Why lining up for pies at Flying Saucer is a Thanksgiving tradition

Houstonians flock to the Independence Heights bakery in herds as Thanksgiving Day nears, spending hours in line—even bringing books and chairs—and making friends along the way.

Photo of Megha McSwain
Every year, Houstonians flock from around the city to Flying Saucer Pie Company in Independence Heights to get their holiday pies.

Every year, Houstonians flock from around the city to Flying Saucer Pie Company in Independence Heights to get their holiday pies.

Megha McSwain

Like participating in a Turkey Trot or attending downtown's Thanksgiving Day parade, waiting for hours in line for a pie (or three) from Flying Saucer Pie Company is a Houston holiday tradition.

Co-founded in 1967 by the late William Leeson, aka "Pie Bill," Flying Saucer remains family-owned, with day-to-day operations now run by his daughter Heather Leeson. The decades-old shop in Independence Heights has stayed a reliable destination for fruit and cream pies, available whole and by the slice, with customers crowding the counter to make their selections on most days. It skyrockets in popularity, understandably so, as the holiday season approaches.

Flying Saucer Pie Company in Independence Heights.

Flying Saucer Pie Company in Independence Heights.

Megha McSwain

The iconic blue building, splashed with vibrant UFO- and space-themed illustrations, draws in holiday pie-seekers in herds around this time every year. With tents, lawn chairs and reading material in hand, they come ready to wait their turn in the long line, which snakes way down West Crosstimbers.

"We see people starting to line up on Monday," says Cresencia Andrade, a longtime Flying Saucer employee who has previously worked the Thanksgiving week rush, and is manning the counter again this year. "On Tuesday, they begin lining up at night to get a pie first thing on Wednesday."

Flying Saucer's classic pumpkin pie is a favorite for Thanksgiving.

Flying Saucer's classic pumpkin pie is a favorite for Thanksgiving.

Megha McSwain

In advance of the busy week, Flying Saucer nixes the option to purchase pies by the slice, offering only whole pies the week before Thanksgiving, and the team adds extra cash registers to ensure a fast and efficient checkout. On the week of, the doors open at 7 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the shop selling freshly baked pies until 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve—unless they sell out sooner. Flying Saucer is closed on Thursday.

Waiting in Flying Saucer's line for a Thanksgiving Day pie is a Houston tradition.

Waiting in Flying Saucer's line for a Thanksgiving Day pie is a Houston tradition.

Megha McSwain
Flying Saucer Pie Company boasts a mix of fruit and cream pies.

Flying Saucer Pie Company boasts a mix of fruit and cream pies.

Megha McSwain
Megha McSwain

While pumpkin and pecan pies may seem like hot commodities during the holiday season, it's Flying Saucer's prized strawberry cream pie that's the most sought after. "People buy all kinds of pies at Thanksgiving, but the strawberry cream is the best-seller year-round," Andrade admits.

Customers seeking pies aren't the only ones gathering at Flying Saucer during the week of Thanksgiving: Houstonians of all ages stop by to experience and be a part of the lively crowd. "Some people don't even buy pies," says Andrade laughing. "They just come by to hang out and meet new people."

Flying Saucer's strawberry pie is the shop's #1 seller.

Flying Saucer's strawberry pie is the shop's #1 seller.

Megha McSwain

The energy is high, with visitors playing music, socializing and striking up conversations about all things pie and more. Reporters from local news stations make appearances, with camera crews in town, while sky-eye footage is recorded from helicopters hovering above. Consider the scene an experience to add to your Houston holiday bucket list.

Flying Saucer Pie Company

Find it: 436 W Crosstimbers St, Houston, TX 77018; (713) 694-1141
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

More Food + Drink

The legacy of Raja Sweets, Houston's oldest Indian restaurant

When Houston gets cold, this Mexican comfort food is the answer

Katy's growing Asiatown gains famous new dim sum spot

Why a lauded barbecue joint is expanding in this Houston suburb

For more food news and features from Chron, sign up for The Feed newsletter here.