You may have heard about Empire Biscuit (198 Avenue A), the East Village’s answer to the soulless 24-hour IHOP. Unlike the house of pancakes though, it seems that people actually want to be at this spot at all hours of the day and night: The biscuit emporium opened two weeks back, then had to renege, at least temporarily, on serving its goods 24 hours a day due to the overwhelming response. The operation even shut down briefly after biscuits flew off its shelves.
The guys behind biscuit-mania reopened for business last week, though they’ve yet to reinstate 24-hour availability. And with the hype, we wonder: Is New York full of southern expats that have been waiting years for a place like this to come along? Or are people intrigued by a place that uses the word “drunk” in its promotional tag line? We spoke with co-owner Jonathan Price, who grew up in the south, to find out.
“The biscuit in the south is essentially fast food,” notes Price. And making them from scratch is an emblem of pride. The fluffy baked goods can also be eaten and enjoyed at most hours of the day, and they’re especially popular after a big night out. So when Price and his partner Yonadav Tsuna — who he met when they were both working at fine dining temple Bouley — found very few NYC spots were doing them justice, they opted to focus their efforts on a place of their own.
It took a year and a half to bring the concept to fruition, but now that the doors are open, biscuits can be loaded with choices of homemade jellies, jams, and compound butters in varieties like pineapple and thyme and foie gras butter. “We kind of went crazy over the last year,” says Price. “If there was any doubt, it was gone because how fun it was to keep making these variations.”
And then there are the biscuit-and-gravy combinations plus sandwiches. “How on earth can we deny people ham and eggs on a biscuit?” Price asks. His baby, though, is the sandwich that marries a deep-fried sausage-wrapped scotch egg to cheddar and whole grain mustard. “I absolutely love that dish,” he says. “We’re so proud of it.” The menu, he says, will also change with the seasons, incorporating items like green tomatoes.
Oh, and about that “Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner/Drunk” tagline: “It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek,” says Price. “To us, it’s a playful and frank statement about the East Village and about 24 hours.”
Check Empire Biscuit’s Facebook page for current hours.