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There’s something about pie that makes us smile. The American classic is a shell for all seasons’ ingredients: asparagus in spring, blueberries in summer, apples in fall, and potatoes in winter. A perennial favorite, chicken pot pie is the ultimate cold-weather comfort.

Tasked with finding the best chicken pot pie on the North Shore, it didn’t take long for me to narrow the field to two contenders: the venerable Harrows versus cheeky newcomer Ken’s Kickin’ Chicken. Both have a loyal following and claim to make their pies by hand using the freshest ingredients. Both offer only takeout.

I brought home two ready-to-bake pies and told the “judges” (my eight- and 10-year-old stepkids, Ben and Maggie) we’d be doing a blind taste test. Intrigued, they clustered around the oven as I extracted the pies. Before I cut into either, we noted the distinct difference in appearance: The crust of Pie A (Harrows) was pale and uneven, while Pie B’s (Ken’s) puffed up to a golden brown with perfectly turned edges.

On the plate, both pies oozed creamy gravy, bits of veggies, and big chunks of tender chicken. Harrows’s was filled with potatoes and carrots; Ken’s with carrots, peas, and stuffing. Both pies were quite tasty, with the biggest difference in the texture of the crust—Harrows’s  was more traditional and flaky; Ken’s had a thinner, crispier consistency with hints of butter.

“If I had to eat any chicken pot pie, it would be Pie B,” Maggie said. “Pie B is the best,” echoed Ben. My husband just nodded and went back for seconds.

So, no matter how you slice it (pun intended), Ken’s Kickin’ Chicken offers a delicious, family-friendly meal that tastes homemade. Ken’s Kickin’ Chicken, 130 North St., Salem, 978-825-0200,


 Meat the Best

Six local meat pies worth a try.

1. Harrows Chicken Pies, 126 Main St., Reading, 781-944-0410, or 352 Broadway, Saugus, 781-231-7410,

2. Guinness-stewed beef and lamb at the Old Spot, 121 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-5656. 

3. Take and bake your own chicken, turkey, or beef pot pies from Henry’s, 588 Cabot St., Beverly, 978-922-388,

4. Lobster pie at the Causeway Restaurant, 78 Essex Ave., Gloucester, 978-281-5256.

5. The Shepherd’s Pie with lamb and gravy at The Port Tavern, 84 State St., Newburyport, 978-465-1006,

6. Oven-ready chicken or turkey pies at Seven Acres Farm, 4 Concord St., North Reading, 978-664-2660.