Upper crust

Cheeky Meat Pies: Down Under Dayton style

By Paula Johnson

Photo: The Tandoori Chook meat pie from Cheeky Meat Pies at downtown Dayton’s Second Street Market

Hot pockets

Like the dumpling, a lot of cultures have their own version of the meat pie. Popular variations of this handheld savory treat are found in places ranging from Nigeria to Jamaica to ancient Rome. There’s even a U.S. regional offering—the Natchitoches Louisiana meat pie. Probably most famous worldwide is the New Zealand meat pie. But don’t go digging for your passport just yet. You can experience a fairly faithful recreation of this classic food from down under right here in Dayton, under the very roof of downtown’s Second Street Market.

Cheeky Meat Pies can be found tucked away in booth 24 among a host of international cuisine vendors at the Market. They offer a range of pie options, both traditional and some not so typical as those found in New Zealand and Australia. I asked my Aussie friend Heather to accompany me as I sallied forth to sample the savory. It was my first time, but certainly not Heather’s. Soon after relocating to Dayton, she discovered Cheeky Meat Pies. “I think I ate at least ten pies that first week!” she laughs.

Just how prevalent are meat pies back home? I wanted to know.

According to my Aussie expert, they are nearly ubiquitous. “You’ll find them everywhere,” she says. “Anywhere from gas stations to white tablecloth restaurants. There are special pies for children’s birthdays. Everyone eats them! Back home we’d have them often with vanilla or chocolate milk. And always with tomato sauce. It’s a little less sweet than the ketchup they serve them with here.”

So now that I knew I was going to be trying a true example of New Zealand/Australian cuisine it was time to make some choices. I wanted to try what would be most typical, so Heather steered me to two of the first of the dozen or so choices on the menu. The first was a steak and cheese pie, appropriately called the Kiwi Classic. This one features roast beef and gravy with a Monterey Jack cheese. The second, the Distinguished Darby, is filled with seasoned ground beef (known as mince) topped with cheddar cheese. All pies are priced at $6. The Lunch Special, $7, includes a pie, side and a drink. “The traditional choice is to accompany your pie with kumara,” advised Heather.

Kumara are crispy sweet potato fries served with a dipping sauce.

Two live crew

All pies are baked on-site. You can watch them being made by Ted (a large man with a long, gray ponytail) and Riley, the two-man crew who regularly staff the booth. Ted wields a rolling pin to flatten and stretch large slabs of pastry, which he expertly rolls out over a waiting tray of open-faced pies. Riley handles the crowds with energetic charm. He concurred with the popularity of my choices as he handed over our pies and kumara. Heather and I gathered up our bounty and found some pleasant outdoor seating.

As I bit into the steaming pie, I asked Heather what she thought. “The pastry is a little more buttery than back home,” she commented. The pastry is the only thing not made on site, it turns out. Cheeky Meat Pies does have plans for expansion of their operation with a new location near the Neon Theater called Cheeky Bakery and Cafe. The building will incorporate a bakery, which will enable Cheeky Meat Pies to produce their own pastry, something which has been impossible at the Second Street Market location.

Tasty pastry

The pastry was buttery in a good way, and rich and flaky. The beef fillings were hearty and savory. Now it was time to try something a little more unusual, or so I thought. Turns out Indian spices are quite popular down under as well. The Tandoori Chook and the Naughty Bird both feature them. The Tandoori was stuffed with potatoes in a mild sauce, very tasty indeed. There are two non-savory treats available for after you’ve finished your pie and kumara. Riley recommended we try both options, lemon curd turnover and cinnamon pastries. I particularly enjoyed the crunchy little cinnamon spirals.

If you want to experience Cheeky Meat Pies in your own outback they are available frozen to take home for $5. Whether you eat them at the Market, or stretched out in front of your own barbie, after sampling these sassy little bundles you might find yourself wanting to say, “G’day Mate!”

Cheeky Meat Pies is located at PNC Second Street Market, booth 24, 600 E. Second St. For more information, please visit cheekymeatpies.com or call 937.216.2359.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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