Damn Fine Hand Pies now open in Shaw

Fans of the hand pies, doughnuts, and fritters from Damn Fine Hand Pies have a new place to get their fix. Owners Gene Bailey and Madeline Hissong have moved to a brick-and-mortar eatery at 4000 Shaw Boulevard.

After signing a lease last fall, Bailey and Hissong revamped the former barbecue restaurant space into an oasis of sweet and savory baked goods. Thanks to the increased kitchen space, they’re able to offer new items, ranging from cakes to toasts to sandwiches, while still keeping the favorites that made their farmers’ market stall such a success.

Soon the website will be up and running for preorders, but for now, the menu is first-come, first-served. Here’s what to know before you go.

The Menu

The iconic items from the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market menu are still available, though the market stall is on pause while they get the new restaurant up and running. These include hand pies such as sausage gravy and dill cream cheese with everything seasoning, as well as sweet versions. (Strawberry gooey butter cake is the special for opening weekend.)

The doughnuts are there, too: various flavors of sourdough or vegan sourdough brioche, fritters, and old-fashioned cake (including their best seller, the classic brown butter)—and, of course, seasonal fruit-filled variations, such as strawberry-rhubarb.

Then there are the breads, both simple versions such as the country or brioche loaf and the olive oil and sea salt focaccia, as well as more complex flavors such as Calabrian chili and lemon zest focaccia.

Newly added items include an angel food cake that received rave reviews during pop-ups, focaccia toast with jam, and a breakfast sandwich with eggs, cheese, aioli, and optional bacon fried on the grill.

The Team

Bailey says there are many reasons that he and Hissong clicked as business partners. One is their willingness to work in any facet of the business, including assembling kitchen equipment. Bailey is at home in the kitchen, while Hissong has strong business sense. And they both have a strong instinct for hospitality, honed over many years in the industry.

They met at Juniper, where Bailey was consulting after a decade of working with his brother, Dave Bailey, on various restaurants including Baileys’ Chocolate Bar, Rooster, and Bridge Tap House. Hissong, who is originally from a small town in Indiana, where her grandmother was a celebrated piemaker, was part of the culinary team.

“Madeline has an infectious warmth and kindness, but she can also be tough as nails,” Bailey says. He wasn’t surprised about the dedicated community that she built up via her market stand and pop-ups—and he wasn’t daunted when she stuck to her own timeline for growth, including her initial reluctance to add the sourdough breads that are now a menu staple.

Many of the menu items have stories behind them, including the sourdough. “Our starter’s name is Daphne, she is 4 years old, and she brings the extra flavor to our breads,” Bailey says. The doughnuts came about when Hissong poked a hole in some brioche dough and fried it. The fritters were in development for roughly a year before their first employee, Michael Allen, shared the know-how that led them to perfect the recipe. The strawberry gooey butter cake originated with their baker, Hay “Wojo” Wojcicki, who has a background at some of the region’s top bakeries.

Expect similar creativity from the coffee menu, which is being developed by an in-house team. “Madeline and I are OK baristas, but these guys are killing it at that station,” Bailey says.

Another connection between Bailey, Hissong, and some members of the team is their journey toward sobriety. Bailey is going on eight years sober, while Hissong celebrated her fifth anniversary during the week leading up to the restaurant’s opening. “The strength it gives me each day among the stress is amazing,” Bailey says. “It’s running through the veins of everything we do.”

Bailey is proud of the supportive team that has assembled around Hissong, which includes her boyfriend and mother, who tirelessly washed dishes after market days and has been crocheting doughnuts to hang in the café.

The Atmosphere

In building out the kitchen and sales counter that dominates the shop’s front room, Bailey says they prioritized space for the bakery and for prep. “The most fun part was figuring out how to re-create the Damn Fine Hand Pies experience,” he adds.

They were fortunate to have many contractors and artisan builders within their network of family and friends, including Tyson Rinderknecht as general contractor and the woodwork expertise of Nome Furniture. Graniterra cut the counters to their exact specifications to allow space for the racks that double as display cases and for the sales registers, which are positioned to mimic the setup at the market stall.

Bailey is eager for visitors to check out the restroom, where hand-painted pastries seem to levitate off the walls. Fellow market vendor (and frequent customer) Nicolas Holman customized the room, complete with one of the bright-pink Simpsons-like doughnuts that Hissong makes for fun and two of Holman’s signature fried eggs.

Although the space is diminutive, Bailey and Hissong have maximized the layout and adapted as needed—for example, the walk-in cooler is actually located behind the building.

Bailey says their initial sales goals were based on their two-day-a-week appearances at the farmers’ markets, but based on the sales volumes and per-ticket amounts, they will likely surpass their goals quickly.

They also intend to continue offering catering—both baked goods and full menus for events, such as weddings—and selling breads to wholesale customers. “We want to get our catering menu up soon so customers can see those offerings,” Bailey says. They also plan to do pop-ups and occasional appearances at the farmers’ markets where the Damn Fine Hand Pies legacy began.

“We have the team now to move things from idea to product much faster,” Bailey says. “The sky’s the limit when we have these new kitchen tools and these amazing people.”

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