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The best pie in Arkansas 

A statewide guide.

I undertook a noble quest this year: to find the best pies in the state of Arkansas, and share them with you.

To come up with the 100 best pies, I had to sample 145 slices, from pineapple to pear to possum — but like I said, it was noble.

What's best is in the eye of the beholder, or in the stomach of the pieholer, so what I say is best may not be what you say is best. You may think there are 10 great possum pies; my highly developed palate says there are seven. No matter.

And besides, there's likely some little restaurant, some cook in the kitchen of a little diner somewhere or another who has created yet another amazing Arkansas pie that I missed. I look forward to discovering it.

CENTRAL ARKANSAS

Coconut Meringue, Lemon Icebox Meringue

65th Street Diner. Straight up good. The toasted coconut and creamy rich custard are separated by a thick meringue, great on taste and texture. The Lemon Icebox Meringue takes the best aspects of two favorites and merges them. 3201 W. 65th St. 562-7800. 6:30-9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Cash only, no alcohol.

Chess Pie, Chocolate Chess Pie

Alley Oops. It's impossible to determine which is better, the creamy, slightly tart crisp-topped plain Chess Pie or the brownie-flavored chocolate version. Either way, order quickly; both disappear early in the day. 11900 Kanis Road. 224-9400. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Buttermilk Tart

Ashley's. The four-star restaurant serves this simple, slightly tart pie with a scoop of buttermilk ice cream and a smear of lemon curd. Pastry sous chef Tandra Watkin's creation elevates the rustic to the sublime. 111 W. Markham. 374-7474. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Chocolate Cream, Cherry Cream Cheese

Bobby's Country Cooking. All the desserts are made fresh from scratch every day from recipes that'll taste familiar. The chocolate cream hits new ranges of smooth. The cherry cream cheese pie is also a delight. 301 N. Shackleford Road. 224-9500. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Sweet Potato, Chocolate Silk

Capital Bar & Grill. There's always some marvelous seasonal pie available at CBG, but the best is this rich sweet potato pie with notes of ginger and allspice, usually served with homemade ice cream and candied pecans. Try the chocolate tarts, too. 111 W. Markham. 374-7474. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Caramel

Charlotte's Eats & Sweets. Best known for its coconut meringue, this Keo mainstay's beautiful burnt-sugar pie is often overlooked. Rich, topped with moist meringue and in a flour crust. 290 Main St., Keo. 501-841-2123. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.

Lemon Cream, Walnut Chocolate Cream

Chip's Barbecue. There are so many great pies at Chip's worthy of mention, from the Chocolate Cream to the pecan to the Banana Cream to the Walnut Chocolate Cream, but the sweet-tart Lemon Cream pie is the best. 9801 W. Markham. 225-4346. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Key Lime

Ciao Italian Restaurant. Ciao actually imports its Key Lime from Key West, and the result is a delicate, translucent gem. 405 W. Seventh. 372-0238. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Thu.-Sat.

Chocolate Cream

Dan's I-30 Diner. A rich, almost flaky, cheesecake-like chocolate base topped with whipped topping and chocolate shavings. 17018 Interstate 30, Benton. 501-778-4116. 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 6 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat., 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun.

Key Lime

Dave's Place. Like your grandmother made it two generations ago, with sweetened condensed milk and Key Lime juice, this is a smooth sweet-tart pie worth reminiscing over. 210 Center St. 372-3283. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri. 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Fri.

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