For 90 years, New Orleans residents got used to a familiar sight next to the cash register at grocery and drug stores: Hubig’s Pies. These little individually wrapped pastries might not look like much, but they have a rich history—and this week, they’re all anyone in the city can talk about.
What are Hubig’s Pies?
The little turnovers were first peddled across the South by Simon Hubig, a Spanish immigrant who founded his eponymous pie company in 1922. The white wrappers bore a jolly illustration of Simon the Pie Maker, and the product sold for under a dollar throughout most of its existence.
Hubig’s came in multiple fruit and other dessert flavors. No one pretended this was an artisanal creation, but the sugar glaze on its crust was comforting, and the size was reasonable enough to justify eating the whole thing.
The pies disappeared temporarily after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005, and their return months later, in February 2006, was a symbol of hope. they’re so synonymous with New Orleans that they were featured in an episode of HBO’s Treme: Stuck without a dessert at her newly opened cafe, chef Janette Desautel unwraps a Hubig’s, dresses it with a squeeze bottle, and sends it out to a customer.
Just when New Orleans was cranking back to a semblance of normalcy post-Katrina, disaster struck for the little pies. A massive fire in July 2012 destroyed the Hubig’s factory. In the years that followed, the company promised that it would eventually return to the city; I myself contributed to a fund that was supposed to yield me a dozen pastries once things were back up and running. Now, after a decade, it seems that Hubig’s has made good on its promise.
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The triumphant return of Hubig’s Pies
Finally, this week, Hubig’s marched back into town, and New Orleans went wild. Residents and visitors swarmed a popup on South Carrollton Avenue, where the first batch of pies was delivered. Those were gone in a flash—local CBS affiliate WWLTV reports that 10,000 pies were sold in just four hours. The company promised more pies would be in stores at the beginning of the week, only to hit a glitch with the pie-wrapping machine that caused yet another delay.
On Tuesday, though, Hubig’s made its big comeback. The wrapping machine now fixed, the pies went on sale at several groceries in two flavors, lemon and apple. I snagged two lemons at Breaux Mart, a local chain, which was wisely limiting sales so no one could hoard them. I carefully opened one for a lunchtime dessert, smoothing out the wrapper in case I needed it for a souvenir.
The thin coating of icing was there. The crust was perfectly acceptable. The lemon filling tasted exactly the way you’d want commercial lemon pie filling to taste, tart and not overly sweet. Needless to say, some people are griping over the $2.49 price, which is more than double what Hubig’s charged a decade ago when you could often find them on special for 99 cents. But who can put a price on nostalgia, or the feeling that you can once again bite into something you love?
Welcome back, Hubig’s. I’ll gladly collect on those 12 free pies when you’ve got time.