Pie for Life! One Pie, Every Month, For the Rest of Your Life: Royers Cafe in Round Top, Texas
Forget the pie-of-the-month clubs. That's amateur hour. It's only twelve pies! Where's the commitment? Twelve months pass, and you're done. If you're a serious lover of pie, there's only once choice: pie for life. No joke: Royers Cafe in Round Top, Texas will send you a pie, every month, for the rest of your life.
Although the website says the pie-for-life plan costs $10,000, that's based on the assumption that you're between 40 and 50 years old. We contacted Royers Cafe and found out the real deal: the price varies by age, so the younger you are, the more you'll have to pay (see the chart below). You also pay extra to have it shipped outside of Texas via UPS.
For example, a 30-year old in Texas would pay $23,498 and would be set, pie-wise, until they die. It's non-transferable, making it something of a pie-insurance policy. Live forever, and you beat the system: discount pies. Die tomorrow, however, and Royers makes out like bandits.
The pie-for-life membership follows the same monthly pie schedule as the pie-of-the-month membership. They don't ship the fruit pies, so if that's your bag, you're out of luck. They will, however, switch up the order if you have food allergies. The schedule is as follows:
January: Ann's Pecan
February: Bud's Butterscotch Chip
March: Café's Buttermilk Delight
April: Café's Buttermilk
May: Bud's Chocolate Chip
June: Ann's Pecan
July: Bud's Butterscotch Chip
August: Bud's Chocolate Chip
September: Café's Buttermilk
October: Sam's Coconut Chess
November: Dr. Karen's Pumpkin
December: Café's Sin-Nammon Ring
All pies retail individually for $23.50, except for the Sin-Nammon Ring, which is $24.50. Shipping is $11.95, in state. If your humble author lives to her natural expectancy, that is, 80.1 years for females in Texas*, I have approximately 651 monthly pies left in me.
Assuming a 3% inflation rate, buying those pies retail would cost somewhere around $60,188. However, if I buy them all today, Royers will charge me a mere $26,750 for the privilege of eating a pie a month. That's a lifetime savings of $33,438**! While it may be likely that eating that much pie might, in fact, significantly shorten one's lifespan and thus help things out on Royers' end, we are going to assume you are generous souls, will spread the artery-clogging love around, live to a ripe old age, and that thus the pie-for-life deal is simply a lot of free pie.
But is the pie any good?
Speaking of free pie, I spoke with Bud the Pieman, Royers' very Texan Santa Claus of Pie, who generously offered to send me three pies: Dutch Apple, Pecan, and the Cafe's famous Chocolate Chip Pie, which is an ooey gooey, pecan-esque caramel filling topped with a giant chocolate chip cookie.
All pies were top-notch; clearly Pieman Bud knows what he's doing. The Dutch Apple probably could've used a touch of salt, and the Pecan was very traditional, but it was the Chocolate Chip Pie that I'll remember. As a fan of both caramel and crispy chocolate chip cookies, I was in heaven. I tried the pies with a friend's homemade Bourbon Vanilla ice cream; Bud recommends it with the Austin-based Amy's Ice Cream***. In fact, you have to pay a dollar extra to get a slice of pie WITHOUT ice cream if you eat in the actual restaurant.
A Bit of Royers' History
The cafe began in 1946 and has been owned by the Royers since 1987. Since they took over, the Royer family — and Bud in particular — has made the cafe in the tiny town of Round Top, located between Austin and Houston, a destination. And, of course, they developed the famous pies.
The crust is based on a recipe from Clara Long, a 104 year old woman from Southern Illinois, who may be the best evidence that the pie-for-life deal is a good one, given that we can assume she's been eating these pies most of those 104 years. Bud told me, "I like to tell people it's an old family recipe — not my family, but someone's family!" In any case, it is a very traditional, shortening-based crust that smacks of Grandma's kitchen.
In addition to the pies I sampled, I have heard from numerous friends that the Buttermilk pie and the Strawberry Rhubarb pie are fantastic and not to be missed. There didn't seem to be any consensus on whether the fruit pies or not fruit pies were better, although everyone who had an opinion on this had a very strong on. Royers Cafe seems to be that kind of place, an institution the brings out strong emotions in its regulars.
Royers Round Top Cafe
105 Main Street
Round Top, TX 78954
*Don't live in Texas? Add 15% to that price for shipping.
**Special thanks to Andrew "Math Wizard" Austin-Petersen for crunching numbers.
*** It would be dishonest of me, here, to omit the fact that I cannot stand Amy's ice cream. But if that's what Bud the Pieman says goes best with his pie, well, he knows better than I.
Update 11/22/09: Royers Round Top Cafe was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.