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Burgers and pies may seem like an unlikely pairing, but for two fathers, it was preordained.
Daniel Diaz, 30, has worn many chef hats (Cafe Boulud, Valentino Cucina Italiana) throughout his South Florida culinary career. But he couldn’t create his new venture without his friend David Shaffer, a 52-year-old children’s pastor who loves to bake.
Diaz opened Dad’s Favorite Burgers & Pies at the bustling Delray Beach Market in late April, situated across from Central Bar and next to fish market Tip to Tail.
When pies fly off the shelves at their busy stall, it’s Shaffer who keeps up with demand. After finishing his workday as a pastor at Victory Church in Boca Raton, Shaffer drives over to Delray Beach Market, changes into his Dad’s Favorite uniform and starts making his signature chocolate peanut butter pies at the booth.
Diaz and Shaffer met in June of 2015 at Victory Church, where Shaffer works and where Diaz and his wife helped with services. Diaz and Shaffer realized how much they had in common.
“We’re basically serving people through food,” Shaffer says of their relationship. Both were born and raised in Florida but had family members who lived on farms in the Midwest. Their grandmothers baked religiously.
They’re also fathers, both with two children. The name of the restaurant comes from the idea of kids asking to eat at their “dad’s favorite” eatery, Diaz says.
“To us, American cuisine is captured in the classic American hamburger or cheeseburger, and also in handmade fruit pies,” Diaz says. “Those are the two things that are signature to this country.”
Dad’s Favorite’s menu rotates five pie flavors at a time. Chocolate peanut butter mousse pie is their centerpiece flavor, and other current offerings are salted caramel apple crumble, blueberry cobbler, banana cream and Key lime.
The recipes, devised by Shaffer, Diaz and manager Debra Dickinson, are meant to taste “like Grandpa would have made,” Shaffer says.
Seasonality is key to the pies’ signature flavors at Dad’s Favorite. Blueberry cobbler pies, available this summer, are made with wild blueberries from Georgia, the Carolinas, Oregon and California. Shaffer says he hopes to perfect new pie flavors with fruits like mangos and Georgia peaches.
“If it’s in season somewhere here in the United States, then it belongs on our menu right now,” Diaz says.
Pie-making runs in Shaffer’s family. He has 100-year-old family recipes passed down from his grandmother, and his father also loves baking pies.
“I started baking with my son 10 years ago. As my son was growing up and going through his teenage years, I was trying to figure out, ‘What can I do to spend time with him?’” Shaffer says. “And we just baked and baked and baked. We still bake.”
The pies are traditionally made with shortening, some added sugar, no lard and no preservatives to “let the fruit be the star,” Shaffer and Diaz say. Shaffer prepares the pies at the store with all-butter crusts for the fruit pies, graham-cracker crusts for Key lime and cookie crusts for chocolate peanut butter.
“Our passion for food, our passion for family, our passion for people” is what propels their work, Shaffer says.
And their mission seems to translate well with guests. Jared Heller and his friend Chris Gallego, both from Fort Lauderdale, said they decided to try Dad’s Favorite for the first time on Saturday because they love hamburgers.
Shaffer’s wife, Rose, who cashiered for the evening, provided great service as they ordered burgers and sidewinder fries, Gallego says.
Heller, who tried a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie, says he was amazed by the unexpected burger-and-pie combo.
“It’s better than a Reese’s peanut butter cup, that’s for sure,” Heller says of the pie. “I’ve never had anything like this.”
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The dads get their support from their families. Diaz’s wife, Ashley, runs marketing and social media, and Rose Shaffer helps wherever needed at the restaurant.
“Everything is done with a tribe,” Shaffer says.
Shaffer and Diaz want to expand next into Broward County, but their motivation isn’t more dough. Business growth will help them “minister to the marketplace” by creating jobs and providing mentorship for employees, Diaz says.
Restaurants are meant to be a place “where people can share love through food,” Diaz says. “This is the platform in which we can create those experiences for others.”
“It’s not just about the two dads,” Shaffer adds. “Life happens around the table.”
Dad’s Favorite Burgers & Pies is located at 33 SE Third Ave. Unit 6 in Delray Beach. Visit DadsFavoriteBurgers.com.