A new cafe in Oakland is serving a thrilling array of ‘pie-rotechnics’
During the summer of 2020, Jeff Wright went to pick up his raspberry lemonade pie at Edith’s Pie, Mike Raskin’s pop-up.
Similar to a key lime pie, Raskin’s recipe substitutes a raspberry purée and combines it with lemon juice.
At the time, Wright was an operations manager in the hospitality business. He was so impressed by the pie he later wrote to Raskin on Instagram asking if he could help expand Edith’s Pie beyond its cottage bakery origins. They set up a meeting and, after three years of establishing a wholesale business model, opened their first cafe on 22nd Street in Oakland last week.
Having stepped away from the restaurant world, Raskin was working as a butcher when the pandemic started. Making pies started as a whim. “I had lost all of my hobbies, and socializing,” he said. His mother, Edith, was his source of inspiration. “My mother makes incredible pies and I’d always enjoyed eating them,” he said.
Baking pies during lockdown kept his mind engaged. “It was a fun creative thing I could do, making my own recipes and building my skills.”
After sharing his pies with friends, Raskin decided to make a dozen strawberry key lime pies and post them on Instagram for customers to pre-order. “They sold out in fifteen minutes,” he recalled. At the time, he was still working at the butcher shop so he made the pies one late Friday night. “Folks picked them up Saturday morning and I walked them outside to their cars,” he said.
The volume changed for Edith’s Pie when a San Francisco Chronicle article came out later that year. Before it was published, Bay Area health departments were starting to shut down pop-ups. Raskin realized he’d need to find a commercial kitchen to keep the business going. A catering company run by one of Wright’s former business associates didn’t have any jobs lined up because of the pandemic. “He had a kitchen that wasn’t being used,” Wright explained. “We signed a lease at this commissary when the article came out.”
Before then, Raskin had been averaging about thirty pies a week. Once he had access to the commissary kitchen, the number moved up to fifty. At that point, they had to hire somebody to help out. They went on to acquire wholesale accounts throughout the Bay Area. All of which led to the opening of their all-day cafe.
One week in, Edith’s Pie already has regular customers. Raskin said that one of them recently brought his son in for a slice of pie and a cup of coffee. “Jeff and I stood there and watched them sharing a moment together and I was like, ‘This is why we’re here,’” Raskin said. Establishing a new business includes many exhausting, stressful days but the reward has been creating a space for people to catch up and commingle together while eating tasty pies.
The daily cafe menu includes sweet and savory pies, quiche, hand pies, soups and salads. I had the pleasure of trying slices of key lime pie with a graham cracker crust and a delectable strawberry streusel ($8 a slice to eat in house/$8.25 to go). The key lime didn’t err on the overly sweet side, as they so often do. With berries slowly coming back in season, the strawberry streusel was sublime. Red fruit juice just bled into every crevice of the buttery crust. The streusel provided a tender crunch that complemented the jammy strawberries.
At Edith’s front counter, the pies are displayed in aluminum tins, which confer and confirm their scrappy homemade look and flavor. While I was casing out the joint, Raskin appeared in a dark blue apron stained with patches of flour. He pointed out the rhubarb swamp pie in the case, describing the way that, while cooking in the oven, the rhubarb bubbles up through the custard on top.
And for those of us who have fond memories of the fudge pie once served at the long-since shuttered Edible Complex cafe in Rockridge, the chocolate chess is a worthy successor. One of Edith’s employees told me that when she’s craving a slice of pie late at night it’s her go-to choice.
Edith herself still makes an incredible apple pie for Thanksgiving. “She’s made it with apples from a tree in her backyard for the last twenty years,” Raskin said, adding that she doesn’t bake as often as she used to but she is grateful that her son has picked up the rolling pin mantle and donned an apron in her place.
Edith’s Pie, open Wed to Thurs 7:30am–6pm and Fri to Sat 7:30am-10pm. 412 22nd St., Oakland. 510.619.5167. edithspie.com.