Pies ’n’ Thighs

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
Critics' pick
3 Love It
Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe
Photograph: Jolie Ruben
Photograph: Jolie Ruben
Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Deprivation is the mother of New York restaurant hype. Pies ’n’ Thighs, the city’s most eagerly awaited Southern-fried grease trap, has kept Williamsburg in Pavlovian limbo since the start of 2008, when its first incarnation—a drunk-food closet at the back of a bar—was shut down to prep for a more spacious and permanent home. Last month, after endless delays, it finally debuted in a former bodega near the Williamsburg Bridge.

The new version, run by the three chefs behind the original—Carolyn Bane, Erika Geldzahler and Sarah Buck, who met working at Diner—is a full-fledged restaurant with prompt, personable waiters and beer and wine service. Still, the place retains the DIY, seat-of-the-pants spirit of the dive that it sprang from, with food specials scrawled on sheets of paper, chairs and tables that might have been salvaged from a public school, and overhead lights so bright, dining there feels like sitting in detention.

The food, not the venue, is clearly the draw. While the down-and-dirty Southern fare—honest, cheap and often delicious—is certainly in line with Brooklyn’s all-American moment, it’s an audacious departure from the borough’s judiciously sourced, seasonally orthodox, self-righteously ethical ethos.

Yes, the chickens are antibiotic- and hormone-free, but you won’t find the name of the farm where they came from on the menu. The catfish, meanwhile, is a generic farmed product. The hot sauce is Frank’s Original RedHot—$3 a bottle at C-Town—the grits Quaker Instant, the pickles B&G deli classics.

As a result, Pies ’n’ Thighs feels as authentic as any venerable Dixieland food shack. While the sides and fried fish and fowl taste like they might have been passed down from mother to daughter (they weren’t; none of the partners are from the South), the leathery barbecued brisket and pork are in need of more tinkering. But the fried chicken—simply brined, floured and fried—is among the city’s most succulent, with a greaseless, extra-crispy crust. The fried catfish is also exceptional, coated in an expertly seasoned layer of cornmeal. These ladies may not be pitmasters, but they sure know their way around a fryer. Among the superlative sides, the baked beans—thick with molasses and studded with brisket scraps—and buttery cheddar-swirled grits are the standouts.

But perhaps the tastiest thing on the menu isn’t a meal or a side, but a snack: a classic buttery biscuit—a $5 handful—enclosing a small pounded chicken cutlet coated in an irresistibly trashy emulsion of honey-butter and hot sauce. It’s available daily starting at breakfast, when you’re more likely to find cops than hipsters among the early risers (at dinner, the pendulum swings in the other direction).

The pies that account as much as the chicken for the restaurant’s cult following are displayed in a glass case just under the register. These sweet classics—Nilla-wafer-studded banana cream, bitter chocolate pudding with whipped cream topping—are such old-fashioned American staples, you can picture Jerry Mathers’s Beaver swiping a slice from the window.

In the end, a good deal of the cooking lives up to the hype. But the sub-par barbecue and the setting—harsh lights and cramped seats don’t invite lingering—may leave you wondering if the buildup to opening might have been better spent. For now, the new Pies 'n’ Thighs, like the old one, might be best experienced as a takeout spot.

Cheat sheet

Drink this: Though the wine served in juice glasses is generically drinkable, the lemonade is just right—not too tart, not too sweet.

Eat this: Chicken biscuit, fried chicken, fried catfish, baked beans, banana cream pie

Sit here: While all seating’s the same here—uncomfortable, tight and brightly lit—on warm, sunny days, Washington Plaza, the park just around the corner, makes a fine spot for a Pies ’n’ Thighs picnic.

Conversation piece: The long slog en route to reopening—plagued with building-code violations, revolving-door landlords and exacting inspectors—might have sapped the resolve of a less tenacious crew.

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Venue name: Pies ’n’ Thighs
Address: 166 South 4th St

Cross street: at Driggs Ave
Opening hours: Mon–Fri 8am–midnight; Sat, Sun 10am–midnight
Transport: Subway: J, M, Z to Marcy Ave
Price: Average main course: $10. Cash only
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Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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Jaime B

This place usually has a looong wait for brunch on weekends, but that's totally justified, because the food is SO good. Grits are one of my favorite things to eat, and Pies n Thighs is an expert. I ordered the fried catfish with grits, and the fish was really enjoyable: not greasy, but lightly fried to a golden crisp. My friends and I ordered a bunch of things, the most memorable being the mac and cheese and cornbread (I’m instantly turned off by dry cornbread, but this was legit). We did order one of the doughnuts at the end, which was good but not amazing, and definitely not my favorite part of the meal. I also really like the location and setting. It’s on a quieter corner in South Williamsburg with a fair amount of window seats for outside views, and inside looks very much like a casual diner.

Lisa White

Excellent fried chicken, and this is coming from a gal that hails from a Southern family and knows a good bird! Super moist, well seasoned. The biscuits are solid too. Visited the same day I had a flight home to Chicago and took my leftovers in my purse on the plane, ate them hours later when I arrived home and the chicken was still delicious. I prefer their brunch menu, it's full of solid Southern staples. The wait isn't the worst, for sure worth it if you are craving wonderful fried chicken.

Jillian Anthony

It's lunchtime, so I'm drooling just thinking about the chicken sandwiches here. You will want all the pies and all the thighs. Go on and take a walk on the wild side and get one side of everything for the table—there's no way you'll be disappointed. I would say the chicken and waffles here actually aren't the main draw; instead, go for the fried chicken sandwich (will blow your damn mind) or the biscuit with jelly with cream cheese, along with cornbread, burnt end baked beans, mac and cheese, cheese grits and hush puppies. I'm not sure how authentically southern all this is, but it's definitely finger-lickin' good.


I had my heart set out on some fried chicken, so decided to see what all the hype was all about. 

Arrived at the location at about 1:00 PM on a Monday with a party of two. We had to wait about 10 minutes, but we were happy to oblige. We ordered the chicken basket, hippie banjo, chicken biscuits, and the blubard pie.

The fried chicken was fantastic. I'm not normally a fan of white meat, but I thought that they made their chicken breast very well as it came out super juicy. My guest thought her hippie banjo meal was just alright, but I guess that's what you get for going vegetarian at a chicken and waffles joint. I really loved the chicken biscuit, and would probably come back just to shove a couple more of those down my throat. The blubard pie was pretty delicious as well.

All in all, I would definitely come back again.

Jason S

This place is great. Most dishes have pepper in the, so if you don't like pepper it might not be your thing, but for everyone else, this place is the best. This place is a little like an indoor picnic down south. Fantastic friend chicken and biscuits. And for those who don't eat meat, the grilled cheese and tomato is a nice option for good old fashioned comfort food (that would have come out of your own kitchen as a kid). The desserts here are not to be missed. As the name implies, they always have a wide selection of pies, and you really can't go wrong with any of them.

Carla S

Sometimes you want pies, sometimes you want thighs...I usually want both. The best gluttonous meal I've had in a while—make sure to bring a friend you don't mind stuffing your face in front of and have at it. Add in some booze (and when it's nice out, the back patio) and a stop into Pies and Thighs pretty much comprises the most perfect day ever.