Daily, 24 hours
L at First Ave.
“Breakfast Lunch Dinner Drunk” reads the motto at the top of the Empire Biscuit menu. That last mealtime is presumably a reference to the fact that this biscuit specialist runs 24/7 and caters to wee-hour cravings when inebriated biscuit-seekers are apt to be less picky about what they shovel into their maws. But that’s selling the place short. Everything about Empire Biscuit is neat and clean and practically wholesome. The staff is super-friendly. The Momofuku-blond-wooded space with its peaked ceiling beams reminds you a bit of a Swedish sauna or mountaintop ski chalet. There is one communal table and a few stools along the window ledges. Behind the open-kitchen counter, next to the double-decker Bakers Pride oven, you can watch a tattooed, stocking-capped biscuit-maker working the dough in a gleaming stainless-steel bowl. The main attraction is good, too, the biscuit operandi tending toward the crisp and compact versus the tall and puffy. They’re smallish in diameter and come in two styles—cut with leaf lard or all-butter—and eighteen sandwich variations. There’s also a create-your-own menu section, from which you can pair things like arugula-and-fennel butter with black-grape jam, or a tangy, curdy pimento cheese with red-pepper-and-jalapeño jelly, one of our favorites. We also recommend the more conventional signature combos, like Benton’s bacon with a runny-yolked egg and Cheddar; a house-smoked ham and egg; and the spicy fried-chicken biscuit with pickled carrots.
Not to sound unprogressive in our views regarding biscuits, but none of what you might call the creative options comes close to trumping the traditional pairings. A muffuletta in biscuit form, for example, misses the whole point of that storied New Orleans sandwich, which is that the meat, the cheese, and the olive salad meld together and become one with the soft and pliant bread. And as intriguing as the Fancy Pants (foie-gras butter with kumquat marmalade) sounds, the foie butter is muddy-flavored and dull. Still, it’s hard to find fault with a place where you can get fresh biscuits and Blue Bottle coffee at 3 a.m. on a Monday night.
Ham-and-egg biscuit or Benton’s-bacon-egg-and-Cheddar biscuit, Blue Bottle New Orleans coffee.