Trendsetters: Far-flung Flavors
For Pouch Pies of Athens and Norcross, international heritage is the recipe for success. The family of four owners – mom, dad and two daughters – have Scottish, Maltese and South African roots, and they’ve relied on their rich cultural background to introduce the Peach State to pies that are far from sweet.
“When we moved to Atlanta, we realized we’d been exposed to a different type of pie,” says Charmaine Enslin, one of the South African-born daughters. “For us, a pie is savory and meat-filled.”
Sitting around the kitchen table with their Scottish dad and Maltese mom, she and her sister, who have degrees in entrepreneurial management, began to talk seriously about opening a restaurant even though they had no experience in that business. Their brother, who was attending University of Georgia (UGA), suggested Athens would be the perfect place for a savory pie eatery because the pies are “quick, convenient, tasty and not that expensive,” she says.
In 2013, they began their search for a location, experimented with recipes for several months and opened Pouch Pies near UGA’s iconic arch. In less than five years, the restaurant’s success has led them to expand into wholesaling from a U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified kitchen in Norcross.
“We’ve got pies that have all sorts of protein, from lamb and pork, beef and chicken, and we have veggie pies,” Enslin says. “All have fresh, hand-cut vegetables, and the beef is tenderloin steak. We took traditional recipes from different areas around the world and tweaked them to make them our own. They have a little of our own heritage and culture, either from places we’ve been or cuisine we’re familiar with.”
With names like Pielander, Paddywhack and Mo’Rockin Veggie, each of the 14 pies is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a different country. However, this light-hearted approach to global comfort food has gained some serious recognition.
The Pork Q Pie, named for its pulled pork in peach barbeque sauce, was a finalist in this year’s UGA Flavor of Georgia food contest. And the Paddywhack pie, with its steak, bacon and Smithwick’s Irish ale gravy, recently earned a first place in the American Pie Council’s National Pie Championships.
In addition to their current individual-size offerings, the entrepreneurs are developing a family-size pie. Consumers have the option of getting the pies freshly baked at the Athens restaurant or ordering frozen pies online to bake at home.
Enslin says the wholesale business, which began last November, is starting to take off; they are now selling to a number of small, independent stores. During Atlanta United soccer games, Pouch Pies can also be found at two concessions in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“What we’re really trying to do is change the American perspective of what a savory pie is,” says Enslin. “They’re wholesome and tasty, and we try to do things as traditional and original as we can.”