Beginning as a drunk-food closet at the back of a bar, this Southern-fried grease trap run by the three chefs—Carolyn Bane, Erika Geldzahler and Sarah Buck, who met working at Diner—retains the DIY, seat-of-the-pants spirit of the dive that it sprang from: food specials scrawled on sheets of paper, chairs and tables that might have been salvaged from a public school, and borderline aggressive bright overhead lighting. The food, not the venue, is clearly the draw.
The down-and-dirty Southern fare—honest, cheap and often delicious—includes antibiotic- and hormone-free chickens, but you won’t find the name of the farm where they came from on the menu. The hot sauce is Frank’s Original RedHot, 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.
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. 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 enclosing a small pounded chicken cutlet coated in an irresistibly trashy emulsion of honey-butter and hot sauce.
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, such as sweet, old-fashioned American classics like 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.
Time Out tip: On warm, sunny days, Washington Plaza, the park just around the corner, makes a fine spot for a Pies ’n’ Thighs picnic.