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It was so flaky, buttery and light I had to suppress a loud “mmm” sound and the urge to stash a couple more delicious biscuits in to my purse for later.
The experience of eating these heavenly light brown rounds was enhanced by sitting on the elegant porch of Mississippi’s Biscuit Queen herself, Chef Regina Charboneau, in Natchez, the Biscuit Capital of the World.
As a child of the South and a lifelong biscuit lover, I am saddened by the state of what most places call a biscuit—they’re too often dry, tasteless and a waste of butter. But in my passionate pursuit of biscuit perfection, I’ve been lucky enough to encounter a few gems. Here are five biscuits worth a road trip.
In 2008, Natchez, Mississippi, was officially named the Biscuit Capital of the World, a title the community proclaimed for itself after Chef Regina Charboneau championed the cause and researched the trademark.
A Natchez native, this French-trained chef opened a restaurant in San Francisco in the mid-1980s, Regina’s at the Regis, followed by the Biscuits & Blues nightclub in 1995. Her biscuits have an almost cult-like following, with celebrity fans including the Rolling Stones.
Chef Regina claims to have made millions of biscuits, which she freezes and bakes in muffin pans to brown evenly. “I think what makes my biscuits so special is my ‘tea towel technique,’ which is more Paris than Natchez,” she said. “I roll, fold and turn at least eight times to make my biscuits flaky. But it helps growing up in the Biscuit Capital!”
As an English major at the University of Virginia—where William Faulkner was writer in residence in the 1950s and where I struggled through his dense, poetic language decades later—I’d always wanted to visit Oxford, Mississippi, for literary reasons. I didn’t realize how spectacular the food scene is.
Photo Credit: Visit Oxford
Credit can go to John T. Edge, who founded the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, and James Beard Award-winning Chef John Currence, who owns four immensely popular restaurants in Oxford.
I ordered one of the signature dishes, the yard work skillet, at Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast. The egg-and-vegetable dish came with a biscuit on the side. Made with lard and butter that had been frozen, it’s the hint of pepper that gives these delicious biscuits a unique taste.
It was just the fuel I needed to go visit my buddy, William Faulkner, have the traditional shot of whisky at his grave, and make my peace with him over the incomprehensible “Absalom, Absalom.”
You can also enjoy these biscuits at other locations of Big Bad Breakfast in Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.
In the hotly-contested frenzy to land the newest headquarters of Amazon, was it a biscuit that won Northern Virginia a spot?
That’s a theory floating around after The Wall Street Journal reported that the site selection team had a secret meeting at Stomping Ground in Alexandria, where they apparently dined on mini chicken biscuits. Nearby Crystal City was awarded one of the headquarters. As one who never underestimates the power of food to persuade, I’ll buy that theory.
Those buttermilk biscuits are the creation of Nicole Jones, who moved to Georgia as a teen and was a private chef in D.C. before opening Stomping Ground in 2015. Get them with spicy sausage gravy or build one your way with items that include bacon, ham, greens, cheese or avocado.
I’ll stick with the fried chicken biscuit, classic style, made with house pickles and homemade pimento cheese from her grandmother’s recipe. You can’t get much more Southern than that.
My late beloved mother-in-law was known for frequently saying, “Why I never heard of such a thing,” in her lovely, lilting Southern accent. I thought of her when I walked into Maple Street Biscuit Company in Jacksonville, Florida, several years ago and perused the extensive menu of biscuits served with items I’d never heard of putting on a biscuit. Chicken yes, but buffalo sauce, fried goat cheese medallions and spinach? Not so much.
Photo Credit: Maple Street
Fast forward and now these loaded-up-with-items biscuits are more common, and the craze only seems to keep growing. Maple Street specializes in white meat chicken biscuits with house-made jams and jellies. While calorie counts are included with every menu item, it’s best to overlook that part.
Scott Moore and Gus Evans started Maple Street in 2012 with zero restaurant experience between them. Gus had been in construction while Scott worked for Winn-Dixie. Since opening their first location in Jacksonville, they’ve added more than 30 more. They don’t use the term chain or franchise, preferring the phrase “a group of community stores,” which can be found in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
I don’t know if my son set a record for the number of biscuits eaten during our visits to Loveless Café when he was a student at Vanderbilt, but he made a big contribution to the 10,000 they serve every day. A gracious server cheerfully replenished our bread basket multiple times.
Photo Credit: Loveless Cafe
Opened in 1951 by Lon and Annie Loveless as a small shack on Highway 100 between Nashville and Memphis, the café welcomes more than a half million people each year. In 2013, the culinary team was invited to the James Beard House in New York to present a five-course Southern dinner and it’s hard to imagine the famous buttermilk biscuits weren’t included in that menu.
For decades Carol Fay Ellison was known as the Biscuit Lady at Loveless Café where she started working in 1979. She became the café’s spokesperson, participating in a biscuit throw down with Bobby Flay and appearing on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” She claimed the café had a recipe when she got there, but she added her own tweak to it. She passed away in 2010 and now new staff members mix, roll, butter and bake the biscuits using a secret recipe.