Breakfast, the meal that jumpstarts the day. It’s the smallest part of the word brunch, yet does all the heavy lifting of that meal. When offered in place of dinner, it elicits cries of joy. Breakfast brings everyone together. Yet, what we eat for breakfast quickly sets us apart.
The differences between a northern and southern breakfast are stark. In the north we dine heartily on huge helpings of corn beef hash (at least my family does). We rely heavily on crispy home fries with grilled onions. Syrup is thick, rich and coats just about everything when pancakes are involved. Full disclosure: that freaks me out. I don’t like syrup touching anything that’s not pancake, waffle (hopefully with chicken) or french toast. Here in the south you bring stewed tomatoes and apple butter to the table. You spoon massive helpings of grits with cheese cuddled right up next to your eggs (I had never even really heard of grits until I moved to Virginia). Your bacon is thick, smokey and plentiful upon the plate. Different, yet delicious all around.
The true difference can be seen in the bread products. I live my life for a NY bagel, soft on the inside while crusty on the outside, with a thick schmear of cream cheese and a touch of real butter. If you want an egg sandwich, you get a fresh baked hard roll (also known as a Kaiser roll) or a crisp english muffin, the insides lathered with butter. To sop up your runny egg yolk, you use buttered toast, mayhaps a marble rye if you are so lucky. It’s a plethora of options for a variety of situations. In the south, this has been condensed into one bread that does all this: the biscuit. Flaky biscuits are everywhere, from breakfast sandwiches to sides to tiny little gluten-filled gravy dishes. They do the work of 5 bread products and don’t ever get tired. Quite the industrious little workers.
To this day, I’m not in love with biscuits. That’s right, I said it. As I said above, I love bagels and probably always will. Still, I have been slowly trying to combat years of viewing them simply as the occasional dinner accoutrement and accepting them as a viable breakfast option. Thankfully there are several places in Richmond that make excellent biscuits which helps. Let’s talk about one of them now, shall we?
After a long, hot walk with the dogs around Belle Isle it was time to consume some breakfast. Knowing my audience, I suggested to Katie and Jeremy that we try out The Fancy Biscuit. Located on W. Cary, The Fancy Biscuit is from the same brilliant minds behind Shyndigz and is located right next door to that bastion of dessert euphoria. The front of the building is bright and cheerful. Its outward friendliness greets you as you would hope a breakfast place would. There is both indoor and outdoor seating available. As we had the dogs, we chose outside. There were a variety of tables to choose from along the sidewalk. Inside the restaurant is divided evenly between kitchen and seating. The kitchen is big and bustling. The constant movement reminded me of the chaotic perfection of a beehive. The seating area to the right is not big. The booths are able to possibly accommodate four people, but two looked more comfortable. The counter where you order is right inside the door. The menu is displayed largely right behind it and a specials board to your left.
The menu is broken down, as far as I can tell, into either basic biscuits with things like jam, butter or pimento cheese and biscuit “meals” that require both hands and some dedication. They call them “fork & knife” biscuits. After a torturous mental debate, I went that route. How could I not? If I’m giving this whole “biscuits as a breakfast food” thing, I might as well go all in. Jeremy and Katie were already all in as they are biscuit folk. Jeremy went with the Got Your Goat—fried chicken, pepper jelly and goat cheese. Katie got the Number 52, which is crafted with country ham, pepper jack sriracha hollandaise and a poached egg. I settled on the Big Poppy which is assembled with fried chicken, pickles and a mustard poppy sauce. Let the conversion begin.
The server returned with a breast of beautifully crisp fried chicken resting upon a biscuit as if it were a down-filled pillow rather than a doughy bit of edible goodness. Topped with thick pickle chips and drizzled delicately with mustardy, poppy sauce, I almost couldn’t help kissing my fingertips and yelling, “Bellissimo!” even before digging in. I made sure to get a little bit of everything on my first bite—you know, to sample the full flavors right away. The chicken was great. Crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The biscuit was the perfect vessel. It was soft and flaky, but held up to the other components of this sandwich in both taste and sandwich strength. The pickles were tangy and crisp adding a great element to the sandwich. What brought it all home was the mustard poppy sauce. I’m a sucker for mustard in all forms and I worship the simple, yet elegant poppy. A combination of the two was unstoppable. It was aromatic, creamy and sharp. It joined hands with the flavor of the pickles to clothesline the richness of the fried chicken like two sugar-high elementary school kids in a vicious game of Red Rover. In the end, all of the flavors balanced out resulting in an excellent sandwich.
All three meals certainly owned the title of “fork & knife biscuits”. It would have been highly impractical, if not impossible, to pick most of these up and eat them in a sandwich like fashion. Katie’s Number 52 was swimming in a pool of rich spicy hollandaise sauce. She was very pleased with the whole dish and I was satisfied with the bite I had. Jeremy’s Got Your Goat was basically a biscuit supporting a huge chunk of fried chicken. It had a drizzle of balsamic on it, which helped bring a bit of acidity to the lavishness of the goat cheese. In order to defy convention, Jeremy found a way to eat his as a sandwich. For the most part. It did start to lose basic structural support about 3/4ths of the way through.
The path to biscuits for breakfast enlightenment has been long and flaky. I will say that I’m still not sure where I stand on the whole thing. But what I can say is that The Fancy Biscuit gave me undeniable proof that there are people in this town proving day in and day out that biscuits belong on the table in the morning. Go there and get yourself a sandwich. And someone tell me how the pimento cheese is. Until next time readers, may your biscuits be pillowy and your fork always have a knife.