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Carb-e Diem

Biscuits and gravy is such a stupid and delicious dish. It’s so ubiquitous with my wife and I, that the best thing that happens when we visit my family in Kentucky (including seeing my family), is the arrival of biscuits and gravy.

In fact, I could qualify our marriage as little more than her love affair with my mom’s “classic” biscuits and gravy: frozen buttermilk biscuits baked in the oven while frozen sausage patties cook in a pan, and then a peppery roux whipped up in the remaining grease. It takes 15 minutes to make and a full day to recover. It’s a simple and traditional taste of home.

So, when my wife and I heard that a restaurant devoted to the core concept of providing a Southern-style biscuit experience was opening in the Short North (in the same spot as a beloved consignment store called Funky & Functional that vanished years ago) we were both skeptical and excited. Then we heard the name: Biscuit & Branch. This tossed us into a spiral of confusion and doubt. How can biscuits and gravy sound pretentious? It’s a hockey puck of bread slathered in its own drippings! My wife screamed at me. What the hell else could it be?

Thus, we ventured into the heart of darkness to peer into the void, and what we found looking back was ourselves … eating biscuits.

Expectations and preconceived notions, one could argue, are survival instincts—we apply a foundation of knowledge to future experiences in order to better temper our understanding and situate it in the narrative of our lives. (Yes, I’m talking existentially about biscuits here—didn’t you read the lede?)

When you enter Biscuit & Branch it really is nothing like you would expect, and that works to its benefit. The glassy, marble walls against the slate concrete tables, and the booths, with their simple color palette, create an aesthetic that’s more Miles David than Hank Williams.

No, this is not your Auntie May’s kitchen with wooden tables and a dog bowl in the corner, this is a capital “R” restaurant and it shows. But despite its relatively modern décor, our experience was colored with warmth and care. Our server Terrell—one of the best I’ve had in a long time—set the mood with a good joke, and recommended some bloody marys and deviled eggs with mustard slaw—which were delicious. But we didn’t come to suck on some eggs—we came to eat biscuits.

My wife ordered the Short North and I, the Memphis Benny: a double-egg badboy with some ham and “killer gravy” covering those buttermilk biscuits like so much snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro. We sipped our bloody marys as we anxiously awaited our food—fully convinced that our order would in no way measure up to what we believed was the biscuits and gravy summit. My mom’s. Come on, there was no way…

…and we were wrong.

That’s because Paul Yow, the culinary director of Biscuit & Branch—he of Barcelona, Hae Paul’s, and Westies fame—has made something that pays homage to the classic southern dish while adding some love and experience from working around Columbus. The biscuits were soft and savory while the gravy was peppery and exciting, spiced with huge chunks of sausage. It had the perfect consistency for the biscuits to soak and crumble. That’s really what you want: just a big, wet, bread mess of carbs and meat and fat. We were happy, and in a new place where everything was possible.

While we weren’t transported to my mother’s kitchen in a Kentucky holler, we instead ventured someplace new and were able to actually enjoy the rest our day (because we didn’t feel like a pile of garbage like we normally do after eating a plate of bread and grease.) And we were still floating on a fluffy, philosophical cloud: you don’t have to be confined in what you believe things should be; be open to new ideas, concepts, and takes on old favorites. You can enjoy something wholly unique, incomparable to the things that came before.

Live. Laugh. Love. Biscuits.

The Branch in Biscuit & Branch refers to Bourbon and Branch, both a drink containing bourbon and water, as well as an old term referring to how some distilleries were located near a reliable water source. They have an enormous bourbon list, complete with some of the most thoughtful flights we’ve seen in a Columbus restaurant. For more about Biscuit & Branch, located on 685 N High St., biscuitandbranch.com.

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Matthew Erman has been writing fiction for the better part of his 26 years. His work has been featured in; Vanderbilt University's The Nashville Review, Filigree Literary Journal, University of Miami's Mangrove Literary Journal, Pelorus Press, Cracked, 614 Magazine.Matthew has a high school diploma, no college debt and attended the 2012 Kenyon Review Writer's Workshop. He lives in sunny Columbus, Ohio.

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