Douglas County Pie: Paradise Regained

14 Mar

Douglas County Pie Illustration

This is a celebration of Douglas County Pie, from the Paradise Cafe in Lawrence, Kansas – in Douglas County. When we lived in Lawrence, we went to The Paradise Cafe at least once a week, for coffee, for breakfast, and for pie! And Douglas County Pie was heaven on a plate.

Today, the Paradise Cafe is closed, and I haven’t lived in Kansas for decades. But during last month’s trip to Nashville, my son’s GF Carrie Walker made Douglas County Pie as a birthday treat for me.  She tracked down the authentic recipe and it tasted as amazing as ever!  It was the real deal. And as I took the first bite, the memories returned.

The Paradise Café opened in Lawrence, Kansas around 1984. It was located on busy  Massachusetts Avenue, the main street. It was a great early morning or lunchtime meeting place; great for coffee and dessert in the afternoon.  For breakfast,you had to get there early or face a long line outside. Everyone gathered there, from the University and the community.

The Paradise started small, one narrow storefront with a row of booths and a few tables. The coffee was great, and breakfast was fantastic!  I remember biscuits, eggs over-easy, and on the side, mashed potatoes with Swiss cheese and chives. The Paradise Cafe became more popular and eventually the owners bought the store next door, broke through the wall, and expanded into a second storefront.  Around the time we left Lawrence, the Paradise had a liquor license and started offering drinks and dinner.

The menu was great, with daily specials.  There was often art on the wall by local artists (including me, on one occasion). The wait staff was friendly, hip, and seemed to like the customers and each other.  We all bought Paradise Cafe T-shirts and sweatshirts and wore them even after we left Lawrence. The Paradise closed in the early 90s, but the legend and the memories live on.

Douglas County Pie is something like a chocolate pecan pie.  But that doesn’t do it justice. It is made with chocolate chips, but they seem to melt into the filling, so it really isn’t like a chocolate chip cookie. Douglas County Pie is great with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but really, you don’t need anything but the pie!

Carrie searched online for Douglas County Pie, and found the recipe. Here is a link to the recipe Carrie used, reprinted from Gourmet Magazine, February 1992.  It tasted like the real deal to me:

If you follow the above link, you will see that the recipe calls for a sugar crust (pate brisée), which you can find in many cookbooks and online. If need be, you could substitute a standard pie crust or even a gluten free crust. You could change up the kind of nuts (maybe coconut) or the kind of chocolate chips (dark chocolate chips are great)! But in my book, as is the recipe is perfect. In fact, it’s paradise.

A footnote: While researching Douglas County Pie, I learned more about the Paradise Café. I found out that there is a Facebook group of former Paradise employees and customers who keep in touch and share memories. . . From the Facebook group, I discovered that there is a Paradise Café Cookbook, authored by Missy McCoy, one of the original owners. It is available from the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, I hope to order one, though at the moment, it appears to be sold out. I don’t yet know what the cookbook contains, but I can hope for other Paradise Café treats I remember, like hobo eggs, lemon buttermilk pie, and cappuccino cookies. And perhaps even Douglas County Pie?

Illustration by Randa Dubnick

Special thanks to Carrie Walker for baking Douglas County Pie for my birthday! A photo of her pie is the basis for my illustration

Written by Randa Dubnick

All Rights Reserved






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: