The Crusader Newspaper Group

LaBelle’s pie not as good as locals’

Soul singer’s sweet potato pie ranked last among the best in taste test

Maybe it was the pie crust. Or perhaps the spices were too much.

Patti LaBelle’s famous sweet potato pie may be the hottest dessert in the nation, but it’s the worst compared to some of Chicago’s best eateries, according to a recent taste test conducted by the Chicago Crusader.

If you want the best sweet potato pie in Chicago, go to Pearl’s Place in Bronzeville. According to Crusader staff employees, the pie’s sweet flavor is much better than LaBelle’s, whose popular creation received more last place votes than any in the competition.

The surprising results come as many in Chicago and around the nation flock to Walmart stores hoping to snag one (or several) of LaBelle’s pies, which have been sold out since the week before Thanksgiving. At $3.48, LaBelle’s pies have sold millions since a YouTube video of the treat went viral nearly a month ago.

On Friday, December 10, this reporter purchased two pies from a Walmart in Pullman Park on the city’s Far South Side. Here, about 30 pies sat on a display rack within 10 feet of the store’s front entrance.

With LaBelle’s pie’s popularity still high, the staff of the Crusader participated in a taste test to see how it ranks among some of Chicago’s local eateries. Held at the Crusader office in Woodlawn, the competition featured sweet potato pies from three venerable South Side institutions: Daley’s Restaurant, a 123- year-old diner in Woodlawn, Pearl’s Place, a historic Bronzeville soul food diner, and Angelica’s Bakery in the Chatham-Avalon Neighborhood.

During the competition, the names of the restaurants were hidden. All four pies were given letters A through D. The eight people who participated in the tasting were asked to rank the pies from 1 to 4, with 1 being the highest. Participants had the choice of consuming slices of pies that were cold or warm. The microwave was a popular option.

The results were as follows. No. 1 was Pearl’s Place. Second place went to Angelica’s Bakery. Daley’s and LaBelle’s pies were tied for last place.

Pearl’s Place received four first place votes for its version, more than any of its competitors. Out of all the pies, LaBelle’s version received the most 4th place votes. All of Pearl’s Place votes were not lower than three. Daley’s sweet potato pie did not receive any top votes.

The pie from Pearl’s Place won over participants with its smooth, sweet taste. LaBelle’s pie, although fluffy and moist, drew complaints. One participant said the pie left her with a bitter aftertaste. Another participant simply gave LaBelle’s pie a thumbs down. The mother of one Crusader employee said the flavors in LaBelle’s pie were “too inconsistent.” (This reporter gave the singer’s pie his no. 1 vote.)

In terms of presentation, Daley’s big sweet potato pie looked the best, with its burnt orange appearance, and muscular crust. Although Pearl’s Place’s version was the best among participants, the pie looked flat compared to Daley’s. Angelica’s crust was burned and the pie was hard to cut. LaBelle’s small bright orange pie looked scrawny and underwhelming compared to its competitors.

At $3.48, LaBelle’s pies are the cheapest. Pearl’s Place charges $12 for its pie and one from Daley’s restaurant is $14.30. A sweet potato pie at Angelica’s Bakery costs $12.99. Customers at Daley’s and Pearl’s Place have the option of purchasing slices of their pies.

Walmart said two million pounds of California-grown sweet potatoes were used to make the latest batch of LaBelle’s. Since James Wright Chanel posted a sweet video of LaBelle’s pies on YouTube in November, millions of American’s have flooded Walmart to buy the product, making it the fastest selling item and most requested product in the store during the holiday season. Many Walmart stores in Chicago have been out of the item for three weeks.

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