This is a guest review from Clayton Sealy of CLT Development.
I like to think of myself as a biscuit expert.
They’ve been part of my DNA since I was a child. My earliest memories were of my grandmother baking in her tiny kitchen in downtown Raleigh. Her speciality was biscuits, which she would proudly note were blue ribbon winning. Her recipe, sadly, has yet to be unearthed, so I’ve been looking for the perfect biscuit ever since.
When judging a biscuit you need to take into account how it looks, the shape, the rise, the integrity, the color, and finally and most importantly the flavor. You also have to take into account its purpose, since nowadays biscuits are often used for sandwiches, meaning they should hold up to the stress of holding and biting.
With this criteria in mind, I stopped by Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit to give their biscuits and sandwiches a try.
Callie’s, for the uninitiated, is on its way to becoming a regional biscuit hawking powerhouse. From humble roots in Charleston, they have grown a 50k instagram following and have expanded to four locations in the region, including one on West Tremont in South End. They can also be found in grocery stores all across America.
When you walk into Callie’s the biscuit station is what you see first, but make sure you skip looking for too long. You will have plenty of time to watch while you wait.
The restaurant itself is small, has a few counter seats, and clearly is built for grab and go. The vibe is homey and there’s a message above the counter exclaiming “Grandma always said, it's not lady-like to eat a big biscuit.” It was relatable, since the memory of my grandmother had brought me Callie’s that day.
Scrolling through the company's Instagram you are often met with the satiating images of a fried chicken biscuit. Like biscuits, I also seek out fried chicken, so I came in knowing exactly what I wanted and started scanning the menu to make sure I had the order ready. Confused, I jumped on my phone and opened Instagram, to confirm that I wasn’t mistaken. Fried chicken, displayed proudly just days before on the company's Instagram, with the Charlotte restaurant in the background, wasn’t an option.
On the spot with a line forming behind me, I stepped up to the counter and scanned the menu. I stammered, “build your own biscuit, fried egg, country ham and avocado.” My wife ordered country ham and peach jam, and I added on a bakers dozen, so that I could give all the smaller biscuits a try.
After a bit of a wait our order arrived and we dug in.
These aren’t Instagrammable biscuits. They are lumpy, deformed, and incongruous. No two were a similar size, shape, or thickness. Not everything has to be beautiful though. I like ugly food. The rise and consistency ranged from fluffy and airy, to cakey. I appreciated the variety in the texture.
The sandwich biscuits held up with the amount of meat and ingredients piled on them. It passes the test.
The color is not very even, but as mentioned earlier the sizes were inconsistent, so the maillard reaction (browning) would happen at different cook times.
The base sandwich biscuits were really tasty, and the bakers dozen held up too. I enjoyed each one I tasted, except for the Black Pepper Bacon, which was just too pungent, not spicy, but baking with black pepper can be tricky.
But there were a few things that bothered me. Inconsistency and slow service were a common theme, but the whole experience really exemplified the “Instagram vs. Reality” trope.
I entered Callie’s hoping for a biscuit displayed all over their social, but it wasn’t even offered. Still, what I ended up with was pretty good overall. The avocado was ripe, the biscuit fluffy, but the “fried egg” was poached, albeit perfectly.
What had me stumped was the country ham. Country ham is traditionally sliced, but this was served shaved, almost to the consistency of pencil shavings. The bonito flake-like texture gave the country ham a certain umami quality, but it fell right out of the sandwich. Also, my wife’s country ham and peach jam biscuit came sans peach jam.
The service was slow and everything seemed a little disorganized, from the cashier to the folks assembling the sandwiches. I would hate to see what it’d be like in a big rush.
The last thing that bothered me was the styrofoam containers. Not only is it an environmental faux pas, it’s a missed opportunity from a social media perspective. I would have expected a restaurant with so much illustrated signage to have continued this tradition with their packaging. A branded wrap around the biscuit would make for a more photogenic moment than a styrofoam clamshell. I would perhaps blame cost on this oversight, but the biscuit sandwiches, which start at around $8, are pretty expensive for what you get.
Overall, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit is a great addition to an area of South End that is really coming into its own. I’m encouraged by the flavor of everything I had, and if they can create a more consistent biscuit, work on issues with service, and offer everything they advertise, they have a chance at being great.