Q: What do you think of Vicious Biscuit?
A: I get this question frequently, from two different groups of people. First, it comes from breakfast fans in Summerville, who are anxiously awaiting the cafe’s second location at Nexton Square, scheduled to open in early 2020. Second, it’s asked by the Mount Pleasanters who are so devoted to Vicious’ brand of buttermilk pastry that they’ll wait three hours on a Sunday morning for a Fat Boy sandwich with fried chicken and pimento cheese.
In other words, the questioners represent two different schools of thought, which is true of almost everyone who asks me about a particular restaurant.
There are the skeptics, who naturally have a hard time believing that every rosy word they’ve heard about a place is true. They’re seeking a professional opinion to counterbalance the popular one. And then there are the partisans. They don’t necessarily need an objective observer’s validation, but revel in finding a fellow believer to join them in recounting a favorite restaurant’s glories. I’m fond of both of them.
Anyhow, back to Vicious. After being asked about it so many times, I decided it was probably time to pay a visit, rather than resort to tangents to the paragraph above.
What’s immediately clear about Vicious is it’s perfected the counter-service model. Much like The Grit Counter, also in Mount Pleasant, Vicious has distinguished itself with an attractive dining room and an approachable menu designed to be customized for individual tastes. (It also has a full bar, which no doubt compounds the lines on weekend mornings.)
What may set Vicious Biscuit apart in the design arena is its merchandise. The restaurant, housed in the old Boulevard Diner, sells a full line of T-shirts and caps emblazoned with Vicious’ “Body by Biscuit” slogan and toque-wearing skull logo. They look good.
I ordered a biscuit sandwich with country ham and a fried orange-yolk egg, and was highly impressed by the quality of both. Based on the care applied to both ingredients, I have little doubt that Vicious makes a mean sausage gravy.
That said, the biscuit was the kind of sturdy biscuit required to shoulder all of the above. It’s cakey in both texture and flavor, which leans sweet. I’m not sure I would have wanted to smear it with any of the jams on the condiment bar. It works as a foundational starch, but grits or hash browns could have played the same part without degrading the plate. Basically, I like the Vicious more than the Biscuit, although I appreciate plenty of people feel otherwise: Partisans, talk amongst yourselves.
Of course, Vicious isn’t the only newish biscuit operation in the Charleston area. Openings just since August include Big Bad Breakfast, Flying Biscuit Café and Bishopp’s Chicken Biscuits, which has already closed up shop.
Flying Biscuit is a fairly sizable chain, with 25 locations across the Southeast. In the biscuit sphere, though, chain isn’t necessarily a dirty word, since biscuits take well to mass production and freezing. Flying Biscuit’s biscuits are rich — the published recipe calls for butter, half-and-half and heavy cream — but they’re light and layered. It’s a very good biscuit. Unlike the biscuit at Vicious, it outshines what's around it.
Still, the biscuit I liked best along my tour was the one served at Big Bad Breakfast, which is also a chain, albeit with only seven locations thus far. Compared to the biscuits at Vicious and Flying Biscuit, the tender Big Bad Breakfast biscuit has a more compelling topography, with fat and air conspiring in the oven to keep the biscuit from flattening.
Even better, there’s black pepper in the dough, so you get the savory character of gravy without the weight or the mess. (Then again, owner John Currence reportedly likes his biscuit slathered with cane syrup, so the latter’s up to you.)