As a self-professed "bakery devotee," I tend to keep track (or at least I like to think I do) of "what's trending" in the baked world. First, I was ga-ga over cupcakes. Then, I fell for donuts. Next, sweet was out and savory was in. And while I still swoon about all things frosted or glazed, right now, I'm fixated on biscuits. So a few weeks ago I started working on a blog post about the two local bake shops that specialize in biscuit-making - Early Bird Biscuit Co. and The FANcy Biscuit, both located in the Fan District. I added a third - Saison Market in Jackson Ward - because they seemed to have established themselves as THE place to go for the oh-so-southern fried chicken biscuit - and because odd numbers are better than even.
. . .Then I saw Stephanie Ganz's "Better Know a Biscuit: Vol.1" feature on RVANews.com. If you want a hard-target guide to some of the best biscuits in Richmond, you must read her article (in anticipation of Vol. 2!). While my wallet and stomach had a limit to how much I could reasonably consume in the course of writing my blog post, I love that Stephanie has created this comprehensively-researched, hunger-inducing catalog of where to snag these little baked necessities.
Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery
As mentioned, first on my list was Early Bird Biscuit (119 N. Robinson St.), which just moved from Lakeside to the Fan. I ordered up the house-made pimento cheese and applewood smoked bacon biscuit. Like an onion, this biscuit has layers. The top had a lightly salty, buttery, soft, yet crispy epi-layer, like all the best biscuits have (IMHO). Your teeth sink further into the mid-layer - a cloud of fluffy, baked, down-home goodness - then into the heat of the pimento cheese and the savory crunch of the applewood smoked bacon. Early Bird needs to sell mini-tubs of the pimento cheese because IT IS DECADENT. Inside and out, I appreciate the shop's vintage decor for which it was become known, from its old-school desk (literally) near the entrance, the screened front door that slams shut behind you, and of course, the much-Instagrammed, illuminated "Butter" sign.
The FANcy Biscuit
When I heard the owners of Shyndigz were adding another biscuit haven to the city with The FANcy Biscuit (1831 W. Cary St.), I was naturally happy. Okay, giddy. But then they made us wait. . . and wait. . . and wait some more. Newly opened in April 2016, it was worth the wait. During my inaugural visit, I ordered the Black Dog - a heaping helping of shrimp & grits with Tasso ham gravy over a warm, billowy biscuit - comfort food at its finest. I am a big fan of grits, so I also ordered a side of Cheese Grit Tots, quite possibly one of the greatest culinary inventions ever. The accompanying dipping sauce had the right amount of tang to set off the mellowness of the grits. I also loved the modern yet all-American, red-white-and-blue vibe of the decor and inventive yet still traditional menu - other "Fork & Knife" biscuit plates include the Big Apple (fried chicken, blue cheese, apple slaw, and apple BBQ sauce) and the Freshy-Fresh (collards, cheddar, tomatoes, and poached egg).
When Saison Market (323 N. Adams St.) added the fried chicken biscuit to its menu, the food media took notice (here, here, here, here, and here). So does it live up to the hype? A resounding YES. These biscuits are made with love. Cushioned between a soft and buttery, scarf-worthy biscuit is a tender, juicy slab of brined and battered fried chicken that makes the combo hard to put down. Luckily for you and I, they have more biscuits on the menu - the "Fancy" Chicken Biscuit (Nashville-style fried chicken, sausage gravy, and sunny side up egg) as well as biscuits with your choice of sausage or bacon sandwiched with egg and cheddar cheese. Even more than the fast casual dining-oriented fare and walls of craft beer and wine is that Saison Market, which opened in 2014, has provided a much-needed, personable, urban respite amidst the concrete and charmingly faded edges of Jackson Ward.
In sum, you can't deny that Richmond has fallen in love with the humble biscuit, all over again. So is it fair to call biscuits "trendy"? Nope. But biscuits ARE back, y'all, and they are anything but subdued.
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