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If you know anything about Arkansas geography, then you also know that the little town of Leslie is pretty far from Little Rock. It is a one hour and thirty-six-minute drive, to be exact. While not an eternity, this is a lengthy commute when done for the sole purpose of food, unless said food is Strawberry Pie at Skylark Cafe.
Yes, it is strawberry season, which some would say is the greatest season of all in Arkansas. Fresh, sweet, local berries are in high demand, as are the confections bakers create with them. And it does not get any better than what Skylark Cafe is doing. As someone who made the drive last week, I can tell you beyond a shred of doubt that this pie is worth the three hours of driving.
The strawberry pie is a straightforward concoction. A generous sugary graham cracker crust is topped first with a cream cheese-based layer, then capped with a plentiful amount of gelatin-laced strawberries. The strawberries are fresh and ripe, bursting with sweetness with just enough gelatin to keep all the ingredients together, and the cool cream cheese layer provides a wonderful creaminess to the overall pie. It all seems so simple, but there is something special about this specific strawberry pie.
“A wonderful woman named Vicki Lewis, who was like a bonus mother to me growing up, sold me the house that is Skylark Cafe in 2009. She grew up in the house and her husband ran the local grocery store. We were very close, and she worked alongside me at Skylark during the early years. She was the original strawberry pie maker. Several of us girls all experimented with recipes and learned to bake together through lots of practice and trial and error. She always would say that we just messed up the recipe she found online, but she was just modest,” says owner Joy Ellis.
In 2015, Lewis left the restaurant to help her son create what is now Ryan’s Grill and their family grocery store down the street.
“Her original secret recipe and talents went with her. I played around and created my own recipe, so that our customers wouldn’t riot. That’s what we’ve served for the last 5 1/2 years,” says Ellis.
Skylark serves a variety of desserts, but Ellis claims the strawberry pie has been a customer favorite since Day One back in 2010. And the secret? Well, Ellis wisely would not divulge too much information.
“It is really nicely balanced. We use high-quality ingredients and keep it simple. Good strawberries and patience are key.”
For now, folks can follow Skylark Cafe’s Facebook page and reserve the pie (or pies) earlier in the week for a Friday or Saturday pick up. Be forewarned, they only make a set amount and the pies go fast. Speaking of going fast, this pie will not last long once it enters your household. In the case of the Shalin household, it is less than 24 hours. And I will be lucky to get more than one piece.
But it is still worth the drive.
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