Pleasant House Bakery

Welcome to the capital of the American Midwest - if ever there was a place for pie, Chicago is it and we're talking every variety from steak-n-ale to strawberry.

While the sweet slices find a place on the plate year-round, proper pub grub like Shepard's Pie is the kind of food that fortifies against cold winds and the occasional "wintry mix." Chicagoans specialize in this arena and you're just in time to experience a few of our favorites.

Pleasant House Bakery (964 West 31st Street)

This gem is in the middle of Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood and worth the trip south. They have a regular menu of savory pies including chicken with homemade chutney, steak-and-ale, and kale with mushrooms.

Don't miss dish (outside of pie): Chips with Gravy. Just trust us on that one.

Duke of Perth (2913 North Clark Street)

Our second savory stop takes us north to Lakeview where the Duke of Perth reigns over local Scots (and more than a few resident scotch enthusiasts). Easily accessible by the Clark or Broadway bus routes, the Shepard's Pie is built on perfectly spiced meat and a buttery layer of mashed potatoes. Incidentally, it's also just across the way from one of Chicago's best independent movie theaters. A winter pairing if ever there was one.

Don't miss dish (outside of pie): The fish and chips are outstanding and "all you can eat" on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Bang Bang Pie (2051 North California Avenue)

Bang Bang Pie

During your short walk from the California Blue line stop, you'll start smell something in the air and it will draw you forward, quickening your pace. Make no mistake, that smell is butter, and it is wafting up the sidewalk from Bang Bang Pie. Having tried roughly eleven of their pies over the course of the last year (at least a bite or two of three per visit-in the name of science), I tell you with great confidence that this is the real deal. Their latest appeal to my heart/appetite took the form of a slice of chocolate peppermint pie that melted immediately upon being relieved of its fork. The shop owners are friendly and in warmer months, their side yard is charming.

Don't miss dish (outside of pie): The biscuits. You can share a slice of pie but every patron in your party should have their own biscuit to take to the butter and jam bar. Them's the rules. I only have your best interests at heart.

Hoosier Mama Pie Company (1618 West Chicago Avenue)

Our last stop harkens back to the owner's less city-oriented roots-it's the Hoosier Mama Pie Company in West Town. This place is no bigger than a pocket but it's a pocket with a booth overlooking busy Chicago Avenue. It's an especially pleasant spot for enjoying a cup o' joe and a slice of, well, anything on the menu. This reviewer has always been partial to the chocolate cream pie.

Don't miss dish (outside of pie): This is a pie shop and expect no less than the best. While it isn't quite a dish, don't overlook that mug - it's filled with Chicago's locally roasted Metropolis Coffee and it will take you from Clark Kent to Superman (or Superwoman) in no time.

Here's to hoping you find just the slice to feed a wintery appetite and if you find a new piece of pie during your stay, be sure to share it in the comments.