Photo Credit: Haley Hill

Fall has progressed into something far larger than Thanksgiving and Halloween. The ‘fallidays’ have seemingly blended into one another, making for a months-long pumpkin spice-lined stretch that gives just about every warm-blooded American the desire to indulge in something rustic and homey. Pie is the magical answer for many, à la mode to make it even better. So, it should be no surprise that a pair of pie and ice cream parlors are hitting the falliday season at full speed.

Pop Pie Co. and Stella Jeans Ice Cream have attracted cult-like local followings in the quaint University Heights neighborhood of San Diego as well as their sister location in Costa Mesa. Their fan base is so strong, in fact, that it’s not uncommon to see patrons running along Park Blvd. at full sprint in the minutes before the stores’ closing. It’s then heartwarming to see those same groups exchange congratulations among one another minutes later, slices and scoops in hand and a ‘we made it’ look on their faces. 

While they’re connected at the hip, Pop Pie Co. and Stella Jeans run independent of one another, separated by a wall with different staff and walk-up counters. You can also expect a moderate line at both, but with each place operating like a well-oiled machine, the wait is no more than a few minutes, and more than worth it. 

Every great pie starts with a great crust, and Pop Pie Co. has undoubtedly mastered its craft. Richly decadent for sweet, buttery and flaky for savory, strong enough to hold whatever’s inside but soft enough to give way to that first stroke of a knife in all cases. And since it’s what’s on the inside that counts, after all, Pop Pie Co.’s delectable creations embody excellent culinary creativity and masterful execution. 

Having spent time in Sydney, Australia, where savory pie shops line the streets like taco stands do in Southern California, I have a special place in my heart for a good meat pie here in the US. Pop Pie Co. does just that, with a small but mighty selection of American and worldly classics. Their chicken pot pie delivers in full on luscious creaminess, melding perfectly with that flaky crust. The steak and ale is a crowd favorite with slow-braised beef, barley, mushroom and carrots, and those looking for something plant-based will enjoy the classic veggie pie, made with roasted Brussels sprouts, and portabella mushrooms in a creamy herb sauce. Then, of course, there’s the iconic Aussie meat pie, a staple from the land down under, with Worcestershire-sauteed beef ‘mince.’ If you have the stomach space and want to get the full experience, pair it with one of their equally satisfying sausage rolls.

Then there’s the sweet selection, where the fallidays are in full swing. Their pumpkin pie is one to remember, made with a pumpkin custard and a secret house pumpkin spice blend, beautifully decorated with homemade whipped cream and candied pepitas. Pecan pie gets a makeover here as honey bourbon pecan pie, spiked with orange zest and of course a strong but pleasing bourbon essence. Custard fans will enjoy the salted honey pie, made with Madagascar vanilla. And while savory pies are made in single serving sizes, sweet pies are made to serve 6-8. Order them by the slice at the counter or reserve a whole pie for the falliday season.

Next door, Stella Jean’s Ice Cream embodies that same novelty, freshness and incredible attention to detail. Other-worldly flavors with that oh-so-perfect creamy and not-yet-melting-but-instantly-melts-in-your-mouth texture are worth sprinting for before closing time. You’ve never seen a s’mores ice cream like this one, where instead of a standard chocolate or vanilla, you’ve got a space gray toasted marshmallow ice cream, with chocolate-covered graham crackers and mini marshmallows mixed in. The falliday season rings true with their pumpkin cornbread + pepita brittle…all one flavor and quite the mouthful! Salty caramel corn, brown butter pecan and ube + pandesal toffee are just a few more exotic flavors that fall nothing short of wow. 

And with ‘craft ice cream’ getting pricier and pricier these days, Stella Jeans keeps things quite reasonable, especially considering the giant scoops they dish out. And those waffle cones are hot, sweet and perfectly crunchy. 

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