Simply put, I love pies, both savory and sweet. So when I got wind of Betty’s Pie Whole in Encinitas I was quite elated. Betty’s Pie Whole is owned by Betty Hunt, a sassy redhead who has taken pies to a higher level with her new venture. I sat down with Betty recently to learn more.
You are a San Diego native, tell me about growing up here and how you became involved with baking.
I learned to bake like most kids… by watching mom. I’d stand on a step stool stirring the dry ingredients, with long wooden spoons. I wasn’t very coordinated and more often than not, whatever I stirred would end up on the floor. We had this little 1960’s mustard yellow hand mixer with the metal beaters that would fling batter on the walls as we made cowboy cookies or divinity candy. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly a natural. I finally started baking on my own at about 10 years old. I continued to bake for my friends as a teenager. It wasn’t the “cool” thing to do by any means. People would tell me that I should sell my goodies for cash, but I just wasn’t interested. I worked in restaurants over the years and ended up at Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe back in the ‘90s as a waitress. I was terrible but my boss, Kevin Mabbutt asked if I would be interested in baking for the restaurant. I was hesitant at first, but I gave it a shot. It is very different baking in a commercial kitchen! I screwed up a lot! It is one thing to bake for fun, quite another to do it for a living.
Your first venture in Encinitas, Elizabethan Desserts, which you relocated to make room for Betty’s, is more of a traditional bakery. Betty’s is a really unique, one-of-a-kind place that is half bakery, half honkey-tonk saloon…how did this place happen, and elaborate on the name.
After seven years, Elizabethan Desserts had simply outgrown the Sunshine Garden space. At first I was going to just leave the location and let my landlord rent it to someone else, but then I thought it would be best to re-invent the space as a pie shop. I wanted to make the two bakeries very different, so folks wouldn’t get confused. It didn’t work, people are still confused! As far as the name, years ago, I would go by the name “Betty” when out at the karaoke bars or dating. Betty is a derivative of Elizabeth, has an old-fashioned sound so that’s how I came up with that.
Your sweet pies are amazing, but I’m a huge fan of savory pies and those are what really attracted me to this place. How do you come up with your pies?
I get an idea and try it…that’s how it works. I think about what sounds unique but is still recognizable…I won’t be making aardvark pie or anything like that, but I like to take traditional foods and put em’ in a pie. I just started selling Grace’s Mac N’ Cheese Pie…it’s a special, and not always on the menu, but already gaining popularity!
Did the popularity of Betty’s catch you by surprise? Every time I’ve been its’ been very busy and you have been sold out of certain pies. Would you suggest people call ahead to check availability?
Yep, that hurts! I always hoped it would catch on…we try to staff the bakery as much as possible to fulfill customer demand. We were not prepared for the recent surge in customers and are working hard to find staff and get them trained so we can have more inventory! I strongly suggest calling ahead for availability. You never know when someone will come in and swipe 10 pies at once for a lunch meeting.
Pies are just part of the menu. You have soups and some sides along with ice cream now. Any plans to expand on that or keep the focus on the pies?
We also have a selection of dips! I would like to expand the pie menu a bit, both sweet and savory. I may do some entrée salads…and some wheat-free pies. I always get wild hairs, but I need some more staff to make it all happen!
What your top 3 favorites are in both the sweet and savory categories?
It’s a toss between “The Mule” (garlic mashed potatoes, smoked gouda, cheddar and broccoli) and “The Field Hand”(broccoli, cheddar cheese and chicken). I love our secret holiday “Thanksgiving Pie” …that thing was maybe the greatest item I have ever created! It has layers of turkey breast, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and is baked in fantastic buttery-sage crust. It comes with cranberry chipotle sauce on the side. It’s huge! I’ll never cook another Thanksgiving meal again! It’s a holiday item, and not on the menu…but with 48-hour notice we’ll bust it out for you! I would say for my sweet, pies…strawberry rhubarb, the Milky Way, and our coconut cream!
Betty’s is at 155 Quail Gardens Dr. Encinitas. Visit bettyspiewhole.com or call (760) 230-6781.
Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday – Friday during the 7pm hour. David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at email@example.com or (858) 395-6905.