IF YOU GO• Where: Maple Street Biscuit Company, 407 Broad St.• Phone: 423-362-5380• Hours: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday• Price range: $3 for a plain biscuit to $8 for the Five and Dime biscuit sandwich• Phone: 423-362-5380• Website: www.maplestreetbiscuits.com
Chattanooga has made huge strides over the past few decades to become a more sophisticated and culturally diverse urban metropolis, supporting a variety of unique culinary styles and restaurants. But at our heart most residents - especially those of us who were raised in and around the Scenic City - know in many ways this remains a little country town.
There's nothing more country than a biscuit. Well, perhaps fried chicken ... OK, maybe gravy too. Maple Street Biscuit Company on Broad Street downtown has all three of those Southern staples covered, and they'll throw in some bacon and grits for good measure.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based chain recently opened a location here offering a variety of biscuit sandwiches as well as country sides in a hip-yet-rustic setting.
If you call yourself a biscuit company, then you better believe there's gonna be lots of the biscuits on the menu. Maple Street Biscuit Company doesn't disappoint on that point.
The menu is centered on 17 sandwiches, all made using biscuits instead of any other sort of bun. Sandwich fillings range from chicken to pulled pork, bacon, fried egg and fried goat cheese.
You can even get a plain biscuit if you want, but I'm not sure what the point of that would be. (Although the B2 Jam - a blackberry and blueberry preserve combination - sounds pretty darn good.)
In addition, several side items continue the country-cooking theme. Mac-n-cheese, oatmeal, fried green tomatoes and grits are the most notable, but then there's the hashups - a different take on the hashbrown made with smoked ham, red and green peppers, grilled onions, mushrooms and melted cheese. You read that right - basically hashbrowns on steroids.
The first biscuit sandwich listed on the menu is simply called "The Five," and its fried chicken breast, bacon and cheddar cheese stuffed between two halves of a fresh biscuit ... then covered with gravy. To quote country singer David Allan Coe, "if that ain't country ..." If you know the song, you know how that sentence ends.
There was no way to pass that up, plus a side of Bluegrass Grits and a soft drink. I considered going for the "Five and Dime," which is the Five with a fried egg on top, but that was just a touch too ambitious for my first visit.
The biscuit is certainly as advertised - flaky, light and freshly prepared, although with so many other flavors in the sandwich it's tough to say too much about how the biscuit would taste on its own. Still, it's a more-than-respectable biscuit.
The chicken wasn't too heavy either, and the bacon was bacon, so you know it's good. The gravy was very thick, stick-to-your-ribs sausage gravy with bits of sausage, and there was plenty of it slathered all over the sandwich.
The Bluegrass Grits are made using cream cheese, and they were good although perhaps a bit thin, which gave them more of a cream-of-wheat consistency.
Located just down from Five Guys Burgers and across Broad Street from Lupi's Pizza, Maple Street Biscuit Company is well located for the downtown lunch crowd and close to the tourist district as well.
The restaurant decor is modern country, with simple wood tables, exposed brick, corrugated metal and photos of country scenes.
It's spacious and comfortable, with country and bluegrass music adding to the down-home feel. Certainly a comfortable place to eat a chicken-and-bacon biscuit covered in gravy. (Is there a bad place to eat anything covered in gravy?)
You order your meal at the front counter and pick it up at a window when prepared. In a twist, instead of asking your name or giving you a number, the young lady at the counter asked me the make of my first car and that's what was called out when my sandwich was ready.
(Mine: A 1974 VW Bug, stolen from the Eastgate Mall parking lot in 1984 while I was in the movie theater watching "Footloose." No, I'm still not over it.)
The staff was friendly and asked often if I had what I needed and if the food tasted good. As an added bonus during my visit, a complimentary cinnamon biscuit with icing was offered to everyone in the restaurant. A nice touch for a new eatery looking to build a customer base in a crowded downtown restaurant scene.
Maple Street Biscuit Company is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Thursday, with dinner hours added Friday and Saturday evenings.
With fall upon us and winter not far behind, we're squarely in comfort-food weather. Biscuits, fried chicken and gravy clearly fit the bill of country food in Southeast Tennessee, and Maple Street Biscuit Company does a fine job.
The restaurant doesn't try to do too much, sticking with biscuits and basic country food. They seem to be producing fresh quality food that will make many of us recall days at grandma's house getting a hearty country breakfast.
If you grew up in the rural (or even semi-rural) South, there ain't nothing wrong with that.
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com or 423-757-6478. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.