Slice of Pumpkin Pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop ($5)
Bang Bang's dynamic pumpkin pie is a feast of different textures and flavors. There is, of course, the creamy pumpkin filling, which would taste great even if it had been plopped in a frozen crust. Instead, it comes in a crumbly, salty graham cracker crust. On top is a dollop of airy whipped cream and crunchy pumpkin seed brittle. If you've ever considered pumpkin pie boring, one bite of this slice will change your mind.
Tamale at Mana Food Bar ($4)
What might be most surprising about Mana's pumpkin tamale is how straightforward and confident it is. Instead of dressing it up with a dozen toppings, the tamale is served all wrapped in its corn husk. Even the pumpkin seed mole is served on the side. But this is a serious tamale, one that mixes soft and fragrant corn masa with sweet pumpkin and roasted jalapeño.
Cappellacci di Zucca at Piccolo Sogno ($17)
Piccolo Sogno stuffs this pasta with sweet roasted pumpkin, and then pairs it with a buttery sage sauce, salty Parmesan, and meaty walnuts. The result feels like the embodiment of fall in the Midwest—when you cut into the pasta, you can see the orange color of the pumpkin—albeit with a slight, but significant, detour through Italy.
Roasted Pumpkin Bisque at Longman & Eagle ($8)
Longman & Eagle isn't the only restaurant in town serving a pumpkin soup, but I doubt any other place comes close to serving one as genuinely satisfying and rich as this one. The roasted pumpkin bisque (only available at lunch) arrives in a wide, but not completely oversized bowl. How could this possible be enough food? Well, after one bite you realize you're dealing with a concentrated burst of flavor, one that nears the point of being overwhelming, before it steps back from the edge. It's a great balancing act, and one that filled me up for hours.
Masa Flat Bread at Antique Taco ($9)
It may be called a masa flat bread, but Antique Taco's newest menu item is really a huarache, complete with a soft and satisfying masa base. But instead of slathering the top with refried beans, chef Rick Ortiz uses salty and tangy goat cheese. It's a fascinating choice, and it sets the stage for a collection of fall vegetables, including beets and, of course, pumpkin. Some orange slices add a bracing acidity to this fascinating take on a huarache.
Carbassa Cocktail at Mercat a la Planxa ($13)
Want to drink your pumpkin? Step right up to the bar at Mercat a la Planxa and order the Carbassa, which features both pumpkin syrup and house-made pumpkin spice bitters, along with lime juice, cinnamon, and Torres orange Liqueur. Like apple cider, it's one of those drinks that just tastes like the season. It warms you up inside, while also making you hungry from the restaurant's Spanish tapas.
Pumpkin Pie Concrete at Scooter's ($4.30)
While glad I was able to sample so many different kinds of dishes, I would have been happy eating all of my pumpkin in pie form. What I didn't expect was a dish could be improved by simply adding pie to it. Scooter's is currently selling a pumpkin pie concrete, which features a slice of pumpkin pie mixed up with the restaurant's excellent custard.
Pumpkin Cupcake at Sweet Sensations ($3.50)
Biting into the cupcake is almost like biting into a frosted cream puff. First your teeth sink through a luxurious cream cheese frosting, then there's a slight crust to the cupcake so you get the same subtle crunch as you get with the shell of a cream puff, and then the best part: the satisfyingly cool, creamy custard delicately spiced with cinnamon. The custard doesn't act at all like extra frosting—it's not nearly as sweet—but instead adds another dimension to the cupcake that you don't often encounter. Read more here >>