That’s not counting the vast selection of dessert pies made also on the premises. Think of any flavor—from pumpkin to peach or rhubarb to pineapple—and chances are good that you’ll get lucky.

After leaving its downtown location in 1940, the restaurant enjoyed a long residency in Hillcrest, at Fifth and Robinson avenues. Popularity, however, dictated that it move to larger digs, hence landing on El Cajon Boulevard in 1990. Lynn Townsend, the widow of the shop’s second owner, John Townsend, now runs the show.

Read the full story in Gay San Diego, a SDGLN media partner, HERE.