Meat Pies, Every Culture’s Fast Food
Almost every culture has a handheld meat pie to call their own. Handheld pies were a convenient way to feed the working men and use up bits of meat and leftovers. The Italians have a pork based pie, either round or rectangular and cut into slices. Not that common anymore, there does seem to be a pocket of places in the Merrimack valley selling this type of meat pie. The Lebanese use a lighter dough made with seasoned beef and onions. When done right, they are little flavor bombs with a hint of lemon, due to the use of sumac. Most Caribbean countries have patties and turnovers, with the most famous being the Jamaican Beef Patties which is almost impossible to find a truly homemade one. Indian cultures have the samosa (lamb, potato, peas) which can be fairly mild in flavor to extremely hot.
Hispanic cultures have the Empanada/Pastelitos meat pie. These are available in Spanish markets, bakeries and restaurants. Mostly, they are not that good. Pre-fried, pre-made wrappers filled with under-seasoned, overcooked meat. But when made fresh and cooked properly, they are a wonderful treat. French Canadians have the Tourtiere, which is a pork pie served around Thanksgiving and Christmas but very difficult to find other times of the year. Are you curious as to where you can sample some of the best of these ethnic delights? Keep reading and we will guide you there.
From their famous sweet square pizza to their fresh-from-the-oven sticks (Italian bread loaves), Tripoli Bakery is a staple in its original downtown Lawrence MA location. Very few places left still make an Italian meat pie, which takes some skill to do. Tripoli’s hasn’t changed in the last 40 years and is still fabulous. The pie is made with coarsely ground pork, provolone cheese, onions, crushed tomatoes, black pepper, and black olives. It is, and should be, a little greasy and the crust is sturdy but not hard. The provolone cheese is sharp enough to taste but not too sharp to be off putting. Make sure to pick up a loaf of bread (a stick) to take home. If it’s warm, buy 2 sticks so when you dig into one on the way home you will still have one left for dinner. 106 Common St, Lawrence www.tripolibakery.com
Piro’s has been in business since 1985. Until a few years ago they sold slices of pizza, calzone and meat pie from the bakery. When the space next door opened up they started Piro’s Pizza plus. In addition to pizza, meat pie and calzones they also sell several varieties of arancini, subs and some prepared meals. The meat pie is made from fresh ground pork loin and mixed with spices, cooked onions, crushed tomato sauce, mushroom and topped with sharp provolone cheese and a mixture of black and Kalamata olives. It is heaven. You can taste each individual ingredient and each works in perfect harmony to each other. You can but it in slices or as a whole pie. And there is a full service bakery with pastries and bread is right next door. Just saying. 300 Merrimack St, Methuen www.pirosbakery.com
Albie D’s is a second generation Italian bakery in Bradford that has been open for 4 years. Since this is a full service Italian bakery,the shelves are stocked with a full array of breads and pastries. At Easter, this is one of the few bakeries outside of Boston where you can find pizza gaina. They also have square pizza, calzones, spinach pie and meat pie. Their sheet pan sized meat and spinach pies are cut into generous squares. Each cost $5.95 slice or $109 for the whole tray which you can order with 24 hour notice. The dough is softer than normal, the meat is moist crumbled pork mixed with garlic, onions and tomato and topped with mild provolone. Absolutely delicious! I will be keeping a couple of slices in the freezer for a quick fix. 140 South Main Street, Haverhill www.albieds.com
For more than 50 years, P J Pizza has served up delicious pies, seasonal pastries, and gourmet Italian cuisine. In addition to being known for their cutlet sub, P J also has square Sicilian pizza, round pizza, subs and meat pie. The meat pie is similar to the Italian bakeries with coarse ground pork, olives, provolone cheese and ground tomatoes. 33 Broadway, Methuen www.pjpizzaplace.com
Napoli’s has been a Lawrence staple for well over 50 years and it is exactly as I remember it from childhood. This is not a fancy pizza/sub shop with pesto specials written on a neon board. This is just good fast food. Napoli’s does have regular round pizza, although I can honestly say I have never had it. I get one of three things here, Italian Sub with everything, meat pie or spinach pie. One of the best Italian subs ever and the spinach pie is like no other. It is filled with the most delicious spinach you will have ever tasted. And the meat pie and the spinach/meat pie combo are both delicious. Enough said. You’ve got to try some for yourself. 79 Common Street, Lawrence www.facebook.com/NapoliPizzaandSubsinLawrence
As you take your first couple of steps into Thwaites across the squeaky hardwood floors you will feel transported back 50 years. From the wonderful aromas of pies and other goodies cooking, to the friendly greeting when you walk in, this feels like small town America. Thwaites is a full service butcher in a neighborhood convenience store. These dotted the landscape when I was a kid although they were not called convenience stores, they were the corner market.
The big reason for coming to Thwaites is for the delicious, lovely savory pies. They are about 3 inches in diameter, have a hot water crust pastry with a savory filling. Thwaites started out with a traditional English pork pie, added a chicken pie and now have probably 50 varieties. We tried the traditional pork and chicken. The crust is flaky and delicious and the pork is mildly flavored, moist and the pork flavor shines through. The chicken pie is moist and again the chicken flavor shines through.
In addition to pies, Thwaites has house made sausages, baked beans, salads (potato, macaroni, coleslaw), ham and chicken salad (both are excellent, especially the ham salad) and marinated meats. During the holidays, they also make a traditional French Canadian Tourtiere meat pie (pork, mashed potatoes, onions and spices). 36 Railroad St, Methuen www.thwaitesmarket.com
Established in October 2010, signature menu items include traditional Australian savory meat and vegetarian pies, barbecued grilled seafood, and a variety of healthy, seasonal salads. Food is available for lunch and dinner take out from both locations. What does the KO stand for? It’s an inside joke, Australians will tell you, ‘Ken Oath’, is Aussie slang for ‘reaffirming your admiration’ for something…which you will be doing after one of these pies.
We tried the Classic beef (Lean ground beef cooked with sweet white onions in peppered beef gravy. $6.60) and the braised lamb shank pie (Spice rubbed lamb shanks, braised until falling off the bone, mixed w/ carrots, green beans and peas in a rich lamb gravy $7.00). In addition to those flavors they offer Classic beef w/ cheese, Irish beef stew, curried vegetable and the pie of the Month. The puff pastry crust is very flaky and the filling is full of flavor. You will not be unhappy with one of these pies! www.Kocateringandpies.com 87 A St, South Boston and Boston Harbor Shipyard, 256 Marginal St, Building 16, East Boston
Vic’s is a like a one-man band. There is a bakery, breakfast café and sub/pizza shop. We live fairly close by and have never been until it was recommended by one of our listeners (Thank you Donna!). We came here for the meat pies (pork, chicken and salmon). Each individual pie is $4.00 and that is a bargain. They also have a medium and large size as well. The delicious pork pie had a buttery, flaky crust and well-seasoned moist filling. Rather like a cross between a regular pork pie and French Canadian Tourtiere. It was good and also something you might want to keep in the freezer for those late dinner nights. I would go out of my way for that pie. Vic’s is located at 1 Lilley Ave, Lowell www.vicspizzasubs.com
Hassey’s is a small family Mediterranean Grocery. They have a beautiful selection of fresh vegetables and a large selection of spices. They also take special orders in advance for dinners, parties and other events. These items include meat grape leaves, vegetarian grape leaves, tabbouleh, hummus tahini, fresh olives, cheeses, Lebneh, borgol, and more. But the main reason to come to Hassey’s is for the Lebanese Meat pies. Every Wednesday the owner’s wife hand-makes these little pockets of goodness.
She makes a set amount and when they sell out, there is no more until the next Wednesday. Most Lebanese meat pies are made by bigger bakeries that churn out hundreds of pies per day. And those are pretty good. These are amazing. The dough is tender yet crispy and the filling is seasoned to perfection. They cost $1.25 each and fit into the palm of your hand but if you are buying a bunch, she will sell them for a dollar each. You can call and pre-order some if you are not going to be able to get there in time. They usually sell out by the end of the day. 235 East St, Methuen www.facebook.com/Hasseys-Grocery-and-Mediterranean-Food-524999387519644
D’Guru is the to-go arm of Guru the Caterer whose philosophy is to promote joy, flavor and nutrition through fresh, healthy and delicious food cooked in small batches every day. We tried both the lamb ($5.79 for 2 pieces) and chicken Samosas ($4.99 for 2 pieces). These were very good samosas. Nice and crispy on the outside with a moist filling that was spicy (medium to OMG! hot) and not dry at all. They were cooked to order even though it was in the middle of lunch. I would have to say, some of the best samosas we have ever had. Also the accompanying tamarind chutney was tasty and a welcome cooling effect. In addition to the samosas, there are curries, biryanis, vegetarian options, combos, traditional Indian entrees and desserts. www.guruthecaterer.com
La Perle is an authentic Haitian Restaurant in Everett and is one of the only places to get a real homemade Jamaican/Haitian Meat Pattie. These are not pre-made, when you order it is when they make it and it takes about 15 minutes. This is also a full service restaurant with a full bar. Be sure to try the Diri Djon Djon (mushroom black rice), it is fantastic. 41 Bow St, Everett, MA www.laperlerestaurantboston.com
In addition to his excellent subs and pizza, Eliu’s also offers some Puerto Rican favorites. These include Empanadas which he makes to order therefore keeping them fresh and allow them to be customized. The well seasoned beef and pork fillings are moist and flavorful. For true Dominican flavor, order the tripleta (pork, beef, ham, cheese and special sauce). Another great choice is the guava/cheese. 398 Fletcher St, Lowell www.eliusholeinthewall.com
Jamaica Plain is not close to where we live. However, we will be making a trip out there every month or so to have a shredded beef empanada from Pikalo. Pikalo makes empanadas to order, sandwiches, fruit juices, salads and ceviche. The empanadas are bigger than most. They have a menu with maybe 20 or 25 or you can make your own customized one. Pre-cooked hot ones are available in the case but unless you have a dire emergency that doesn’t allow you to wait 10 min, skip those. They range from $2.25 for cheese to $7.00 for a seafood combo. The shredded beef (ropa vieja) is to literally die for. Seriously one of, if not the best, empanada I have eaten. The chicken, cheese and corn combination is also excellent. 378 Centre St, Jamaica Plain www.facebook.com/pages/Pikalo/1640133909552845