It’s lunchtime and the Saltchuck Pie Company in Rock Bay is bustling. The simple décor — retro signage, Formica tables, bright orange floor — and the sunlight streaming in makes for a cheerful, beachy vibe. It’s the right tone for a spot serving up Kiwi/Aussie-style savoury pies of the sort that take pride of place in those sunny climes.
I’ve asked my dad along, not only because he’s a lovely guy to have lunch with but also because he’s my pie ringer. He’s a Brit whose nostalgia for savoury pies is real. In the ‘60’s he spent three years living in Australia and New Zealand and remembers the familiar bell of the local pie trucks that circulated at job sites, event venues and rugby matches. He doesn’t remember all the details, but this much is clear: the pies were hot, tasty and always available just as your hunger ramped up.
Saltchuck’s menu includes salads, soups, sweets and specialty coffees, but the savoury pies are the main event. Made with local, seasonal ingredients, fillings range from the traditional (steak, beef, rabbit) to more experimental (think lasagna pie, thai peanut and veg, pulled pork poutine). Veggie and seafood choices are available. Breakfast pies are served until noon.
While I’m told beef and steak varieties are the most popular, it’s the ever-changing options that are likely to keep loyals coming back. If you want to prep your tastebuds, check out Saltchuck’s daily fresh sheet on Instagram and Facebook.
I watch my dad tuck into his first bite across the table. He’s opted for a traditional minced beef pie. It’s plump with rich gravy and moist filling; the pastry is the right mix of flaky and tender, not soggy. The ‘critic’ nods. Apparently, it’s the real deal.
I tackle a Masala lamb and spinach pie with its buttery soft meat, dreamy sautéed spinach and piquant finish. From there we share a Greek salad, but I’m still hankering for pie. My dad has moved on to dessert, opting for a sweet — and sweet-looking — apple pie with a heart-shaped centre.
I’m not sure how many you’re supposed to eat in a shot, but I’m ready to go another round with the savouries. This time I opt for beef and mushroom, the golden crust topped with big, crunchy granules of sea salt.
Locals can thank transplanted Kiwi Nick Crooks and business partner and wife Jodi Mann — founders and former owners of The Noodle Box — for delivering this particular comfort food tradition to Victoria (note: we’re also longtime fans of Victoria Pie Co.’s own brand of yummy goodness).
Saltchuck dovetails Nick’s native nosh with Jodi’s Canadian content; the space was designed to reflect a cookhouse ambiance, reminiscent of her Northern Vancouver Island roots. The collections of black and white photos on the walls are family treasures.
As we chat, a steady stream of patrons comes through the door. It’s a mix of those sitting down to warm pies from the fresh case (part of the authenticity factor and the best way to eat them, Jodi tells me) and those grabbing pies to go. I’m guessing the takeaway options make for a satisfying lunch on the fly, or an easy dinner, and I’m sensing their potential for beach picnics. Jodi says staff from area businesses and expats craving a taste of home are among the already-diverse clientele.
The Saltchuck Pie Truck, cute as a button in the parking lot, is expected to hit the road for the summer festival season (you can book it for private events, too). Still, it’s one step at a time; Saltchuck’s doors have been open for less than two months.
When I fess up to my dad that he’s unwittingly served as lunch companion and secret weapon, parachuted in to see if the pies are legit, he stiffens a little in his chair. “No pictures!” he says as he waves my phone away from his face. “It’s about the pie,” he insists, pointing at the crumbs on his plate. And he’s right. The Insta-love can wait.
Saltchuck Pie Company | 360 Bay Street
Mon-Fri 9am-6pm | Saturday 9am-4pm