When Leanne Roth moved from Australia to the U.S. fifteen years ago, she couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a single place to get a decent meat pie — a staple sold on nearly every Aussie corner — anywhere in Colorado. So she began making them at home. “I was making meat pies for my family almost every week when we first moved here and my girls were little and missing home," Roth recalls. "We started talking to other Aussies in the area and found that they too missed the Australian staple. We couldn’t find any restaurants in Colorado that served the meat pies, so we started our own place two years ago, and it’s been a huge hit.”
Australian meat pies evolved from their European antecedents, which have been baked for hundreds of years as a way to keep meats hot over a long period of time. Cooks made hardened, inedible dough bowls, filled them with boiling-hot meat stews, and sealed them up to keep the filling hot and portable. The layer of insulating crust still proves effective today, as pie eaters continue to singe their tastebuds on that first lava-hot bite.
Roth also points out that, when not on the go, Aussies sometimes dump their mushy peas or mashed potatoes and gravy (both of which are on her restaurant's menu) on top of their meat pies. I may be a bit of a dingbat (or wombat, perhaps), but I’ll admit that I found it hard to eat even the naked pie with my hands, so I grabbed a fork when no one was looking.
The pie shop’s second-biggest seller was until recently the kangaroo meat pie, although it's currently off the menu because of a temporary import ban. And if you’re wondering why an Australian would turn the country's cutest national symbol into a pie, Roth explains that “there are two kangaroos to every one person in Australia,” so there are plenty of ’roos to go ’round.
Sides and desserts, all made from scratch, should not be seen as an optional part of the menu. Roth's mashed potatoes, for example, rival those of any American grandmother: They're creamy, fluffy and exploding with buttery taste — I couldn’t stop dunking everything on my plate into them. The rich, meaty gravy gave them even more moxie, and if I’d known at the time that dolloping them onto my meat pie was standard practice, I certainly would have done it. Custard tarts contain an energetic lemon custard with the perfect combination of sweet and sour. Light, airy Lamington cakes sport a layer of chocolate and coconut and were tasty, if a little dry. The chocolate caramel slice has layers of Cadbury chocolate, smooth homemade caramel and a crumbly cookie bottom crust holding it all together; my kids and I fought over the last bite. The eatery also serves an assortment of Australian wine and canned beers, as well as Foster's beer on tap.
Hopefully this is only a temporary problem. In the meantime, you can visit the restaurant’s Facebook page, which Roth updates with any temporary closings, before dropping in.
The Great Australian Bite is located at 6710 South Cornerstar Way in Aurora and is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 303-699-2700 for more details.