San Diego Chicken Pie Shop

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The Chicken Pie Shop : A San Diego Dining Landmark

Mar 15, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:A complete pie dinner for under $5.

Cons:It isn't worth more than a $5 meal.

The Bottom Line: Nothing can touch The Chicken Pie Shop.


This review was written in 1/02 and recently rescued from the travel section.


I am suffering from the mother of hangovers and undergoing a major wave of nostalgia and homesickness. I miss San Diego - I miss the cheap drinks and crowded Alibi, I miss shows at the Casbah, I miss Livewire and Hillcrest, I miss the silly shoes of Pacific Beach. Perhaps, most of all, I miss the Chicken Pie Shop - the best place to go for hangover food.

At the Chicken Pie Shop in San Diego, you'll find a lot of chicken pies, mounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, and small slices of dessert pies for prices that probably haven’t changed since its doors opened back in the 1960's. It’s an honest, no-frills kind of a place with silver-haired loyal regulars and down-home food servers in comfortable shoes that push around carts and call you “honey”. It’s a place for locals, tourists on a serious budget, or those searching for cafeteria food’s good ol' days. It’s perfect for lazy afternoons spent thrift shopping at Amvets and is one of the few places on earth I can handle when I’m hungover.

The Food
If you’re a fan of diner food, this is mandatory stop. Recommendation: The Pie Dinner – which offers one tasty chicken pie, a pile of soft mashed potatoes with gravy, a little bowl of boiled veggies (like peas and carrots or corn - once frozen), a matching little bowl of coleslaw, a tiny dinner roll and several pats of butter plus a piece of pie for dessert. A complete, satisfying comfort meal for only $4.40! (Unfortunately, it's only really worth $4.40.) But still...

The chicken pie is a large mound with large chunks of chicken and turkey in a light gravy baked inside a piecrust pastry; while it’s not the absolute best chicken pie I’ve ever had, it sure beats a 99 cent Swanson's frozen pot pie. The boiled veggies are marginal but the mashed potatoes and coleslaw are friendly and consistent. There’s nothing fancy about the Pie Dinner; just honest institution food at an obscene price.

If you're not a fan of chicken pot pie, don't fret, The Chicken Pie Shop serves up all kinds of nostalgia food for everyone – cheap steaks, hot open faced hot turkey sandwiches, meatloaf, fried chicken, chicken giblets, big salads, roast beef, fish, and cubed Jell-O for dessert. Daily specials come with all the fixins plus a cup of soup. All food is hearty and cheap and served on basic plastic platters. Nothing spectacular, just hearty and cheap.

The Scene
While the senior citizen crowd seems to dominate between the hours of 4 pm – 6 pm, you’ll find that there’s a wide variety of chicken pie fans. If it's not the pre-Bingo hall crowd, you can find indie rock kids, families with screaming kids, derelict-types, and just regular folk wanting to fill up on cheap comfort food.

The service is speedy and super friendly. The wait staff are veterans and love sharing stories with you about their grandkids. You'll wish all food servers were like the folks here.

The Chicken Pie Shop is pretty huge, seating over a hundred people in booths and tables throughout the airy restaurant. The theme is undeniably cafeteria-style, a little noisy and busy, and with the campiest dcor. I like the chicken-theme that dominates (chicken figurines, chicken wall hangings, chicken plates, and such) even though they’re covered in dust and grime. My favorite object d’art is the chicken made of pinto beans and corn. While bordering on campy-cool, the cafeteria-senior citizen charm prevails and leaves you the feeling of a very simple and cozy and friendly place to eat.

Final Note
If you don’t have time to stay for a whole meal, do check out their ‘to-go’ section up front – where you can pick up a pie or two for the road. You can also get your very own Chicken Pie Shop t-shirt to let the world know you’ve been to this San Diego food landmark.

On El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, west of the 805, near Oregon Street. University Heights/Hillcrest area. You can find parking in the back.

I wish I had one of those pies right now.


Recommend this product? Yes

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