(From left) Gina Rivera, front of house manager; Michelle Mascaro, owner; and Renner Eschenroder, pie maker, with a trio of pies. (Photo by Melissa Elsmo)

The Happy Apple, 226 Harrison St., has been singled out by “Eat This. Not That!” as having the best pie in Illinois. The website partnered with Yelp to name the best pie in every state based on user ranking and reviews mentioning pie. The Happy Apple’s chocolate chess pie earned top honors among Illinois pie offerings.

“I was just stunned by this honor,” said Michelle Mascaro, owner of the Happy Apple. “It is refreshing to be honored for things other than apple. Our chocolate chess pie has had a fan club right from the start, so we make it every day.”

While the site does mention apple pie, the Happy Apple’s chocolate chess pie took center stage on the site. The pie is prized for its dense fudgy filling with a cracked crispy top layer. The Happy Apple’s signature flakey crust makes the simple pie deceptively complex.

Chocolate Chess pies are on the daily menu at the Happy Apple. (Photo by Melissa Elsmo)

The mention came as a surprise to Mascaro who learned of the honor from a customer. After striking up a conversation with a patron enjoying a slice of chocolate pie at an outdoor table, Mascaro learned she was a tourist from Colorado who had intentionally visited the shop after reading about the Happy Apple on the “Eat This. Not That!” website.

The honor is particularly sweet given the pandemic forced the shop to put their staff on paid leave from March to September of 2020. The shop relies on a unique blended work environment where people with and without intellectual and development disabilities work together. But Mascaro could not risk keeping her staff in the shop at the height of the pandemic. Once the vaccine became readily available, Mascaro was able to bring her eager pie-bakers back to the shop in smaller groups. Though she misses having customers inside the shop and serving pie on plates, she has opted to keep the Happy Apple’s indoor dining area closed for the foreseeable future.

Customers stop in to purchase pie from the Happy Apple in the Oak Park Arts District. (Photo by Melissa Elsmo)

“Throughout the pandemic we worked hard to prove we could be a trustworthy source of comfort and happiness to people in our community,” said Mascaro. “Everyone is so happy to be back, and I love seeing the friendships renewed between our staff members.”

This is the second time the Happy Apple has been surprised by national recognition for their pies. In 2019, USA Today named Happy Apple Pie Shop the top place to get pie in the state of Illinois in its “Road Trip Guide: The best pie shop in every state.”

“My goal is to make excellent pie and serve it with kindness,” said Mascaro. “I never set out to make the best pie, but I think that sort of recognition comes whenever you try your very best at whatever you set out to do. We are so grateful to the customers who made us the best pie in Illinois.”

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