There is in each of us a longing, a sense of loss, an inkling that progress has taken the past for granted. Tevyes all, pointing to the fiddlers on our roofs and wondering what’s become of tradition, wondering why it has left us behind. For my good friend Aaron, it all comes down to pie. Pie, according to him, is a lost art. Finding a good piece of pie anymore is, well, not unlike searching for the Holy Grail.
If, like Aaron, you are a fan of pie, then the K-Country II, in Clayton, Oklahoma, is the place for you. It also meshes well with my nostalgic benchmark of choice: the American small town. I have passed through so many communities, semi-abandoned ghosts of themselves only, that seeing a place like Clayton, which seems to actually be thriving–growing, even–is a rare treat. And…oh my God, the pie!
I stumbled across this hidden treasure after a lovely drive down OK-2 from Muskogee (which is, by the way, a back road for the books). One of my favorite travel pastimes is to pull into nondescript small-town eateries, the more unassuming the better, and see what I can find. Sometimes this goes sadly sideways, but at the K-Country I hit the jackpot.
On that first visit, I was the only person in the place, except for a combination of employees and other locals who had commandeered a large, round table and given over to a royal gossip session. I’m not above confessing that eavesdropping is one of the chief attractions in frequenting these establishments: you can learn more about a place from ten minutes of listening in than in ten months of formal research. And it reminds me of home: Butler, Missouri, with its Southside Cafe and its Flaming Lantern, and their gaggles of Pick-a-little-Talk-a-littles.
I sat down to a lovely plate of fried chicken livers. I know, I know–I had you right up to “chicken livers,” but don’t let that turn you away. I have strange tastes. Here’s what matters: a giant slice of heaven on a plate. I ordered their coconut meringue pie. Here’s a tip from a back road foodie: you can always tell an Italian restaurant by its meatballs, and you can always tell a small-town cafe by its pie. This is a first principle of rural gastronomy, never to be contradicted.
This sucker was almost five inches tall and barely fit on the plate. I don’t generally go for meringue, because it’s often fairly tasteless, but these folks manage to infuse a vanilla flavor that sticks with you throughout the experience. The topping is every bit as flavorful as the pie itself. And is it flavorful. I can close my eyes and taste it as I type. And I’m considering quitting my job and moving up there right now.
But the ultimate test is the return visit. A while later I dragged Tammy to the place, only to confirm what I had already suspected. That pie is awesome. Every cotton-pickin’ time. And Tammy, who is no fan of coconut, tells me the banana creme isn’t bad either. I’ll never know, because to my list of cardinal sins I have added visits to K-Country that don’t involve their coconut pie.
So, from me to you: if you want to taste what is quite possibly the best coconut pie in the world (definitely the best I’ve ever tasted), stop at the K-Country II in Clayton, OK. Feast your ears on local scuttlebutt, and feast your tastebuds on PIE!
Happy travels, my friends!