Consider the humble biscuit—fluffy, flavorful, browned just so.
Now consider the Handsome Biscuit with its masculine moniker—big, bold, brawny, audacious even, but like the finest of the male persuasion, humble at heart.
Handsome Biscuit turns 10 this year, a run marked by accolades in USA Today, Southern Living, and Garden & Gun magazines. Throughout, the locally-owned, mostly take-out eatery has stayed true to its roots with a concise menu of eight savory, eye-popping sammies turned out from its tiny, orange-and-white digs in Norfolk’s Park Place neighborhood.
Here, the faithful (and there are many) gaze up at the menu board while kitchen staff across the counter construct colossal sandwiches between sweet potato biscuit halves. Once decided (budget some time to ponder the improbable choices), patrons order at the counter via a pair of tablets and pay with a credit card (no cash accepted). Then, they hang out in the small entry room with its intoxicating aroma of perfectly-cooked bacon or repair outdoors to one of the shaded, communal picnic tables and await the moment when a server appears with a brown paper bag and calling their name.
So. What will it be? The Hella Fitzgerald ($9.69), a fat slab of crispy fried chicken topped with bacon, cheddar, and a satisfying lumpy, red-eye sausage gravy? Or the Chicken Verde ($9.03), that mighty slab of fried bird with ruffle-cut pickles, shredded iceberg, and green chili aioli? Or perhaps something a bit lighter, such as the You Say Tomato ($4.75), a simple construct of pickled tomatoes slathered with basil-pesto aioli.
With a morning of cycling Norfolk’s Elizabeth River Trail on the docket, my pal, Bill, and I both decided to go big. He ordered the Stevie ($9.35), a tangle of juicy fried chicken and pickles with a schmear of whole-grain mustard and a slick of honey.
I couldn’t resist the Dirty South ($9.03), that crispy fried chicken with lots of ruffly pickles, pimento cheese, and the house’s signature Lupo hot sauce, so popular that it’s sold by the squeeze bottle.
Now, if for some idiotic reason you don’t want your sandwich on a sweet potato biscuit, the staff will, without judgment, build it on a bun. But don’t do that. The sweet of the spud is key.
My softball-sized Dirty South featured a generous piece of warm and juicy fried chicken and a gang of pickles. Pimento cheese oozed from the flaky, perfectly bronzed biscuit and the not-too-hot signature sauce dripped into my napkin. The combination of flavors and textures mingled nicely, although halfway through I resorted to finishing it strata by satisfying strata.
Remember that song by the C+C Music Factory, “Things that Make You Go Hmmm….”?
Across the picnic table from me, Bill had such a moment as he sized up his Stevie, a huge, two-fisted handheld that had him wondering, “Do we need a fork and knife?” He managed without the cutlery, enjoying every bite of his bird tinged with the honey and sharp mustard.
These sandwiches would be daunting to small children and challenging for many an adolescent. For them, Handsome Biscuit offers its Epic Chicken Nuggets ($3.25 for 3, $5.55 for 5, or $7.70 for 7) naked or spicy Nashville style. Or, what kid (or grownup?) wouldn’t love the PB&JB ($5.45), peanut butter and mixed berry jam with salted butter on a sweet potato biscuit?
Add a side of skin-on waffle fries ($2.75) or Hash-Tots ($3.35) and you have happy kids and parents who have successfully and satisfyingly sidestepped fast food alley.
A trio of desserts awaits for those with room. The most tempting: the Dolly Madison ($4.36), a decadent combination of a sweet potato biscuit filled with house-made cream cheese icing and mixed berry jam.
Maybe next time.