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What's a pie bird?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A pie bird sets in the center of a peach pie in the display case at the Pie Bird Cafe.
Unlike most restaurant owners Diana Abernathy, registered nurse and owner of the Pie Bird Cafe, never wanted to own a restaurant.

In fact she never even worked in a restaurant until she opened her own uniquely named cafe almost two years ago in Fruitland. (Abernathy says she could never get hired as a server. She was told that it was because she didn't have any experience.)

When asked why someone with no experience or previous desire would open a restaurant, Abernathy simply says "Who knows? Maybe insanity."

"I guess it all started with my grandfather. He had Marfan syndrome, which caused him to have heart problems so when I was a little girl I was the grandchild elected to care for him. What I did for him all of those years is what I do now," Abernathy said. She said her duties were to administer his medications and to cook his meals -- now she is a restaurant owner/cook and a nurse.

Just as unique as its background is the cafe's name. It came as a birthday gift to Abernathy. "I was staying up not sleeping at night because I wanted to find the perfect name for the cafe. I wanted the name to have a life of its own. After a friend gave me a pie bird as a gift, I decided to go with that as a name," Abernathy said.

What exactly is a pie bird?

Abernathy explains that pie birds are small, hollow ceramic funnels that sit in the center of a pie and act as vents so it does not boil over. She said that pie birds have been around for a long time. "They started making them a long time ago in Europe but not as birds. The bird design came along in this country in the 1920s, I guess as a cute way to decorate the pie while letting in air," Abernathy said. Bakers at the cafe use pie birds to vent the pies and Abernathy displays them in the dining areas, and occasionally sells them.

Darla Macke prepared western omletes for some morning customers Monday at the Pie Bird Cafe in Fruitland.
(Aaron Eisenhauer)
Not only is the Pie Bird Cafe's moniker odd, its mission goes beyond just feeding people's stomachs.

"I wanted it to be a place of learning and nurturing. For the customers, nurturing them with good food and for the crew a place to really learn something before they have to move on and grow," Abernathy said.

Since its opening, Pie Bird Cafe has generally employed family members and several high school students. "They become my kids. I just want them to learn something working here, to know it's just not a job," says Abernathy.

According to Abernathy, the customers also nurture her and the cafe. "They have all become family. They'll do anything for us. They take care of me in spite of myself," said. She said when the parking lot needed to be filled in with gravel a group of customers brought tractors and gravel and proceeded to resurface the lot free of charge. Abernathy said another regular customer has even done plumbing work on the cafe, again at no charge.

Two western omletes with toast and potatoes are ready to be served to morning customers on Monday, September 24, 2007 at the Pie Bird Cafe in Fruitland.
Not only is Pie Bird Cafe a place for nurturing friends and family, but it is also a place to nurture a sweet tooth. With two bakers, several pie varieties, cakes and cinnamon rolls are available at the cafe. "They pretty well can bake what they want, but we have some that they always keep around and some are seasonal," Abernathy said. She insists on fresh and seasonal pie ingredients whenever possible.

Abernathy said the biggest seller is the coconut creme pie. "We can hardly keep enough coconut creme pie in the case, people love it so much."

Besides baked goods, the cafe also offers a breakfast and lunch menu. For breakfast, eggs made to order, biscuits and gravy are some of the local favorites. For lunch, hamburgers, pork burgers and salads are popular items.

Pie Bird Cafe is open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 to 11 a.m. Sundays.

See Diana Abernathy, owner of the Pie Bird Cafe, explain what a pie bird is.

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This place is great. Great breakfast. Great pies/desserts. My favorites are the french pear pie and the mixed berry.

-- Posted by QT-PIE on Thu, Sep 27, 2007, at 1:33 PM

Great place to eat. A second on the great pies and desserts. Bring back the plate lunch specials!

-- Posted by capeeats on Thu, Sep 27, 2007, at 1:56 PM

I agree with capeeats. "Bring back the plate lunch specials". They were great. My wife and I visited a few days ago and were disappointed that the "plate lunch specials" were not available for lunch only sandwiches and such. A good place to eat....

-- Posted by Next Candidate for Mayor on Thu, Sep 27, 2007, at 4:51 PM

An old-fashioned, homey place to eat. Reminds me a little of Lamberts when it was first opened.

-- Posted by calypso12 on Fri, Sep 28, 2007, at 6:58 AM

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