While living in Wisconsin several years ago, Robert Morrow heard about a new restaurant in Chicago specializing in Australian meat pies. A native New Zealender himself, he decided to make the half-day drive south to try some of the pies. The verdict? “It was bad, it was horrible,” he says.
That disappointing taste-test set Morrow on a mission to bring the pastries—and the accompanying savory pie culture of New Zealand and Australia—to the fore in America. “I couldn’t figure out why Americans weren’t eating meat pies when they’re so good,” Morrow says. “And basically I went home and I just couldn’t switch off. When I get an idea, I just have to run with it.”
Morrow, a serial entrepreneur and world traveler, packed up his bags, and took a cross-country trip to learn everything he could about pie, as well as figure out where he wanted to launch his new venture. Ultimately, he fell in love with Boulder, moved there, and, with the help of his partner Christine Carr, began supplying five-inch savory pies to local coffee shops in 2017. In early 2019, Morrow and Carr opened their own dedicated Tip Top Savory Pies shop—which they’ve coined the “pie shack”—in downtown Lafayette.
Now, Tip Top is expanding again, this time to Gunbarrel, a community northeast of Boulder. Morrow and Carr hope to open the newest outpost, located in Gunbarrel’s main shopping center at 6565 Gunpark Drive, within the next month or so. In addition to outdoor seating and retail space, the pie shop will replace the commercial kitchen Morrow and Carr currently rent in Longmont. They also plan to expand their sweet pie and gluten-free pie offerings at the new spot, as well as sell ice cream from two retail partners.
Carr, who trained as a chef at the French Culinary Institute in New York, developed all of Tip Top’s recipes, right down to the homemade rough puff pastry pie crust (also known as flaky puff pastry), which she had to tinker with to get just right for Colorado’s altitude. The five-inch pies are filled with various meats, vegetables, and gravies, then topped with unique designs made from spices and herbs to identify each flavor. Some of the most popular flavors are steak and cheese, roast chicken, curry chicken, and mushroom and ale.
Carr believes the flaky, buttery pastry is a big selling point, along with the feelings of nostalgia that savory pastries tend to evoke. “People often say, ‘This reminds me of home or my mom,’ and so it really is a comfort food and it’s a very emotional food,” she says.
In the beginning, much of their work involved educating Coloradans about savory pies and pie culture. In New Zealand and Australia, pie shops are on every corner—like pizza shops in New York City, Carr says. People eat pies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they often bring them on outdoor adventures like hiking, cycling, and skiing. “People know about chicken pot pies and of course they know about sweet pies, but they didn’t know that much about savory pies, so we knew we had to get out there,” Carr says.
Now, several years in, Carr and Morrow say Tip Top’s pies speak for themselves. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the duo stayed busy, delivering pies all over the Front Range. In addition to selling hot pies from the Lafayette shop, they also sell frozen ones by the baker’s dozen, which keep for three months in the freezer and were particularly popular during the pandemic. “People really got behind us,” Carr says. “It was a dual thing where they wanted to support us, they love our pies, but they were also sick of cooking. This really helped people because it wasn’t really like a fast food. It was more like a slow food.”
If you go: 105 N. Public Rd., Lafayette; 6565 Gunpark Dr., Boulder (coming soon)