Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Eatery - Pine State Biscuits (OR)
2204 NE Alberta, Portland, OR 97211 (Neighborhood: Alberta Arts District)
Pricing - $ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - Southern, Breakfast
A restaurant serving up Southern food? Be still, my heart. Ever since my college days in North Carolina, I have developed a soft spot (and occasional crazed craving) for southern food. I know that for the most part, it really isn't good for me considering the amount of butter and fat used for a lot of dishes but that overage speaks to my carnal side and I give in. When we visited Portland, a born-and-raised PDX resident there told us we needed to give Pine State Biscuits a try because the owners there really cared about making authentic North Carolinian food. It is a local chain with several locations in Portland and even pop-up appearances at farmers' markets and events. Since southern food is a weakness, we had to check it out.
Typically this is a morning type of joint but luckily for us, it was open late. We had already planned out our meal itinerary for the entire trip so this was an addendum that we happened to be able to tack on for a late night snack. All I wanted was some real-deal biscuits and gravy. Pine State Biscuits delivered.
Right when we walked in, I noticed the overzealous inclusion of all things North Carolina from the university stickers to the sourced products/ingredients to the pictures on the wall. It was definitely past dinnertime but there was still a decent line. The menu was big and wide on the wall behind the cash register, and everything was tempting. To the right side of the line, you could see biscuits being made, and the kitchen to the left was open so you could watch your food being made. Menu items touched on just about every stereotypical dish from North Carolina including collard greens, apple butter, pecan pie, and hush puppies. The main entrees were variations of biscuit sandwiches and also some comfort food dishes such as pot pie and shrimp & grits.
Would you believe me if I said I once went through sweet tea withdrawals after coming back to southern California for a winter break from North Carolina? That is some addictive stuff, and we were happy to see it on the menu here for $2. Of course we snagged a glass which we saw poured out of a 25 gallon bucket with a spigot. Perfect. The tea itself was not as cloyingly sweet as I'd say authentic NC sweet tea is but it still hit the spot. Whew! Then came our Hush Puppies ($3) which were a bit different from what I'm accustomed to - these were balls instead of oblong fat "pills" and had other ingredients inside instead of just cornbread. These had bacon, cheese, and chives. Considering the shape and how thick they became, I was not a fan of their version of the beloved side dish.
However, their Biscuits and Gravy ($5) were just divine. We opted for the one with shiitake gravy instead of house sausage, and it was savory, rich, and full of mushroom umami. The texture of the gravy was just right with enough thickness to be substantial on its own but spread enough to cover the whole plate in goodness. As for the biscuits, these were true North Carolina-style biscuits - flat, fat, and densely fluffy. It's a nearly oxymoronic creation but works out well, covering all of desire's bases from the barest crunch on the outside and the squat fluff on the inside; oh, and everything was buttery. I really enjoyed these. They were not the best but they were definitely a solid representation of the owners knowing what they're doing. Cheers to them being able to serve up PDX with their southern dishes!
Photography by Duc Duong.