Pie Bird's sweet and savory treats

CORRESPONDENTApril 13, 2011 

Foodies have been eagerly watching the old Conti's Italian Market space on Person Street for nearly a year now, ever since a sign went up announcing that a new eatery specializing in sweet and savory pies was "coming soon." Late last month, following construction and inspection delays, Pie Bird (618 N. Person St.; 508-7612; piebirdraleigh.com) opened its doors.

If the wait seemed long to pie fans, it was nothing compared with that of owner Sheilagh Sabol Duncan, whose infatuation with pastry dates back to a failed attempt at a peach pie as a fifth grader. She has come a long way since then, as the many friends and neighbors who have been beneficiaries of her baking skills will attest.

Full of meat and veggies

With the opening of Pie Bird, Duncan has raised the ante, teaming with fellow bakers Krishna Bahl and Kristine Ashwood to develop an enticing assortment of pies made with all-natural ingredients. Savory options cover the spectrum, from classics such as chicken pot pie and shepherd's pie (the real thing, made with ground lamb), to creative variations such as pimento cheese empanada and "hand pies" (think turnovers) with a variety of meat and vegetarian fillings. Specials such as Korean short rib pie and tamale carnitas pie topped with jicama are listed on the board.

So are dessert pies, sweet-tooth temptations that vary with the season and the baker's whim. Possibilities include coconut cream, chocolate pecan bourbon, lemon ice box and sweet potato (with maple whipped cream and candied bacon on request). It's a pretty good bet that you'll find classic apple pie on the board, as long as North Carolina apples are available.

A custom blend by Counter Culture Coffee and a beer selection that includes Big Boss and Mother Earth brews add to Pie Bird's appeal. So does the fresh contemporary decor with accents of lime green and robin's egg blue, and a sidewalk patio that promises to be a popular urban oasis. Pie Bird is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Greg Cox is the restaurant critic and food writer for The News & Observer. He can be reached at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Read more about the Triangle dining scene at blogs.newsobserver.com/mouthful

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