A biscuit with back story

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by Eric Ginsburg

This article has been two years in the making.

Not that I’ve actually been putting any effort into it — the idea just remained, something lingering at the bottom of a to do list, a vague commitment to follow through on when time allowed.

It may have even been longer that my friend who grew up in High Point has been talking about the glory that is the Biscuit Factory. He doesn’t even eat meat, a central component of most of the menu items at the High Point institution, but still he persisted.

“Best biscuits in the world,” he said. He even enlisted a mutual friend, a fellow Furniture City native, to confirm his assertion.

But the thing about biscuits is that they are most closely associated with breakfast, and the Biscuit Factory — like its chain cousin Biscuitville headquartered in Greensboro — closes after lunch. So excuses were made and time slipped away, until I finally made good last week.

It was worth the wait.

The Biscuit Factory is a hangout for the kids at Andrews High School as well as the gray hairs — at least one woman brought a tank of oxygen in with her. Even with school out of session the restaurant did brisk lunchtime business, including to a number of high schoolers, though a couple of booths remained open.

A stream of cars wrapped around the building waiting for the drive-thru window made parking a challenge, displacing us to a nearby shopping center.

“It’s folksy, ain’t it?” my friend offered as we stood in a quickly moving line to order, looking around at the baskets and art depicting nostalgic country scenes decorating the walls.

There are several things on the menu that aren’t biscuit-centric — hamburgers, sandwiches, a grilled cheese — but to order anything but the business’ flagship would be sacrilegious, and on the first trip downright treasonous.

Figuring that two years of waiting entitled me to a biscuit per year, I ordered a chicken biscuit and a sausage one, eagerly digging in to the warm, fist-sized treats. On both the biscuit outsized the meat (though less so with the egg and cheese), but it is the centerpiece rather than a simple delivery method for the protein.

I could almost see the butter glinting off the top of the golden brown biscuits, and lost several soft flaking pieces of each as I consumed them.

“They’re not dry, that’s the good thing about them,” my friend remarked. “What do you think? Best biscuit you ever had?”

And then, as more of a command than an observation, he added, “You’re going to write that it’s the best biscuit you ever had.”

It’s true, they were excellent. And consistent, at least between the three served to us and in my friend’s few decades of experience. The bottom half crumbled more easily, almost still doughy, but still easily maintaining its form. The piece of chicken surpassed the still delicious sausage patty, possibly according solely to my entrenched bias in that direction anyway, but nobody was keeping score. The only stats I really remember orbit around the fact that somehow I consumed two biscuits in one sitting and still somehow found myself eager to try more. That says something.

The entire experience extended well beyond the Biscuit Factory — this was an opportunity for my friend to show me High Point through his eyes. That meant driving there from downtown Greensboro the way he insisted — up South Main Street instead of my normal West Wendover or Kivett Drive swing, past his old haunts and other significant landmarks.

Over there he took driver’s ed in a room that always smelled of cigarettes, here’s a good Greek diner, there’s a cool mural of the Virgen de Guadalupe on the side of a restaurant. And he offered observations on urban design and racial unrest — about the site of a former white-power tattoo shop that someone firebombed and the furniture-dominated downtown.

“All this potential,” he said, gazing up at the empty buildings with international pennants wavering in front of them. “Squandered.”

After eating we swung through Southside, over near Fairview Elementary School, to Loflin Avenue where he told me the Black Panthers used to operate in High Point.

There’s no evidence of the free breakfast program the Panthers used to run, and even if there were it wouldn’t have any direct relevance to the Biscuit Factory. But to really understand and appreciate a place’s food and culture, you need backstory, you need a local guide looking at you eagerly across the table for affirmation that yes, this is the best biscuit out there. Someone to say, This is who we are, this is what we are proud of and this is where we came from.

“That’s High Point for you,” he said as we pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. “A white kid in a Bob Marley shirt and a white Jeep Cherokee.”

For two years, the only restaurant I’ve been told I absolutely had to go to in High Point was the Biscuit Factory. With crumbs in my lap and a full stomach, I could see why.