Many children go through the terrible twos, wreaking havoc, but when it comes to businesses the two-year mark can be much sweeter. As Cafe Smitten nears its second anniversary, it has something very sweet to share with its customers: a plethora of pies.
The sweet and savory treats are courtesy of The Pie Hole, the Los Angeles-based chain with which the local cafe has formed an exclusive partnership to serve Bakersfield.
How did they whip up such a deal? It started as the cafe headed into its first holiday season in 2017 when owners Shai and Stasie Bitton were looking for something special to offer customers.
"I said, 'We need those pies for Thanksgiving," Stasie said. "We met the owners of The Pie Hole and formed a relationship."
For the past two Thanksgivings, the cafe has sold a limited offering of pies from The Pie Hole, which has eight locations in Southern California and three in Tokyo.
The business, started in 2011 by "Pie Mom" Becky Grasley with family recipes, has been recognized for its desserts, being named among the “Top 12 Best Pies in America” by Conde Nast Traveler and “24 Of The Most Delicious Pies In America” by Buzzfeed, as well as being featured on The Cooking Channel's "Unique Eats."
Along with a multi-franchise deal to expand to Saudi Arabia, The Pie Hole also entered into an agreement for Cafe Smitten to offer its pies and pie holes in Bakersfield.
"It's not their thing to sell (beyond their locations), but I pushed for the people of Bakersfield, for my family," Shai said. "This is a top-rated pie."
Shai said his passion for building something special for Bakersfield, like what he experienced working at famed Cafe Lalo in New York City, helped sway the founders.
"It's a big deal they chose us," he said. "We're planning to grow a lot with The Pie Hole in Bakersfield."
That includes offering the pies at the current location and the planned Smitten in Seven Oaks, which is in the process of having its plans approved by the city, as well as a local franchise of The Pie Hole, which Shai said is their eventual goal.
Pies offered at the cafe include earl grey tea, The Pie Hole's signature flavor made with an earl grey white chocolate mousse layered over chocolate ganache and topped with whipped cream and crushed pistachios. Other current flavors are a decadent Mexican chocolate, Mom's apple crumble (served warm) and salted honey custard, a seasonal pie. About every month, that fourth space will rotate with another seasonal option. Pies start at $6.75 a slice or $40 for a whole pie, depending on the flavor.
There are also savory pies, including a mac 'n' cheese pot pie, loaded with pasta and topped with buttery crumbs seasoned with parsley and garlic. Spinach mushroom and broccoli cheddar quiches are also available. Savory pies, served with a salad, are $8.50.
Finally there are pie holes, two-bite delights of filling in pie crust. Four varieties are available — Mexican chocolate, caramel apple, blueberry crumble and Nutella — starting at $2.25 each.
As the cafe's second anniversary nears on Feb. 20, the Bittons are planning some surprises for customers, along with keeping an eye on the next step.
"We always want to keep innovating, to keep layering," Stasie said. "Offering live music, adding the back bar, now the pies, and we won't stop. It's in our nature to keep going. We love feeding people."
"I love my customers, I love Bakersfield, and I want to improve the quality of life in Bakersfield," Shai said.
"One slice at time," Stasie said.
"Yes, and one cup of coffee and one amazing lunch at a time," he said.
Cafe Smitten is at 909 18th St.