Southern food with a fresh spin
I know I am a broken record touching once more on my love for brunch and everything it embodies: a relaxing, late breakfast, preferably with bubbly booze and good company, is the perfect cap to the weekend.
More specific than my love of brunch is my love of quality biscuits. Those warm, fluffy breakfast accompaniments, often used as a bed for any type of jam, sauce, or breakfast item you can think of, are a staple of my brunch fare. I will order biscuits from whereever I go. Imagine my overwhelming delight when I learned a restaurant specializing in biscuit-based dishes was coming to Gainesville. In fact, it was a restaurant I have previously dined at in Jacksonville, where it originated.
A name like 'Maple Street Biscuit Company' holds a lot of weight in my book. Apparently, I am not alone: According to Director/Managing Partner of the restaurant chain, Troy Gibson, in four years the biscuit-lovers' paradise has only spent $250 in advertising for eight locations. That's it.
"We just haven't had to," Troy said. "People know about us."
A couple tables mirrored each other outside the front door: The majority of tables were filled with families, students and the like, with a few hungry patrons occupying the high-top stools lining much of the interior.
The first thing you come to is the line of potential customers at the counter check-out line. I was almost glad that a handful of people were anxiously waiting to order before me, as the biscuit-themed menu was much more extensive than I had remembered with 17 options, not including sides or beverages. On seeing the description of the Sticky Maple, a biscuit sandwich of fried chicken, bacon, and Bissell Family Farm maple syrup, I had flashbacks to the day over a year ago in Jacksonville when I practically inhaled every bite of the delicious meal. But I wanted to try something new, of course.
My new coworker, Katherine, dared to join me for a food adventure. She had never heard of Maple Street. She strolled in and was quick to choose the Five and Dime. I also had my eye on it, so what does any good food adventurer do? Make sure her dining companion is OK with ordering multiple items to share to get the most of the experience.
So in addition to the Five and Dime, we ordered, on Troy's recommendation, the Squawking Goat, which is a combination of the Loaded Goat and the Squawk on the Street. Of course, I had to order the loaded hashups and sweet potato fries as sides. The total came to around $26. I also can't resist ordering sweet potato fries whenever tehy are on the menu.
After taking our order, the lady at the counter asked, "What's your favorite band?" Less than 10 minutes went by before cries of "Deftones, Deftones!" rang throughout the rustic-style space, which was Katherine's favorite band and how they called us over to grab our meals. There is a complete menu at the restaurant link below.
Let's start with the Five and Dime: According to Troy, it is the most popular item, and I can see why: a waterfall of sausage gravy "with a little kick" oozing over a fried egg, pecan wood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and one of the best breakfast fried chicken breasts I've consumed. It was a mouthful with the flaky biscuits attempting to hold it together, but the flavor combination was extremely satisfying. It was a modern take on a quintessential breakfast dish condensed into an overflowing taste explosion.
Although a bit less explosive, the Squawking Goat was delicious in its own way (image at top). That signature, homemade biscuit enveloped another perfectly-crisped, plump fried chicken breast and the creamiest fried goat cheese medallion. It is such a powerful cheese, and it made a statement doused with a generous helping of the house-made pepper jelly, which gave the ideal sweetness to contrast with the rich, salty cheese and chicken. Even on its own, the biscuit was pretty good. Maybe not the absolute best I've ever had, but it was not soggy. Nothing is worse than a soggy biscuit.
The sweet potato fries were some of the best I have ever had, which is attributed to not only the massive size of each fry but quality you could taste. These had never seen a freezer. I could eat them every day, and I have tried more sweet potato fries than I could ever count. This was Katherine's first sweet potato fry experience, and she was just as blown away as I was. It seemed we agreed on most everything.
I remember having the Hashups previously, and this time around they were pretty good. Chunks of smoked ham, red and green peppers, mushrooms, grilled onions and home fries all rested under a smattering of melted cheese for a great breakfast side dish. There is even an option to order them either with sausage gravy on top OR to replace the ham with BBQ pork(!) and top with a fried egg. I wish I could eat all of the above every day.
Troy was very generous and brought over a sample of the Smokey Mountain Mac-N-Cheese, which provided a unique twist to this Southern favorite: The five-cheese gooey pasta was topped with Cheez-It crumbs. Honestly, I thought the mac was good on its own, but I did appreciate the textural contrast. Troy insisted that every new patron receive a free Iced Cinnamon Pecan Biscuit, which tasted more like a less-intense, denser version of a cinnamon roll. The sugary treat was elevated that much higher with Maple Street's homemade B2 sauce of blueberry and blackberry flavors.
If that wasn't enough, near the end of our dining experience, with our bellies full and palettes satiated, Troy brought over a supposed mess-up order of the Garden Bird. We had to try a bite, especially after Troy noted that the collards were not only made in house, but were the best he had ever had. While he may be biased, they were some good collards. The hot sauce really gave the biscuit sandwich of fried chicken, egg and collards a welcome kick.
Troy gave me a bit more insight into what Maple Street prides itself on, namely aiming to embody the concept of good Southern food with a smile.
Scott Moore and Gus Evans started the company as mentioned in Jacksonville on November 8, 2012, as an outlet for people to be a part of a community, most notably seen in its community-style, large table seating and in gestures such as incorporating a patron's favorite band into the ordering process. The quality ingredients, clean store, and "Southern comfort food with a modern twist" are the values the chain is built on. I do believe the company is invested in its patrons and provides quality, consistent Southern food with a fresh spin.
In addition to ordering the Bluegrass Grits cut with cream cheese as a side, my next new item will be the Chicken Club after Troy talked it up.
"The homemade ranch we use, I could eat it off my foot it's that good."
The Pluses and Minuses of the Maple Street Biscuit Company
Maple Street Biscuit Company + indicators: Friendly service, timely food, varied menu, vegetarian options, quality ingredients, built on good values so good for the community, very popular, good bang for buck, open solid hours from Mon-Thurs 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Maple Street Biscuit Company - indicators: Butler Plaza isn't always the easiest to navigate, will certainly get busy during peak hours
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- Urban GLOB Location: Downtown
- Web Site: Maple Street Biscuit Company