Pi day has always been a slice of life


Alison Schultz

A collection of pies are displayed together from multiple pie shops and bakeries like Honey Pie bake shop, Sweet Mandy B’s, and Sarita’s Pleasure pie shop.

One of the most important holidays and annual celebrations of the mathematical constant π is today. March 14, also known as Pi Day, is a classic American holiday created by Larry Shaw in 1988 and was recognized as an official holiday on March 12, 2009. For Chicago, celebrating Pi Day means supporting local businesses to search for the best pie in the 312 zip code.

One of Chicago’s most popular bakeries, Sweet Mandy B’s, is known for the best sweet treats in Lincoln Park. You can spot the bakery a mile away with its bold yellow exterior and big windows opening up to the teal walls and pastel designs inside. Founded in 2009, they have expanded the business to two separate locations to share the joy with other communities.

“I love that we are such a staple in our community, people have been coming here for years telling us they get their cakes here every year,” said Jenna Collins, a Sweet Mandy B’s employee. “We have a lot of regulars which is amazing to get to know them and personalize their orders.”

Sweet Mandy B’s Streeterville location will be selling pie slices for $3.14 today as well.

While Sweet Mandy B’s continues the Easter classic baker theme, artistic style is not lost on newer pie makers.

For Sarita Hernandez, their pie project called Sarita’s Pleasure Pie shop is inspired by sex postivity in the queer community.

“The pie shop started as a side project with my friends since I would be the one to bake the ‘birthday’ pies dedicated to the day they came out as a birthday,” Hernandez said. “I want my pies to center around pleasure through food and make pastries that my friends could eat.”

Hernandez’s pies are all vegan and made personally by themselves. What began as a sweet treat for friends became a community favorite in McKinley Park during the pandemic.

“I started selling my pies to people during the pandemic to make some extra money and ended up really enjoying the support and love that I got from my own community,” Hernandez said. “I made themed pies based on stay-at-home orders, like long-distance hug pie, or very lonely lemonade pie.”

Hernandez wants to accommodate everyone’s financial situations so the focus is more on enjoying the pie than the worry of not affording it.

“​​That’s often seen in community organizing care spaces, and I want you to have access to these resources,” Hernandez said. “Everyone makes different incomes and so if you can pay more, if you can’t there’s a lower cost option, because I’ve been there and I just want people to have access to good food.”

Pleasure Pies isn’t the only bakery that started during the pandemic; Beard & Belly opened in April of 2020 in Edgewater. The location is a combination of two separate businesses, Beard & Belly and Honeypie Bake Shop. Kyle Scharge, Jim Torres, Andrew Barbera and Valeri Lucks came together after years of friendship between the four owners.

“When we opened in the beginning of the pandemic, the community was extra supportive, going out of their way to support restaurants,” Barbera said. “Most neighborhoods are oversaturated with bars and restaurants and that’s why Edgewater is so great because it’s mainly small businesses.”

Honeypie Bake Shop was originally a bakery in Milwaukee created by Lucks. Beard & Belly wanted to merge together to include pies within the restaurant.

“We always wanted to open a business with her [Lucks] because we wanted to bring these pies from Milwaukee down to Chicago,” Barbera said.

Pi Day doesn’t always include a cherry filling. Nathaniel Wilhelm, a sophomore at DePaul, doesn’t want people to forget the best pies don’t always have to wait till dessert.

“People forget about chicken pot pies and shepherd’s pies that you can eat for dinner,” Wilhelm said. “A pizza is inherently a pie, and we live in Chicago where deep-dish pizza was made, you can’t forget that on Pi Day.”

Wilhelm has always favored pie over other baked goods. Wilhelm has searched far and wide for the best pie in Chicago, but nothing compares to his girlfriend’s apple pie.

“I used to have my mom make cherry pies for my birthday and that’s what we have for my grandpa’s birthday as well,” Wilhelm said. “Luckily my girlfriend is a great baker and makes me pie as well.”

For those who don’t have significant others that are bakers, Pi Day in Chicago is always filled with locally owned pie shops fit for everyone’s taste.