Friday, April 22, 2016

Chow Time: Fresno's Chicken Pie Shop

This post comes at quite a difficult time, following the recent demise of our beloved, local institution, La Palma Chicken Pie Shop.  As it was the feature of our very first "Chow Time" post, we feel particularly saddened by the loss of owner, Otto Hasselbarth, and the relegation of his landmark restaurant to the wacky tacky history books.

Rest in Pie

Luckily, our friends at the Museum of Neon Art have stepped up to preserve this legendary bit of Orange County history by preserving the iconic, chicken-shaped neon sign that otherwise would certainly have been so much fodder for the scrap heap.  In loving tribute to La Palma, we set our sights on Fresno, CA, home of another purveyor of pastry-bound poultry, Grandmarie's Chicken Pie Shop.

Grandmarie's Chicken Pie Shop (1956) - Fresno, CA

Of a similar vintage to La Palma, Grandmarie's shares the same unapologetically old-timey sensibility, serving homestyle comfort food with few frills but plenty of atmosphere.  A cavernous coop, Fresno's Chicken Pie Shop shelters three giant, reverse-painted plexiglass roosters (after all you can't make more chickens without roosters).

Officially unnamed, these guys definitely rule the roost.

We were told than one of these fellows was older than the others, finding his way here from a previous location.

We're sure it's this one.
Just look at him, cock of the walk!

Smack dab in the middle of The Tower District, Fresno's cultural center, the Chicken Pie Shop was an area institution long before this location opened its doors in 1956.  An ever-growing customer base demanded a dining room that could serve the masses; Grandmarie obliged by opening a huge venue that could support the crowds of farm-sized appetites in California's central valley.  Indeed, the seating options at Grandmarie's Chicken Pie Shop are endless.  Making like Goldilocks, we decided to try them all.

Starting with the two atomic-age horseshoe counters...

Too big.

And making our way through miles of multi-toned, tufted green booths.
Too small.

Finally choosing a booth (just right) beneath Cocky Locky, we placed our order with our charming and ever-so-patient waitress.

It's called the chicken pie shop, idiots.
Why are you taking so long to order?!?!!

She hardly even made fun of me when I ordered the "mini meatloaf" that wasn't on the menu.  I'm not sure how I made that up; maybe I was hallucinating or maybe I figured that ordering off-menu would make me seem like a super-hip regular.  Either way, it didn't work.  Honestly, there was a menu item that I must have scanned a little too quickly, projecting upon it my desire for an individually-portioned meatloaf.  As it turns out, Grandmarie's "Mini Loaf" is a miniature loaf of their delicious homemade bread.  

After recovering from my embarrassment and choosing a legitimate menu offering, we settled in to talking about how much we already loved this place.  Then the food came.

The chicken pie dinner - all this plus biscuits.

Our server beamed as she boasted about the purity of Grandmarie's chicken
pies, unspoiled by any pesky vegetables lurking beneath the flaky, gravy-soaked crust.

Erika was so overcome with gratitude that she couldn't continue her meal without saying grace.
I guess nothing connects people like food, faith, and freedom from vegetables...

Green-Chile Cheeseburger

Chicken Fried Steak Dinner

Tuna Salad Sandwich

Certainly, it might look a tad institutional but you'll hear no complaint from our party on that count - especially when the institution includes that beautiful, green-and-white scalloped dinner ware.

Even more than their main courses, my dinner companions oohed and aahed endlessly over the sweet corn, the succulent coleslaw, and the perfectly-prepared steak fries.  We decided that it's best that Grandmarie's Chicken Pie Shop is such a distance from us.  Otherwise we'd get so used to eating their deliciously-monochromatic meals that eventually our flesh would fuse with the 60-year-old vinyl seating.

Mary still thinks it might be worth it.

"The Wise Little Hen" (1934)

Not so wise.
Sure we'll help you plant your corn...and then 
we'll serve it a long side a pie, a chicken pie.

Grandmarie's Chicken Pie Shop
861 W Olive Ave
Fresno, CA


Mr. Tiny


  1. Find out whether they close for a month each summer, as La Palma Chicken Pie Shop did. (A wasted trip to Anaheim, I could stand. But Fresno...)

    1. Keep your passport handy; Grandmarie's is open year round!!

  2. It all looks fabulous! I want to go!

    1. You should! There are actually quite a few places in Fresno that make it worth the trip!

  3. Where are all the hoards of customers? It looks like you have the place to yourselves. Did you make special arrangements with Grandmarie?

    1. I wield similar powers to Oprah; they close it down for celebrity visits. Either that or, more likely, we hit it at 3:45 on a weekday like the true senior citizens that we are. Hahaha!!!

  4. Er mah gawd.....
    My dad actually designed that restaurant in Fresno! He built those avocado vinyl tufted booths & the plexiglass roosters too! I used to love going the Chicken Pie shop as a child, the gravy in those pies was amazing.