Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is a place of legend. Only open from 6:00am (7:00am on Sundays) until 2:30pm, this is definitely not a late-night drunken diner, this is a proper breakfast spot. Famous long before its appearance in 2013’s Johnny Knoxville romp Bad Grandpa (though the publicity didn’t hurt), SBK’s morning magic has been happening in a diminutive structure akin to a shack along E. Franklin St for decades (with its founding location actually being in Louisburg NC). Although they advertise as drive through only, I have witnessed people walk up to the little door on the side and order. This doors bears a sign that says “limit 3 people at a time”, and I suspect that this method of transaction is for SBK VIPs in the know only. We entry-level biscuiteers queue up in our cars along the length of E Franklin, sometimes with the line blocking a lane of traffic for a quarter mile, all the way to Estes Dr. It’s one of those things that when first observed, signals to the uninitiated that if people are willing to do that, it must be worth it…and it is.
For the sake of this discussion, the heart attack in a bag that I chose was the “Bad Grampa” (note the alternate spelling from the film title – prior to the movie it was called something else entirely, but you know, gotta capitalize!). This monster of questionable morning decisions consists of three pieces of bacon, an egg, an amazing hand breaded fried chicken breast, and a thick cut slice of cheddar cheese, all sandwiched within the goodness of a large Sunrise biscuit. This could easily feed two reasonable adults, or one glutton, and all of this is yours is for a mere $7.40 after tax. There are more menu options that some might describe as sensible, but why even pursue that line of thought. Presented in a plain white paper bag, on this occasion I was also gifted hash browns which are usually reserved for the combo – bonus, everything’s coming up Milhouse!
Getting down to brass tax, let us closer examine the experience this thing brings to your face:
After being wrapped up and squished in the bag, the beast comes in at a little under 3” tall, and between 3.5 to 4” wide. This range highlights the fact that since the biscuits are made from scratch there are some discrepancies from piece to piece in diameter, no assembly line here. It’s also worth noting that this meal in sandwich form has got some serious heft to it.
I’m quite sure I could pitch this thing like a brick through a window. The biscuit itself is impressive in that it is has a fluffy, buttery texture that belies its structural integrity. It’s not a crumbly mess, yet not an overly doughy ball. This holy-grail recipe is said on the SBK website to have originated with proprietors grandmother, who birthed seventeen children and lived to almost 100. The underside of the biscuit has a subtle crunch to it, but is not burnt, and has a texture bolstered by the crunch of the fried chicken. The aroma as it nears your face is a combination of smoky, buttery bakery goodness, and that famous Sunday smell of someone frying chicken. The flavors that match the aroma all cut through on first bite, and in my opinion are complimented by a little hot sauce. The cheese is almost unnecessary with the amount of flavors going on here, but not unwelcome. About halfway through you’ll start to wonder what you have done, and if you can finish. The answer to this of course is that you have supported a locally owned business, taken part in a long standing local tradition, given yourself an unparalleled biscuit experience, and yes…you will finish, because you won’t be able to help yourself. Upon consumption you’ll proudly tell everyone that will listen of what you have done.
I know that this is a biscuit focused entry, and I could end here, but I really really really want to point that SBK also offers a kale and vegetable sandwich. Yes. You read that right, a kale and vegetable sandwich. WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND GOES TO SBK AND ORDERS THE KALE SANDWICH?! My brother-in-law, that’s who. It was a sad day when after we waited in line for probably 20 minutes while I espoused all the aforementioned traits of this culinary adventure that upon reaching the ordering intercom, he blurts “I want the kale sandwich! On wheat!” When the orders came, and he saw the mistake he had made, I offered a trade. He began acknowledging his awful choice, and I believe considered my offer, but much to his credit he owned his mistake and begrudgingly ate his choice, lying in the bed of leafy greens he had made. To that end, I must publicly thank him for taking in this affront to the biscuit overlords, because without him I wouldn’t be able to let the world know that SBK makes a kale offering for even the most discerning of tastes. So when you want some SBK and someone says “there’s nothing there for me” you can answer with resounding authority that SBK has something for everyone.
Come back on Wed. and read about a special St. Patrick’s Day treat you can get yourself.