Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Strangely New York: The Pies are Still Hot at Tuck Shop

Near perfect pies adorn the racks at Tuck Shop
By Mitch Broder

At Tuck Shop they sell meat pies without windshield wiper fluid, which may seem inconvenient to New Yorkers but proves liberating to Australians.

The Tuck Shop sign reads The Best Winter PiesMeat pies in Australia are like hot dogs in America; they’re displayed at gas stations and convenience stores, where, in a weak moment, you might buy one. Tuck Shop sells Australian meat pies at meat-pie shops, which means an extra stop for wiper fluid but less chance of thinking it’s your beverage.

So far it’s worked, since the Tuck Shop on First Street is in its seventh year, and has been joined by a shop on St. Mark’s Place and another at Chelsea Market. In Australia it’s always meat-pie season, but in New York we’re in the heart of it, so I stopped in at the St. Mark’s shop, secure that in winter a pie lunch is healthy.

It’s a little shop with just a couple of tables and a counter with five stools, because most people follow Australian tradition and eat hand pies while on foot. Still, it’s cozy and festooned with the things you find in every Australian home, like a cricket bat, a boomerang, and a calendar showing all the pubs in Melbourne.

The hot pies are on view in a pie case and described in chalk on a blackboard. They were served on my visit by a genial Australian counter man named Isaac. I discussed my options with Isaac at length, learning in the process that chook means chicken, as in — per Isaac’s example — “Put the chook in the oven, love.”

Pull up a stool to dine in New York at Tuck Shop
St. Mark's Place.
Still, I declined the Thai Chook Curry pie, choosing instead the Traditional Beef pie and the Lamb and Veg pie, two of the most popular selections. They were both hot and piquant and satisfying enough to make a fine meal for $12. Isaac was impressed that I ate both.

Later I stopped at the First Street store, which is similar to the St. Mark’s store except that it has the table on which the pies are made and two inflatable kangaroos. It also had an Australian named Lincoln Davies, who owns the stores, even though he came to America to do the opposite of work.

“I came here with the idea of a two-week holiday,” he told me. But he couldn’t help noticing that America was dangerously short on meat pies. He made it his mission to help us out. A few years later he and his partner, Niall Grant, were running the first Tuck Shop, daringly free of auto parts.

Patrons enjoy no frills meat pies at Tuck Shop in New York City
East First Street.
Like all attempts to change eating habits, it has had challenges, Lincoln said: “ ‘Meat pie’ to an American conjures up nothing like this.” New Yorkers see ‘pie’ at a takeout and expect to have pizza pie. Anglophiles know English pies, which Lincoln refers to as “gelatinous.”

Australians, however, know their continent’s mass-produced gas-station pies, and so tend to regard the Tuck Shop offerings as gourmet fare. One such Australian was in the First Street store eyeing Lincoln and me as we talked. Lincoln was underselling his product, the man finally complained.

“In Australia, eating meat pies is something you do very casually,” said the Australian, Peter Freudenberger. “It’s not a fine dining thing. This place replicates the experience, but you get good food. In eighteen years in Australia I never saw a pie being made — just like you never see a hot dog being made here.”

Lincoln accepted the compliment. But the meat pie, he said, still battles — even after people have come in, tried it, and liked it. “Once they try them,” he said, “they get stuck on one, and we have to kind of wean them off it and get them to try another.”

Cooks in the back stretch dough for meat pies at Tuck Shop in New York City

Try another at Tuck Shop, at 68 East First Street, 115 St. Marks Place, and Chelsea Market Ninth Avenue, New York City.


  1. No chocolate? Pumpkin? Mmmmm.....meat pie sounds....not like a pie to me....that might just be me. Hope you are staying warm!

  2. Sounds like a perfect winter snack (meal?)... Will have to try one!
    - Mrs. Jones

  3. I love it when you speak Australian, Mitchticia.
    And now I am starving as well!

  4. Sounds yummy. Meat pies are very "vintage" NY. Thanks for discovering (and sharing) the Australian contribution!

  5. Oh how I love Australian pies. Should start making those myself I guess, because it will take a while before going there again. In Shanghai (where I used to live in the past years) they had several suppliers of Oz pies but here in Rotterdam I haven't found any yet. Great pics, so inviting. Great story too!