The two-month-old Home Skillet, a family-owned diner at 6225 Blue Ridge Boulevard, makes a lot of the dishes on its menu from scratch: the dinner rolls, the hand-cut french fries (fried to order), the cole slaw, the mashed potatoes. And then there are 27-year-old co-owner Josh Bennett's pies.
Bennett, who owns the venue with his father, Mike, and his aunt Kelly Dull, makes his own pie crust. ("Of course, I use lard," says Josh Bennett. "Both of my parents are from Arkansas. It's lard or nothing
.") And he tries to bake enough of them to have for a whole week, but that hasn't been the case so far. A couple of weeks ago, after I'd finished a pretty decent dinner of fish and chips, my chatty server, Holly, raved about the restaurant's pies.
"They're wonderful! Our customers just love them. Tonight we have cherry and blueberry," she said.
My friend and I each ordered a piece of cherry pie. Ten minutes later, Holly returned. "I regret to inform you," she said, with all the solemnity of a funeral director, "that we are out of cherry pie. We only have apple and blueberry."
You know where this is going, don't you? We ordered apple pie. Ten minutes later, looking even more crestfallen, Holly returned. "I regret to inform you that we are out of apple pie. We only have blueberry."
Ten minutes later and another
sheepish "I regret to inform you" speech, Holly returned with a piece of peach
pie. It was pretty good, but sort of an anticlimax.
On a second visit, the server rattled off a list of the day's pies: apple, cherry and blueberry. He didn't preface his conciliatory follow-up with a "I regret to inform you" speech. "We only have blueberry," he said. "Do you want it?"
My friend John agreed and later said the blueberry pie was as good as his grandmother's - I suppose it was since he ate every bite. A week later, we returned for breakfast, which the restaurant serves all day. John asked if there was any pie. The waitress didn't know. She went back into the kitchen.
"We're all out of pie," she said. "How about a scoop of ice cream?"
"I regret to inform you," I told her. "No."
Home Skillet is an odd little diner - the space was formerly a tailor's shop and it has an unusual configuration with an upper and a lower dining room separated by a narrow hallway that goes past the servers station and the kitchen doors.
When the Bennett family first opened the restaurant, they had ambitious plans to keep the kitchen open until midnight.
"We quickly learned that there's no traffic here after 8:30 p.m.," says Josh Bennett. The hours are now from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Saturday. The house specialties are the hand-breaded pork-tenderloin sandwich, chicken-fried steak, house-made meatloaf, lasagna, and spaghetti and meatballs.
Bennett plans to start making more pies, including cream pies. "I make a very good peanut butter pie, coconut cream pie and lemon cream pie," he says. "I guess we need to communicate with the staff better as to which pies we have on hand. We don't want to disappoint anyone."
I regretted having to inform him: They do. But I'll go back to Home Skillet, if only for the best steak and egg platter in the city. I would have loved a nice slab of apple pie to go with it, but there wasn't any left.