Thumbing its nose at dieticians across the land, enter biscuits and gravy. Good God, buttery flaky crackly biscuits and oozing creamy gobs and gobs of gravy. And oh, my heavens, they eat this stuff for breakfast in the South. This waist-expanding concoction is not too complicated, traditionally coming in the form of biscuits (American-style, obvi) smothered in white gravy. For those of you Yankees unaccustomed to white gravy, it’s made from bacon or sausage drippings, milk, and flour. Or as Mama at the Silver Skillet—the sole waitress at the truck stop diner of my hometown—once explained: “It’s fat. A little flour, but mostly fat.”
And with that in mind, I put on my pregnancy sweat pants and visited the first restaurant on our list—Cowgirl Seahorse. Cowgirl Seahorse is conveniently located next to my apartment (and also the Brooklyn Bridge) and transports you to the beach bum fish taco stand of your endless summer dreams. Like at the other restaurants I tested, the biscuits and gravy here are only available at brunch. These can be ordered in full—two eggs, two biscuits, sausage gravy, and your choice of home fries or cheese grits—or in a half-serving, which, as any smarty might guess, comes with half the amount of food. My fearful arteries urged me toward the half, and I obliged.
The biscuit comes perfectly dressed in velvety fatty gravy, just enough to get you excited but not so much you forget there was a biscuit to begin with. The whole mess is dotted with crispy morsels of spicy sausage. I’m not usually partial to this fennel-heavy Italian-style of sausage, but it is well tamed by the mildness of the gravy and its homey hints of chicken stock. Beneath all this, the biscuit is buttery and has a good crunch when first forked. However, once forked, the insides are stiff, suggesting a microwave zap in its recent past. Be wary too of ill-executed sideshows—Cowgirl Seahorse is notorious (well, notorious in my book, at least) for overcooked eggs. If you’re looking for over easy, best ask for them raw.
Next up to bat was Egg, a chic sleeve of a restaurant nestled on a hip little Williamsburg block. Some great things have been said about this brunch haven, so wasn’t I surprised when my biscuits and gravy arrived in a shallow bowl masquerading as Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. And I’m not kidding, this thing came with a spoon and a stack of extra napkins. After fishing around for a bit, I found two lumps that revealed themselves to be biscuits. Although a little difficult to cut into, there was a soft buttery melt-in-your-mouth interior that had been saved from the great gravy flood. The insides of these biscuits were hands down the best part of the meal, but unfortunately there was that tricky 4:1 gravy to biscuit ratio. And as for the gravy (which also comes in a mushroom option), it was crowded with red pepper flakes and bits of gummy sausage, like someone had spiked it with a couple pureed Bagel Bites.
Moving on to greener pastures. My last stop was Mama’s Food Shop in Alphabet City, easily the most authentic biscuit and gravy supplier on our travels. After ordering cafeteria-style in front of a tidy open kitchen, one takes a seat in a dining room that could’ve been transplanted from the bayou—linoleum floor creaking screen door and everything. Their spin on the dish included sweet potato biscuits, topped with sausage or mushroom gravy, topped with scrambled or poached eggs, all of this spooning your choice of sixteen sides. The sweet potato was a nice twist, the slight sweetness contrasting the heft of the gravy. It had a good crumble, shortbread-esque, when chewed; although oddly, they squeaked like cheese curds when cut into. The gravy was pleasant and diplomatic—no actual pieces of sausage but good sausage flavor, rich but not too thick, peppery but not too spicy, punches of fennel but not overpowering. For cardiac concerns, I went with a side of green beans, which were fresh and crisp but over-salted. Next time, I’m throwing health to the wind (isn’t that what you’re doing anyway, ordering biscuits and gravy for breakfast?) and getting the mac and cheese.
Mama’s Food Shop
All in all, I’d argue Mama’s comes out the reigning champ. She’s ain’t perfect but she’s gives us what we want when we’re looking to eat a solid Southern breakfast—a distended belly and that sickly satisfied grin after the first belch and before the food coma.