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Eatymology: Atlantic Beach Pie

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Eatymology: Atlantic Beach Pie
Photography by Andrew Kornylak

Atlantic Beach Pie

[ət-lan-tik-bēch-pī]

A vintage pie from coastal North Carolina

Bill Smith of Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Raised near the North Carolina coast in New Bern, Bill Smith’s family went to the beach almost every weekend in the summer. When they headed to seafood restaurants for plates of fried fish, dinner was followed by one thing: Atlantic Beach Pie. It was the single exception to a curious “no sweets after seafood” rule that was perpetuated along the coast when he was a child (it was said combining the two would surely lead to a deathly illness). “It doesn’t make any sense, but we did as we were told back then,” Smith says. He’s been running the kitchen at Chapel Hill institution Crook’s Corner since 1993, where Atlantic Beach Pie is now a fixture on the dessert menu. Smith himself is credited with reviving the recipe—he brought it back to the restaurant after serving the pie to some 600 guests of the Southern Foodways Alliance on a trip to Eastern North Carolina. Often simply called “lemon pie” on the coast, Atlantic Beach Pie is a sweet-tart marriage of condensed milk and citrus juices nestled in a salty crust of Ritz or saltine crackers (Smith decidedly prefers saltines). His recipe is topped with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream and, in a nod to the pie’s coastal origins, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Bill Smith’s Atlantic Beach Pie Recipe