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Well, butter my biscuit

Kid-friendly Atlanta franchise opens in south Charlotte



The toddler hurled a piece of pancake past my table. The mother, barely stopping her conversation with the woman across the table, signaled her server: "Don't worry. I'll clean it up before I leave."

To the mutual astonishment of my side of the dining room -- the side where junior was chucking his dinner -- the mother then continued her conversation, sipped her wine and never said a word to the boy.

Welcome to the new, fast, casual restaurant in "kidtown" -- an area south of I-485.

Don't get me wrong: I love kids. In fact, I have some. I also strongly believe that children should be exposed to all kinds of restaurants; mine have. But I would not allow my children to pitch food in my house; why would I allow that behavior at somebody else's table? It's not the kids; it's their parents. It's not the crying baby, although I noticed one set of parents ignored their wailing child (calming a child outside or bringing distractions work); it's parents taking time off from their job -- parenting -- in public places that galls me. Evidently, from the looks cast towards junior's mom from my neighbors, I am not alone in this.

Unfortunately, each of my dining experiences at The Flying Biscuit Café, a franchise which opened in October, was marred by ill-mannered children. Not that the majority of children were misbehaved; it only takes one in close proximity to do damage. Nor do I blame the management. This is, after all, not the site for intimate celebrations or romantic tête-à-têtes: The Biscuit is designed as a fast casual restaurant that welcomes, in fact encourages, family breakfasts, sporting team brunches, and after-dance-lessons dinners.

This outpost of The Flying Biscuit, the first location outside of Georgia, is small: 70 seats squeezed into a charming space. The walls and ceiling are painted in a neo-Salsalito kitschy décor while vibrant patterned tablecloths brighten tables. Four colors of Fiesta dinnerware and hand crafted pottery sugar bowls and creamers add to that amalgam of homey feel and new-brand franchise that Biscuit radiates.

Breakfast and its namesake biscuits cinched the reputation of the original Biscuit in Candler Park, an Atlanta neighborhood, which Delia Champion opened in 1993. This breakfast/brunch spot garnered national recognition when the summer Olympics arrived in 1996. In 2006, the concept was sold to Raving Brands, a restaurant franchise company based in Atlanta. This Flying Biscuit is owned locally by Hugh Bigham, Will Bigham and Bob Reed, who have plans to open more in the Charlotte area.

Breakfast is served all day and is the strong suit on the menu. Eggs are paired with chicken sausage (or Morningstar Soy sausage), organic oatmeal pancakes, whole wheat French toast or scrambled with smoked salmon, or "Southern Style" with collards and turkey bacon. The latter gave pause to reason why collards and eggs are not normally matched: they don't complement each other. But the "Meggxican" wrap with scrambled eggs, serrano peppers and cheddar cheese was a better choice.

The concept at the Biscuit according to General Manager Lucius Wilson is "healthy alternative." He adds that the restaurant is a pork-free restaurant since "a lot of people don't eat pork and many are looking for lighter foods."

And there's nothing lighter than a biscuit. Here all dishes arrive with one straight from the oven -- or the warmer. According to Wilson, the store makes 500 each day. These biscuits are not the proverbial flakey Southern biscuit; rather they rise high and have a crusty exterior, which is perfectly matched with the custom-made cranberry apple butter. The recipe for these biscuits, made in-store from a propriety blend of White Lily flour, is included in The Flying Biscuit Cookbook on sale in the restaurant. While breakfast items are good, the "healthy-alternative" entrees seem desperate, as if adding more ingredients could spark a savory combustion. Take the bland turkey meatloaf. Flavor is masked by a hardened pool of enveloping quasi-horseradish sauce. Then the dish is crowded by "pudge," an equally spunkless mass of mashed potatoes. Barbecued chicken on a burrito is overpowered by collards, while the bell peppers and cheddar cheese seem like an after thought wrapped into the same sun-dried tomato tortilla.

Simpler dishes, such as salads, fare better. On one, slices of grilled chicken breast, bathed in a light vinaigrette, are neatly tweaked by blue cheese and roasted potatoes. Desserts are exactly what they should be: creamy, flakey, some chocolately, and some with Georgia peaches.

The Biscuit is family affordable: breakfast prices range from $5.99 to $10.95 for steak and eggs; sandwiches are $5.95 to 7.95; entrées range from $7.95 to $14.95 for a flat iron steak with mashed potatoes and green beans. The Child Menu items range from $2.50 to $4.99. A dozen biscuits to go are $10.

The crew at the Biscuit works hard -- sweeping floors, picking up glasses -- all the while maintaining that welcoming smile. And in the end, friendliness is what inexpensive family places like The Biscuit tend to be about.

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