Shirley Corriher is one woman who knows the hows and whys of good baking. So when she offered to take me to lunch at a new restaurant where she claims she “can’t get enough of the pie crust,” I suspected she had made a great find. Indeed, I think she has.
Café Lapin, in the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center, has been open just five weeks, but already has baked goods to compete with any in town. Co-owner/baker Mattie Hines also runs Le Lapin Café in the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center nearby. He has already made a name for his chocolate chip cookies — huge, super thin and chewy-gooey in all the right places. His Valrhona chocolate chunk brownies are also notable for their dense yet perfectly melting texture. I’m thinking it’s the best brownie I’ve ever eaten.
But the biggest swoons should be saved for Hines’ pie crust, which is crisp, tender, flaky and as buttery as any I’ve ever had. The best way to sample it is in one of the daily quiches, which are blessedly not deep dish. You get a wide slice with a tremulous custard just set inside that amazing crust.
The selection of pies that serve as a centerpiece to the dining room are also worth exploring. The apple pie has a flaky, savory cheddar crust, while the blueberry crumb pie has a fantastic, not-too-sweet flavor.
When I asked Hines about the secret to his crust recipe, I was thrilled to hear that he sticks to basics. White Lily flour, very cold butter, salt and enough ice water to pull it together in a standing mixer. But he has worked on the recipe so long that he has the feel. No shortening, no shortcuts.
The cafe serves breakfast, lunch and a small dinner menu. At night, it’s currently BYOB, with no corkage fee.
Lunch, as you might guess, is a total hen house. I noted that to Shirley, who countered, “Oh, no! Men come in all the time!” She scanned the room and found precisely one other dude.
Specialties include five kinds of chicken salad, including a very tasty one with bits of dried apricot. Flavors here are as soft and genteel as a well powdered nose. The waiter even warns guests that the jalapeño chicken salad isn’t at all spicy.
But those pies are something to be reckoned with. In a city where it can be awfully hard to find a good slice of pie, I think we’ve got a new gold standard.
By the way, Café Lapin doesn’t yet have a sign. It can be a little hard to find.