If were to make a list of things that someone visiting Fall River should visit, see, or try, Hartley's Pork Pies would have to be on that list.
It might get a little overlooked when compared to all the Portuguese food, the famous chow mein and chow mein sandwiches but Hartley's delicious little pork pies have been a Fall River tradition for over a century!
Thomas Hartley opened his first shop in the South End of Fall River back in the early 1900's. Hartley's pork pies were a familiar comfort food to the many English who worked in the mills but they quickly gained popularity with other mill workers because of their convenient size, affordable price, and because they were tasty and filling. The pies were soon peddled not only to mills but also saloons and grocery stores.
The Original Hartley's Pork Pies is located on South Main Street, here in Fall River. At one time Mr. Hartley had another location in New Bedford and his grandson opened up the shop in Somerset that still does brisk business. The Hartley family owns neither location. Allen Johnson owns the original Hartley's here in Fall River, while Donald Setter owns the location in Somerset and with partners have opened up another location in Acushnet. Both men have expanded their offerings. Now chourico pies are offered and Mr. Johnson also offers chicken, salmon and sausage. However it's the classic pork pie that Hartley's is famous for, and although there is a little contention over who has the original recipe, both men claim to, it's still the reason people keep coming back.
The pies have changed little over the years. Each individual pie looks like it was baked in half a soup can. Its golden crust is made with pure lard giving it a shortbread-like texture. Breaking through the top crust reveals a chunk of seasoned ground pork, surrounded by a sea of gravy made from the juices of the cooked meat. The story goes that Mr. Hartley was so protective of the quality and taste of his pies that he once refused to sell one to a customer upon learning that the patron intended to slather it with ketchup! Today, those who love to add a dab of ketchup needn't worry.