A Pi(e) Day Hangover

Pi Day is really supposed to be about math as I learned from The News Hour. Yet there is no reason it can’t be about pizza pie or a slice of pie. Why not? Bloggers make their own rules. I first had to find out if I could get a free piece of pie. I was looking all over for the word about Shari’s pie special on their website. Since I was looking on a Wednesday which is supposed to be the day of the pie giveaway, also the day after Pi Day, I was expecting visual website fireworks or a blaring proclamation on the site about the promotion that’s supposed to be held every Wednesday. It could have been hidden in plain sight. I’d heard the advertisement enough times on the radio over the years that it became part of my informal Oregon bucket list. Still I needed confirmation. I placed a call to a random Shari’s to ask if the pie special was still happening. I began to feel like I was losing my phone skills. I could barely hear the person on the other end and I discovered that I have developed a phone tick that involves bumping my head into the number screen causing a long beeping tone to occur. I was incompetent until I got the word that the free pie day was going strong as it has for eons on Wednesdays at Shari’s. Customers get one free slice of pie after 4pm with the purchase of an dinner entree.

I went to the restaurant that afternoon. Without seeing a wait to be seated sign, I chose a two person booth next to a wall that separated the kitchen from the dining area where I could hear workers talking. I was entertained by random discussions. “Did you see my ride?” Which was met by a response of, “Did you see my ride?” The latter ride turned out to be a black truck. There was also assorted business related talk about people’s orders. Maybe I’m too cranky, anxious, uptight or all of the above but these feelings were welling up because I was being ignored. I had no time to waste and I wanted to get into my celebration of Pi(e) Day. I was 24 hours late.

At Shari’s I was being auditorily assaulted by bland rock, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow and even “Dust in the Wind” which felt overbearing as a pie eating soundtrack. When I was spotted, my waitress informed me, in a cheerful way, that I had snuck in. I learned that it’s a bad idea to sneak into a Shari’s when you actually want to be seen there, at least by the wait staff. With menu in hand, I began the process of selecting an entree to earn my free pie prize. Then it occurred to me that with the Orbit expense account being nonexistent ordering a $3.49 slice of Chocolate Dream pie and a cup of coffee would be more economical than the cost of an entree that included free pie.

The pie pictures on the website were gorgeous, dessert porn in brilliant lighting. The menu photographs were equally enticing. The actual pie looked appetizing, perhaps not so photogenic but it included a chocolate sauce plate splash like the menu photo. The coffee order arrived in a personal carafe with individual vanilla creamers which I decided could make any coffee taste good. There was a possible lipstick stain on the mug but somehow seemed to add to  the ambience.

The pressure was on. This slice represented all that would be celebrated by me for Pi(e) Day. I knew I was going to have to describe the pie, at least the first bite. I was writing, and adding sugar to my coffee while the pie sat there. I wrote some more and was getting nervous like I was going to be caught in blog mode and kicked out of the restaurant like real journalists were getting kicked out of Donald Trump press conferences. I was putting off the first bite. It wasn’t there to pose for a photo. It was there to be eaten. The other procrastination factor was once it was gone there be no more pie and I knew I’d be sad.  The pie was becoming part of the decor. A Paul Simon song energized the dining room as an older couple shuffled by. Shuffling would be the expected result of eating an entree and a piece of pie. To avoid arousing suspicion, I needed to eat the pie slice. Restaurant critics must give themselves away by measuring, sniffing at their uneaten food and scribbling furiously. The first bite was worth the wait. So light, so creamy, I pressed down to get through the crust. Cream pies are more light on pie, but what I was really after was chocolate.

All around me pie questions were being slung at patrons. Al, who was sitting at the counter reading a newspaper seemed like a regular because everyone called him Al, was asked if he was ready for his free slice of pie. Soon after a couple was asked, “Are you ready for pie?” Then I overheard, “Do you know what kind of pie you want?” Shari’s is about pie. It’s on the sign. I considered a bold plan about showing up on pie day and inquiring about unclaimed slices.  Minutes later it was revealed that those too stuffed from their meals were presented with their pie slices in a white bag to take home. My brilliant idea seemed foiled, but my mood lightened as I poured my third cup of coffee from my personal carafe and a cowbell soul song came on.

As I sat in the restaurant I overheard the specifics of the pie special. Classic pie slices were free while gourmet slices cost one dollar. My selection had fallen into the classic category so it would have been free had I felt richer. The classics were more of the crusty and berry variety like Peach Perfection, Strawberry Rubarb Delight and Oregon Marrionberry. That Sour Cream Lemon or Key Lime would have set me back a buck. Of course you pay extra for gourmet. I was in awe of Shari’s having won pie awards from the American Pie Council. The menu was dotted with 2016 blue ribbons. The numbers were impressive: 14 blue ribbons in 2016 and more than 35 over the past six years. From the menu I read about Shari’s  World Famous Pie Shake. I’m not in position to travel the world to find out if that claim is really true but the concept was amazing. I made plans to return for Milk Shake Day.

When there was nothing left to scrape off I was tempted to lick my plate.


This post was not meant as an extended yelp review or product endorsement only as a last ditch effort to celebrate Pi(e) Day. Tune in next time when the subject of Air Pollution is tackled. 



Sarah Mirk Talks Pie Not PI


Sarah Mirk is my journalism hero in Portland. I enjoyed reading her writing when she was a staff writer for the Portland Mercury. She left the paper to work for Bitch Media where she’s the online editor. I’ve heard her appearances on the OPB talk show Think Out Loud doing News Roundtable segments many times and have always appreciated her opinions. It was Sarah’s comments on the podcast Karl Show (starring Jason), when she shared her appreciation for pie, that inspired this email interview. Sarah is the author of Sex From Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules.

3 Questions for Sarah Mirk

What makes pie one of your favorite desserts or even meals?
Pie is a meditative process to make—mixing the crust and rolling out the dough takes time, and that’s good. It’s also tied up in history. I use my family’s recipe, which involves measuring blobs of crisco, but I like hearing other peoples’ stories about their memories of pie. Pie always reminds me of my dad, whose annual tradition is making way too many pies at Thanksgiving. It’s a food that many people have a strong opinions about. Of course, the most obvious reason to like pie is that it’s delicious. My favorite kinds of pie are rhubarb and cherry.

What are some of your favorite Portland area places for pie?
Actually, my favorite place to get pie is at roadside diners whenever I’m driving somewhere far away. I like stopping in a random small town diner for coffee and a huge wedge of berry pie and getting a feel of the town. In Portland, I don’t go out for pie that much. But you really can’t beat Random Order and Loretta Jean’s for a classic pie. I’m vegan these days, so I’ve been eating a lot of flaky pie-like pastries from Sweetpea.

Ever been to Shari’s for their Wednesday night pie special (free slice of pie with the order of an entree)?
You know, I’ve only been to Shari’s once, when some friends and I drove out to the Pendleton Round-Up. On the way back, we stopped at what my friends insisted was the first-ever Shari’s in the world, which is just like every other Shari’s and is in a parking lot somewhere in Eastern Oregon. I got a slice of pie and it was pretty dang mediocre.

Note: This is not meant as an advertisement or commercial endorsement for Shari’s Cafe.

Read all about Sarah:


Listen to the podcast interview that inspired this interview:


Next year I hope to be doing a live remote PI Day broadcast from a Shari’s Cafe parking lot while being beaten about the head and shoulders by a gang of protractor wielding mathematicians.

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