South Side Eats: Grilled Biscuits and More at Ms. Biscuit
Nestled in between the western edge of Washington Park and the Dan Ryan Expressway sits a beautiful building with a white terra cotta structure that originally opened up as the Schulze Baking Company in 1914. It's since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and served as the factory for Hostess Butternut Bread up until 2004. Sadly the place is now vacated and there is no more baking being done. So why does there still seem to be a wonderful smell in the air? That's coming from Ms. Biscuit right across the street on Wabash.
Nowadays the interior and exterior of this local favorite are pretty much reminiscent of most breakfast and lunch places in the city and surrounding area. It's updated and prepared to seat the swarms of families who come looking for something with a little soul to sing to their belly after Sunday church. There's even a nice patio out front.
It looks nothing like the little shack it used to be back when it opened in 1974 as Mr. Biscuit in a different location. South Side food aficionado Peter Engler, known as Rene G over at LTHForum, shared a picture if you want to have an idea of how far their namesake item has brought them. In fact, you can find an article in the Tribune from 1989 which sings their praises, while also giving you a little history of its humble beginnings and the name change from Mr to Ms. Biscuit, which just so happened to be the reason I stopped in. Any place with a name like that is on my radar.
Ms. Biscuit does both breakfast and lunch, with a menu featuring many of the typical soul food standards. While a couple of the skillets and combo plates looked tempting, you can't go into a place called Ms. Biscuit and not try an offering of their namesake dish. I figured a small order of biscuits and gravy, along with a breakfast sandwich made with a biscuit and some hash browns, would do the trick, but then I saw they also have grilled biscuits and had to try one of those too.
Even though this was my first trip, I think it's safe to say the biscuits I got came from a pretty good batch. The recipe is still kept close, but in the Tribune article Ms. Johnson, a.k.a. Ms. Biscuit, admits to using yeast and baking soda. The grilled biscuit was literally just that, and my favorite way of tasting them. The time spent cooking over the grates creates some nice crispy edges, and it was just stable enough to stay together during the jelly spreading process. Maybe not as good as those found at some places down in Nashville and other parts of the country, but still an excellent offering. I only wish they would of left it on the grill little bit longer.
I had to get down and dirty with my ham, egg, and cheese on a biscuit, but it was worth it. They slice the ham off the bone which makes for my preferred choice of meat in a breakfast sandwich.
The sausage gravy had a smooth texture and wasn't gloppy, which I always appreciate. But like the hash browns, the gravy might have been a little under-seasoned. Fortunately, that's nothing some hot sauce and black pepper can't fix. It was nice to see the place filled on a weekday around 10 a.m., so I can only imagine it on a Sunday. Enter at your own risk; you don't want to keep grandma from her biscuits. But in all seriousness, keep them in mind next time you need something to eat early coming in or out of the city—there's a reason they've been around for so long.