It's not every day a bakery opening comes with a built-in clientele. But that’s the case for The High-Pie in Oceanside, Calif., which opened in early May.
Chef, owner and restaurateur Tara Lazar created a pie shop inside the historic “Top Gun” house. Yes, that “Top Gun” house, which appears in the 1986 movie starring Tom Cruise.
"This house is incredibly nostalgic for the locals, and so many people have a story that's connected to the house," said Lazar, who added she thinks it was a rental property, so even more people had experiences in it than if it was just a single-family home.
The High-Pie debuted just before the second and much-anticipated sequel to the movie franchise is scheduled to hit theaters later this month: “Top Gun: Maverick.”
Inside the 500-square-foot house, which is in a beach-side town just north of San Diego, there are photos from the set and memorabilia gracing the walls, as well as billowing sheer curtains on the windows lining the outdoor porch, just like in the film.
Other than those aspects, a visitor wouldn’t necessary get the “Top Gun” reference in the bright, beachy decor. Outside guests can see the original blue Victorian cottage exterior and a hanging swing like the one Charlie (played by Kelly McGillis) and Maverick sat in for their deep conversations. In the movie, Charlie (Maverick’s love interest) lived in the house and Lazar almost named the pie shop after her.
But while the house truly is one of a kind and sells itself, building a bakery inside wasn't so easy. The space was originally built in 1887 by Dr. Henry Graves, which gave it the moniker, The Graves House, long before it was dubbed the Top Gun House.
"It's painstaking to do a redo of a historic building and put a [commercial] kitchen in it," she said. "You can't move the walls."
Visitors to The High-Pie won't have trouble finding it, even if they never saw the movie. For one, the Victorian home is nestled within the modern and towering Mission Pacific Hotel in a true antique-meets-modern pairing. The property is also right on the beach, and, said Lazar, offers one of the last clear views a restaurant can get of the surf and sand. The visage was one reason she decided to bid for the space.
"It's an unobstructed view, and you don't get this in Southern California anymore," she said. "So, I said I would do anything, and they asked me to come up with a concept."
That concept is just as American as “Top Gun,” it's all about pie. Homemade hand-held pies to be exact, something, Lazar said, the area lacks. It's also, she added, the perfect thing to take out and eat while walking along the beach.
Right now the pies are all sweet and seasonal. Flavors include a strawberry-rhubarb using local berries, apple and cherry. Each pie costs $3, or $5 if you want it à la mode. The ice cream option means adding a scoop of mascarpone ice cream to the pie, and then having it deep fried.
Each pie comes on a stick for easy eating and dipping in sauces such as cheese, chocolate, lemon curd or sea-salt caramel, which can be added on for an additional $2. Each pie is incidentally gluten-free too, something Lazar said wasn't planning, but they came out best that way.
Coffee is $1 a cup, and other beverages include apple kombucha and a fizzy cherry pop made from the juice of the pie fruit. The most expensive thing on the menu is Buzz the Tower, a $6 iced coffee drink made with local coffee company Revolution Roasters' beans and condensed milk in a New Orleans-meets-Vietnamese-coffee take.
While opening in a famous house is a first for Lazar, the restaurant business is not. She created the California-based F10 Hospitality, which hosts spots including Cheeky’s, Birba, Toucans, Mr. Lyons Steakhouse, Seymour's, High Low and more.
Since opening, The High-Pie has been consistently packed, often with a line, said Lazar. Many people come in looking for that “Top Gun” connection. Some, she said, bring in their own memorabilia and she has even seen a few bomber jackets made to look like Maverick's from the movie.
So far Tom Cruise hasn't visited his old stomping ground, but Lazar said, if he does come for a fly by, there will be a pie with his name on it.