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Australian Pie Face Brings Treat from Down Under to Midtown

By Mathew Katz | January 24, 2012 8:06am
Fresh pies from the oven at Pie Face.
Fresh pies from the oven at Pie Face.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

MIDTOWN — Australian pie makers are taking a slice of the Midtown lunch business.

Pie Face, an Aussie pie store on Broadway at West 54th Street, opened its doors Monday, testing the American palate with savory pies that are loved down under and in Britain, but are largely unknown here.

Both intrigued and confused, Midtown workers descended on the tiny store to try something other than fruit wrapped in a pastry crust.

"I actually thought it would be all sweet pies," said Deborah Jacobs, 38, after buying a tandoori vegetable mini-pie.

"I've tried chicken pot pie before. That's probably the extent of my savory pie experience. I'm looking forward to giving this a shot."

Australians consume about 300 million pies a year, according to Pie Face. They come with fillings including steak, chicken and mushroom and  beef and tomato.

On Thursday — which is also Australia Day, a national holiday down under — skeptical New Yorkers will have a chance to try the pies for free. For 24 hours, anyone who walks in the door can get a free coffee or mini pie.

There's also a contest — the person to find the "Golden Pie" gets a free trip to Australia.

The new Midtown store, which is open 24 hours,  has no seating — their founders are gambling their pies, in a handheld portable pie pack, could become the next portable food craze, akin to grabbing a slice of pizza.

Ben Macpherson, Pie Face's marketing chief, was in town from Australia for the store's launch.

"We've been getting New Yorkers in our Australian shops for years," he said.

"New Yorkers love trying new things, and this is so unique."

Pie Face also serves up strong Australian coffee — which Macpherson describes as "less water, more beans" than its American counterparts — with names like "Kick My Arse!" and "Start My Heart!"

The store's founders hope they become known for both their pie and coffee. They are already planning a second location in Murray Hill, and are scouting out several more possible locations.

"People have just gobbled them down all day today," said co-founder Wayne Homschek, an American expat living in Australia. "We're looking forward to moving it to the next phase."

Still, some lunchers were hesitant to trade in their sandwiches or pizza for a pie plate. John Wilson, 28, came to Pie Face on his lunch break, but opted to pick up a tuna wrap — this time.

"Everything looks really good, so I'll definitely be back," he said. "I have a massive sweet tooth, so, yeah, I'll be back."

Jennifer Forni, 28, an opera singer, picked up a pear ricotta pie for dessert, but plans to come back for a meat pie — but only as a treat every once in a while.

"I probably won't come on a regular basis — I feel like meat pies are loaded with calories," she said.