Biscuits and Gravy: SFBA Dish of the Month July 2014
The goal of Dish of the Month is to collectively try as many versions of biscuits and gravy as we can in the Bay Area.
To keep things lively, focus on places where you have not eaten biscuits and gravy before and report back. Bring pictures!
Serendipity. I was just @ Aunt Mary's in Temescal (Oakland), my favorite breakfast spot by a mile, and was eyeing the order of the woman sitting next to me (she must have thought me quite rude): biscuits and gravy. It looked amazing.
I was having a variant, just w/ more moving parts--
Bubble and Squeak, which includes biscuits and gravy, but also a sort of cake of greens and potatoes, over which the gravy is poured, plus eggs--breakfast heaven (I always say I'm going to try something else and can't bring myself to forego it).
But now in the service of the DOTM, I'm going back for the simpler biscuits and gravy. Stay tuned.
re: sundeck sue
The biscuits and gravy at Aunt Mary's is my go-to order there. I think the biscuits are very good -- flaky and flavorful. The gravy is good, but not my ideal -- I find the housemade sausage has a slight bitterness that feels out of place in the dish. Plus, I can't decide if the sausage has too much sage or not enough. Overall, I like it, but I always feel a little bad about the expense of calories afterward because it doesn't live up to what I think B&G should be.
re: sundeck sue
I had the B&G + Sausage at Aunt Mary's and came away disappointed.
The biscuits were pretty dense and the sage gravy much too sweet (for my tastes). Don't know if it was a mid-week anomaly. I would have liked it better with the Pot Likker gravy that comes with the Bubble & Squeak.
I added the chicken apple sausage instead of the pork one, which may have been a bad choice. You can choose to have it cooked and then crumbled into the gravy, which I did, and I could taste it had been overcooked and dry.
My go-to at AMC is their shrimp & grits + Benton's bacon
Although not eaten in July, I recently had the B&G at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael. These had the opposite issue of Aunt Mary's -- the gravy, although a little light on the sausage and perhaps too cream-based, was rich and excellent. Almost my ideal (noting the caveats). The biscuits were a little too tough for my taste, but taken together, it was a very nice brunch. I did not have the egg on top - I am anti-egg and they don't belong on B&G anyway.
I can't resist posting about a long-standing favorite, the Garden Court Cafe n Glen Ellen (a bit north of the town of Sonoma). They have a great version, Grannie's Sausage Gravy with biscuits (plus optional eggs and potatoes or grits). They make their own sausage.
Doctor's Lounge, San Francisco
Twelve years ago, Rochelle McCune, a Texas ex-pat, posted here about her ideal biscuit and sausage gravy:
"...My ideal biscuit is light & tender but can stand up to the gravy. A lot of the biscuits I've had out here have been tough & overcooked. And yes, its a buttermilk biscuit. Size varies, some gramma's use opend tuna cans, some a little smaller, inheriting your gramma's biscuit cutter is an honor. I think every Southern biscuit recipe I have seen has at least some "vegetable oil" or "Crisco", I don't know the science but you can't go all butter.
Making a good gravy is even harder than making a good biscuit - too much sausage and its greasy, too much flour & its pasty, the sausage can't be too hot, because you need to be able to sprinkle the gravy with drops of Tabasco. (www.texascooking.com has an article called "The Art of Making Gravy.)
If there is a ton of sausage in the gravy, you don't also get sausage on the side. If its a pure white gravy (pan drippings, flour, milk, s&p), you get sausage on the side..."
In 2011, she opened Doctor's Lounge in the Excelsior that serves brunch on weekends.
While I've attended a pop-up dinner here, last week was my first meal during daylight. I was with a group of friends who had all met Rochelle when she was still part of the Chowhound community. I had been lured in by Saturday's special, Blackstone eggs benedict. But when I saw biscuits and gravy (with two eggs and potatoes), $10, I remembered the B&G spree Rochelle had inspired years ago and I had to try it for dish of the month.
The buttermilk biscuits were quite tender and airy. No crunchy crust nor flaky layers, these were about loft. Dense with sausage, the white gravy's made with half-and-half, to be a bit richer here than a homemade all-milk version.
The gravy isn't that thick. Other than that, this might be the closest to mmpojo's ideal that I've run across in ages.
The version at Box and Bells — with small, very crisp biscuits and sage-heavy sausage gravy — is excellent.
Front porch in Bernal Heights has biscuits and gravy on their weekend brunch menu for $7. Gravy came nearly to the height of the two biscuits, and at no point saturated them. The smooth gravy and bits of sausage clung to the biscuits. Gravy was spicy with a meaty flavor. The biscuits were firm and held together. Any buttery flavor or tang was offset by the gravy.
Fun place to nurse a hangover. Dark overall, with a red lamp overlooking the repurposed auto seats we sat on.
I had the "Stoner Stack" at Front Porch which consists of fried chicken, bacon, cheddar and gravy on a biscuit. Its not as overwhelming as it sounds, more of a fried chicken biscuit sandwich with a bit of gravy to keep it moist. I asked for a side of gravy, which changed the dish into what I was expecting - a B&G with lots of extras. Either way its a good, hearty brunch dish.
Their biscuits are good, but dense. In my favorite versions of B&G, the biscuit is lighter and airier to offset the heavy, spicy, meaty wallop of the gravy. Here the biscuit is sturdier and holds up to the gravy, which does make the stoner stack work better. So, not my ATF B&G, but no complaints. I'd happily order it again.
Having been shamed in the voting topic, I decided to try the B&G at Sam's Log Cabin in Albany. This version is pretty much what I remember about this dish (and why I don't seek it out): while the biscuits were flaky and tasty, the gravy was bland, with only a few bits of ham (not sausage or bacon) to liven it up. It was also thickened with a lot of flour, so it was kind of gloppy. Two scrambled eggs were oddly cold.
I'd like to try that Front Porch version sometime--it looks like it has some flavor.
Pop Art Bakeshop (2307 International) is closed on sunday, monday, tuesday. closed the other days by 3 or 4.
ramdom dropping in not productive
eats: classic biscuit with brown gravy(4.5)
-brown gravy seem average, nothing special
-huge biscuit dry,bland, with a buttery taste to it.
-mushroom & leek biscuit availalble,. +1
-though seldom eat biscuits, this seem slightly above average.
Went to Plow to check if biscuits and gravy were back on the menu. They are not, but the biscuit served warm with honey butter is pretty wonderful. I was told that the with gravy version is more likely to appear in colder weather.
Made it out to St. Francis Fountain on 24th St. for B&G today ($3.50). I've never tried upscale B&G before and these were no exception. Two mediocre & smallish fresh baked biscuits - medium density for biscuits I'd say. Sausage gravy had pepper and small bits of sausage mixed in, and tasted more of sage than I am used to. Nothing special here.
Savvy on First, Cloverdale
I've been enjoying Savvy's baked goods since it opened in December and guess this is the time to start talking it up. The buttermilk biscuits are the crusty type with moist and slightly spongy insides. I've had them before with the Friday fried chicken special here.
Recently, Savvy started staying open for dinner on Friday nights. Last weekend I took a sidewalk table where I could hear the outdoor concert playing in the plaza. Featured on the weekend brunch menu, the Home Made Buttermilk Biscuits & Caggiano Sausage Gravy With Farm Egg Over Easy ($13) also made an appearance as a dinner special.
The brownish gravy's packed with lean sausage from Caggiano, an old-time smokehouse based in Petaluma. While I would prefer a cream gravy, this more savory rendition made this seem more like a dinner entree some how. The porous biscuits soaked up the gravy well. The egg was over easy, as promised and the snipped chives on top were a nice touch. I'd order this again.
Earlier post on popsicles by Savvy
Hopscotch in Uptown Oakland has a great and unusual version at brunch--a base of soba biscuits with sausage gravy over either scrambled eggs or fried chicken with a poached egg. We had the fried chicken version on a recent visit. I'll add the caveat that of the three of us who tried it, two loved the soba biscuits and one (the one who ordered it, unfortunately) actively disliked them, so it may depend on how you feel about buckwheat.
Full House Cafe on MacArthur in Oakland.
Choice of chicken or sausage gravy. I went with the sausage.
Two halved biscuits on a plate filled to the rim with gravy. The biscuits are not large, maybe 1.5-2" squares. They were light and flakey and have some chives inside. I really liked the biscuits.
The gravy was thin and just a little lumpy with minimal sausage. It wasn't that heavy and had some herby flavor I couldn't place. Much better with a couple dashes of Tabasco.
Full House Cafe
3719 MacArthur Blvd
Adobe's San Jose Cafeteria has biscuits & gravy for breakfast every Wednesday. The buttermilk biscuits are just OK, but the gravy is really nice with lot's of sausage pieces and a liberal dose of pepper. Comes with 2 Glaum Ranch eggs for just $3.75 (company subsidized)
I’ve long been a fan of the cream biscuit at Brenda’s French Soul Food, but only recently did I try it with the country sausage gravy. The sausage to gravy ratio was generous, much more than I expected. The gravy was silky but not slimy. The roux was sturdy without over-stiffening the gravy. Most importantly, it didn’t have that over-cooked milk flavor of gravy that has been sitting too long. The impossibly light biscuits remind me of angel biscuits, although I didn’t detect any yeast. They also crumble slightly like a scone, but are never dry. Overall, Brenda’s biscuits & gravy is the best I’ve had so far in the Bay Area.
Brenda’s French Soul Food
652 Polk St (btw Eddy and Turk)
Wing Wings, Lower Haight, San Francisco
Biscuits and gravy, $4.50. Pretty nondescript, perhaps its most distinctive feature is how lacking in distinction this turned out to be. Lumpy white gravy with little taste of meat or bacon fat. Flat biscuits. Green onions. Coarse ground black pepper.
Since we were the last customers, just before the midnight close, we earned "bonus biscuits". The complimentary biscuits --- both plain and the brown sugar-black pepper --- were more satisfying than the B&G reheated the next morning and eaten with some sweet butter. They were very light and revived well in the toaster oven.
A little late, but why not? Tried the Country Special at Southern Kitchen in Los Gatos. This version is a couple of biscuits topped by sausage patties, scrambled eggs (I subbed over easy), and cream gravy. It comes with your choice of hash browns or grits. The biscuits were a little hard to evaluate since they were loaded down by all the good stuff on top, but I can say this was delicious. One of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time. The gravy appeared to meatless since it came with the sausage patties. It was well seasoned with salt and pepper. I chose the hash browns which were competent but nothing more.
The place is just off HWY 17 so it's definitely worth the stop if your hungry.
Looks like I'll have to dust off the camera, my tasting fork, and the travel-sized pepper grinder so I can hit a few of the local places in the Santa Rosa/Rohnert Park/Sonoma areas.
This means Dierk's Parkside Cafe and The Naked Pig in Santa Rosa and The Fremont Diner over in Sonoma.
I'll think long and hard to come up with other places in my neck of the woods.
Okay, B&G month has passed, and the location isn't exactly Bay Area, but I came across a version that was so good I just had to post it anyway.
Nancy's Airport Cafe is a hidden gem just off of I-5 in Willows. The huge portion for $5 came with two large light and fluffy biscuits cut in half and smothered with a silky smooth country gravy. The gravy was so good I had to order the chicken fried steak on the way back to the Bay Area. The CFS was crispy and tender and has wrecked me for CFS at other locations.
re: steve h.
My son had B&G at Calafia Cafe in Palo Alto yesterday (Aug. 23) at lunch. The biscuits somehow were both light and substantial enough to stand up to the mushroom gravy (no sausage), even after sitting there for 15 minutes while he tucked into chicken and waffles. The texture of the biscuits where they were not covered by gravy led me to suggest that they may have been lightly griddled just prior to having the gravy poured over them. The gravy was relatively thin as compared to most B&G we have had in the past, and while it was less salty than most renditions we've tasted all over the country (my wife is a South Carolinian), it still taste a bit too saline to me. If we return, we will ask for the gravy on the side.