Thursday, June 13, 2013

Shhhhh! Pie Society is Open in Costa Mesa

Pie Society
353 East 17th St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

When I heard that a speakeasy was being opened in Costa Mesa, my mind immediately went to a time of gangsters, flappers, and a time when the foxtrot was all the latest craze on the dance floor. Speakeasies became necessary when the US went through prohibition from 1920 to 1933. It is hard for me to imagine a time when you could not get an alcoholic drink anywhere, but these secret clubs. Luckily, the law was repealed, and booze is again free flowing.

Pie Society is located in the rear of Pitfire Pizza, on 17th Street. We have not made it to Pitfire yet, but walking through the restaurant to get to Pie Society, we took note of the great looking pizzas, salads, and pasta dishes. The atmosphere was so awesome, they even had a DJ spinning records in this restaurant. I have now made a vow to come experience Pitfire for myself, but tonight was all about Pie Society.

You enter Pie Society through the back of the Pitfire building. I'm not sure if there are any signs, as we were invited to a special preview media event, and met at the front door of Pitfire Pizza. The space is not huge. 600 square feet, a fifteen seat bar, and about another six tables are about all there is around the darkened room. Even with the other 30 or so assembled media, the space never really felt cramped.

With the dark paneled walls, eyes are immediately drawn to the lightened bar area. As an ode to the former tenant of this building, Marie Callender's, the Pie Society places their top shelf bottles on what was the original pie oven. I was also drawn to the knockout pose of Muhammad Ali along the far wall, with the tag line, "I was born bad". He definitely was one bad dude in his prime.

No, I did not drink all of these beverages, but I did sample all of them. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good after our night was done. The man behind these cocktails is OC native, Steve Garcia. Steve has quite the resume. He's an original member of the Orange County Bartender's Cabinet, and he's been in charge of the cocktail program at Mesa Restaurant and Broadway by Amar Santana. Now he's created the cocktail and beverage program for Pie Society. What I got with these drinks, even before I took my first sip, was that theses cocktails are very labor intensive. The three bartenders behind the bar were really working hard getting the concoctions just right and adding the correct garnishes. Their hard work really did payoff when I got the chance to try these cocktails. Some favorites of the night included The Art of the Kill ($10), which is the second picture from the top. Using Death's Door Gin, Gran Classico Cynar, a tangerine garnish, and one large ice cube, this was a drink I could imagine one of the Rat Pack drinking. It was a very grown up drink, with a hint of sweetness. The Old Man and the Sea ($12) is the fourth picture down, and was made up of Zaya 12 year old Rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dream, Barspoon Turbinado Syrup, a lime ribbon, and one large ice cube. I'm not going to lie to you and make you think that I know all of these ingredients that went into this drink, but this take off on an old fashioned was very delicious. I really got a lot from the all spice that was used in this beverage. The last drink I wanted to highlight was the Mai Thai ($12) in the last picture. This is not you Grandmother's Mai Thai. At Pie Society they use Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum, Rhum Argicole, Orange Curacao, Lime juice, mint, and an orchid garnish. This was not like any Mai Thai I have ever had. Not real heavy on the orange, it was more minty than it was anything else. Very good, and really took me out of Costa Mesa and put me somewhere in French Polynesia, without having to go through customs.

After all of the drinking, I was definitely ready to try the food at Pie Society. When we entered the room they had bar snack laid out on each table. These are not your normal pretzels and Chex mix though. Pie Society's holy trinity of bar snacks include Our Pickles ($4), Pastrami Peanuts ($3), and Smoked Olives ($5), or you could get the whole trio for $8. I'm not a big olive fan, but the olives were a big hit around the table. The nuts did not really taste like pastrami, but they were more of a candied nut variety, with salt on the outside. Three kinds of pickles are offered at Pie Society, Dill, Bread and Butter, and Siracha. I did not get a chance to try the Siracha pickle, but the bread and butter pickles were right on point. I wanted to smuggle some home and put some on a burger.

It seems like everywhere we have been recently they have had hard boiled eggs on the menu. Pie Society was no exception, with their Kimchi Deviled Eggs ($4). My Mom will be shocked to hear that I tried one of these. I am not a big fan of deviled eggs, but in a room of fellow food bloggers, I did not want my food cred to take more of a hit than it probably already has, so I tried one of these deviled eggs. Not too bad. I did not get any of the kimchi flavor that the name of these promised though. The texture was smooth and the paprika added a slight pop. I'm still not going to eat these all the time, maybe only when my peers are in the same room.

I have been a shrimp fiend the last few weeks, so when this Crispy Dim Sum Shrimp ($8) hit our table, I was very excited. I'm not entirely sure why they called this dim sum shrimp though. It more resembled a honey walnut shrimp dish to me. You can not see it from the picture, but under the shrimp is a sweet mayo sauce and pineapple, which gave this a sweetness. There was just enough sauce under there that you could dip your shrimp into it. The shrimp was cooked well, a little crispy on the outside, and not overdone on the inside.

The big hit of the night for me was the Tater Tots ($7). Yes these were regular tater tots, but what made them extra special was the chorizo fondue that was served alongside of the spuds. I could not help myself from dipping my fork into the chorizo mixture and almost eating it all by myself. Of course I did this after everyone was done with this dish. I wanted to get some extra to take home, and have it on hot dogs the next day. I'm not even sure what the white dipping sauce was, because all of my attention went to my beloved chorizo fondue. This will be a dish we get on return visits.

I just realized that I have not mentioned anything about the chef that is responsible for all of this food at Pie Society. Chef Jason Neroni is the man behind the menu. Chef Jason is from Superba Snack Bar in Venice. That restaurant has won critical acclaim from tons media outlets and foodies alike. Superba is also owned by Pitfire Pizza founder, Paul Hibler. They are hoping that their winning combination works down in OC. To help hedge their bets, they have brought the Superba Fried Chicken ($8) down south. This chicken was very good. Not like any I have ever tasted. The menu says it has a red wine vin glaze, chilies, and Parmesan. All of these flavors play against each other really well. I got the Parmesan first, then a slight heat from the chilies, then the overpowering, but great taste of the almost vinegar like tang from the wine glaze. Great flavor waves. The chicken was tender as well. This is another must get dish at Pie Society.

My love for pork belly is well known to lots of my friends. My mantra has become, "if you see pork belly on a menu, order it". The Sweet and Sour Crispy Pork Belly ($8) could not come around quick enough. The cubes of crisp pork belly were topped with pineapple and opal basil. The pork was a tad on the dry side, but the pineapple helped to moisten that up. The hunks of the belly are like eating bacon dice, so good. I kind of hoarded this dish when others were too busy talking.

The Cheeseburger Hot Pocket ($8) did not win much praise from the people at our table, but I kind of liked them. They kind of had a lumpia kind of feel to them. The ground meat was finely chopped, the cheese was not overly present for me, and the house made ketchup and mustard provided a good one-two punch for dipping. These were not overly greasy like I had expected, and even though the name conjured up visions of those vile frozen Hot Pockets that you can find at your grocery store, I ended up enjoying these much more than I thought I would.

Being under the same roof as Pitfire Pizza, it is probably no shock that there are two pizzas on the Pie Society menu. The first one we got to try was the Deli Pizza ($12). This was my favorite pizza of the two. It featured pastrami meatballs, Gouda cheese, mozzarella, and lots of caraway seeds. The meatballs were divine, and the cheeses all worked well together, without overpowering the pizza. The crust was pretty solid for being a thin crust. The Soprano Pizza ($13) was the pizza that mostly everyone liked. It came with tomato, mozzarella, caramelized onion, olives, Fresno chilies, salsa verde, and sopprasta, which is a dry salami. I liked this pizza, but I needed more flavor from it. It was very mellow.

Our visit, and this special media preview event were definitely a success in my book. I really am excited to come back to Pie Society and see how it does. I know that the word will definitely get out about this place, because almost every food media person I could think of from OC was here on this night. I talked to a lot of them, and they were all pretty excited for Pie Society to open. They are now open Tuesday through Sunday, from 5PM til Closing. The Pie Society Bar Menu kicks into gear at 8PM, and they offer a limited Pitfire menu from 5 to 8. We are really looking forward to heading back through the unmarked Pie Society door again.

We would like to thank everyone at Pie Society for making us feel so welcome, and for allowing us to come see what this place was all about. I was pretty impressed with what I saw on this night. The bartenders, waitstaff and food runners all did a great job for us. I also wanted to thank all of the other food bloggers and traditional media invitees. You all help make these events even better, and we always enjoy catching up with you. Lastly, a big thanks goes out to Devon Klug and Juilana Pesavento of Wagstaff Worldwide for the invitation to join them on this great night. You put together a great night for all of us. Thanks again.

Pie Society does have a web site, so click here to go to it:


  1. Great review, Mike. I liked the cocktails, food and space. Although the experience itself would've been more enjoyable if you weren't there =P

  2. Duc - Thanks for the kind words at the start of this comment. The ending part I am sure Minerva had something to do with. It was great seeing you here, and we look forward to seeing you again soon. You can even bring what's he name.