Round versus square; toasty versus soft; tall versus compact—there’s a great variety of Southern-style biscuits around Austin, and plenty of opinions. Fortunately for the biscuit-obsessed, our town boasts an abundance of eateries that serve the baked good, and we visited with five that serve some of the best. Regardless of personal biscuit preferences, all these local joints are serving up delicious and buttery pillows of comfort.
One of Austin’s beloved biscuit-hawking classics, Cisco’s Restaurant, has used the same recipe for decades. The East Austin institution, known for its Tex-Mex, has been around since 1950. Cisco’s round biscuits have a distinct appearance—a darkly browned top with white edges—which owner Matt Cisneros credits to the history of the recipe. (Cisneros is also the grandson of the restaurant’s namesake, Rudy “Cisco” Cisneros.) “When we took over the restaurant last year, the biscuit recipe wasn’t even written down…we’ve just had the same people making it for so long,” he says. “If someone wanted to go home and try to recreate it, they couldn’t make the same biscuit. We’ve been using the same oven to make them for over sixty years.” For added nostalgia, top off a split biscuit with Cisco’s old-school liquid butter—or simply use it as a large, fluffy vessel to soak up the rest of your Tex-Mex sauce.
On the opposite end of Austin’s food timeline is Bird Bird Biscuit, a new biscuit sandwich shop located on Manor Road. Started by Brian Batch and Ryan McElroy, owners and operators of local café Thunderbird Coffee, the restaurant’s large, square biscuits were inspired by a biscuit-centric experience they had in Nashville. “Somewhat naively, we rolled up expecting a sandwich on a biscuit. It was more like sandwiches meant to be eaten on a plate with a knife and fork,” McElroy says. “I mean, yeah, they’re sandwiches, but you can’t really eat them with your hands, like the Earl of Sandwich intended. We had to work really hard to make a biscuit that could be handheld as a sandwich.” Though their biscuits are designed to cradle hearty fillings such as bacon, eggs and chicken sausage, purists can simply order the “Biscuit by Itself” when a craving hits.
For a round, piping-hot biscuit that brings on a Deep South food trance, visit Fixe Southern House. Chef James Robert was born and raised in southwestern Louisiana, where biscuits traditionally contain lard as a main ingredient. “Biscuits are serious business where I’m from, so it was important for me to stay in line with tradition,” Robert says. “Although I think mine are a bit better, my mom’s and grandmother’s biscuits would give mine a run for their money!” Each biscuit at Fixe is made to order, and served with a slightly sweet whipped butter.
If you’re a proponent of the square-biscuit variety, visit Confituras Little Kitchen for your fix of local preserves and toweringly tall baked goods. Owner Stephanie McClenny makes her uniformly angled biscuits with a blend of heritage flours milled locally by Barton Springs Mill, giving them a darker color throughout and the ability to “hold up really well in a pool of sausage and gravy,” says McClenny. “Our biscuits were developed in-house and tested exclusively with our fruit preserves; each biscuit tested for ultimate ‘jamability.’ Only a few made it through the rigorous testing,” she says. “We tweaked the recipe for a good six months before we really found what we were looking for.” The final iteration has a staggering total of 81 layers in each biscuit, with a made-to-order gluten-free version available, as well.
With the holiday season upon us, it would be almost criminal to overlook Southern-style restaurant Olamaie and its pioneering system for ordering Chef Michael Fojtasek’s signature biscuits online. The biscuits are in such high demand at the restaurant that they created a webpage allowing you to order up to four dozen, 48 hours in advance. The biscuits are square with rounded edges and a toasty, browned exterior with a seam that begs to be opened into halves and slathered with their essential honey butter. Fojtasek first started experimenting with biscuit recipes several years ago while he was still living in New York, and didn’t stop right up until the restaurant opened. “Biscuit recipes are actually a lot about ratio, but they’re also a tremendous amount about technique,” he says. “It’s one of those items that’s incredibly simple in its ingredients, and therefore technique really shines.”
If there’s a universal trait among the biscuits from these restaurants, it’s the care that goes into each one. Austin is undergoing a biscuit renaissance, so get out there and try these handcrafted, oh-so-delicious bundles of love.
By Darby Kendall • Photography by Dustin Meyer
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