Southern California was once a land of many coffee shops: urban eateries where you could count on three square meals a day, served swiftly, at reasonable prices. Many of the reliable old coffee shops are gone, but the Chicken Pie Shop endures – a charming relic of the sort of square meals that are found only in restaurants.
What we appreciate, as we fork into a Chicken Pie Shop chicken pie – which is nothing but meat and gravy and crust – and tear into the big soft dinner rolls that come with it, is that this is a meal that doesn't want to be home cooking. It is coffee shop food – clean, wholesome, and predictable. And it is oh-so-nice to eat. We also like the hot turkey sandwich with whipped potatoes and gravy. And the hot roast beef. And the dinner of chicken giblets in gravy inside a patty shell. There are low-cost steaks and good fried chicken as well; and they also exude the democratic aroma of mealtime at a dime store lunch counter. In a land of restaurant overachievers, there is much to be said for such probity.
We especially appreciate the skills of the waitresses in their maroon tunics. They "Hi, hon" you and bring the grub at hypersonic speed. We well remember our first visit, many years ago, when our waitress volunteered the information that she was having a calendar of boudoir photos made for her boyfriend, but had to stop after the "April" photography session when she came down with shingles. At that, she served dessert: red Jell-O, filled with chunks of canned fruit cocktail. This may not be everybody’s idea of a great finish to a great meal, but we fell in love for life.
"My waitress wouldn't let me leave without trying a chicken pie and I'm so glad I did. Real turkey, flaky crust covered with a delicious chicken gravy... it is easy to see why this is the signature dish."
"The hot turkey sandwich comes with whipped potatoes and cranberry sauce. This is a coffee shop classic!"
"How can you go wrong with a delightful Chicken Pie?"
"Counter and seats are crowded every day at lunch with people who like a square meal at a decent price."
"This is just a small portion of the chicken figurines scattered throughout the dining area. I was told all of these were donated by customers."
"Ol' reliable in downtown San Diego"
"On the rare bad-weather day in San Diego, a chicken pie is especially comforting."