by Dan Johnson
I can’t rightfully call myself the biggest fan of chicken and biscuits that chicken and biscuits ever had.
That title is reserved for someone already laid low by the potent magnetism of oven-baked flour meal and oil-crisped chicken breasts. Given my relatively inadequate body mass, the throne of superlative chicken and biscuit fandom is beyond me. Still, I count myself among the multitude of Southern expats who treat chicken and biscuits as a sort of demi-religion.
Full disclosure: I grew up in Virginia. Not just any Virginia, but northern Virginia. With their public schools and their economy and their “highways,” northern Virginians often earn the ire of the more-geographically envatted southerners.
They are fond of saying that Virginia is not a part of the South. To be fair, our embrace of quality public education, tech economies, science and an acceptance that we are indeed in the 21st century does lend credence to the notion that we are divorced from our cheap symbol fetishizing, ten commandment adoring, overtly racist, ephebophilia defending colleagues down in the former Cotton Kingdom.
In this day and age, declaring oneself as Southern is akin to treading a tightrope by which you retain your mannered individuality without succumbing to the well-deserved stereotypes of a region intent on falling over itself to reembrace backward nostalgia as a redemptive pursuit.
There is no safer identifier for the reluctant Southerner than chicken and biscuits. It is a universally beloved instrument of southern culture. It is a simple pleasure that doubles as a litmus test for culinary quality.
This should come as a shock to no one, but chicken and biscuits are incredibly easy to screw up.
It’s often a product of laziness. Day old biscuits or biscuits left too long in the oven have that nigh-on-lethal dryness that works only if you are deeply malnourished and in a survival situation. The fried chicken itself has to skirt dual hazards: undercooked salmonella threats and stomach afflicting grease.
There is a happy middle ground that shouldn’t be too hard to find. And yet, the all-too-often result of a chicken and biscuits meal is either some pink-on-the-inside, shit-for-days fraud or a Popeyes throat-closer mess of desiccated dough.
Also important is price point. Chicken and biscuits should not be expensive. Despite aforementioned experience and supply costs, a slab of fried meat on a fresh-made biscuit should not be cost-prohibitive.
Praise be to on high, Astro Doughnuts have proven themselves capable of satisfying all demands placed on chicken and biscuits. For $6.02, you too can get a breakfast sandwich hewn from juicy meat, crunch-rich breading and a cheddar biscuit that ordinarily retails for $2.75 on its own.
Not since Semi Sweet entered the abyss has there been a readily available Downtown biscuit of this caliber. Still more exciting is the $7 two-piece dark meat option and the $8 white piece two-fer that includes a breast and a wing.
Best of all, I didn’t have to go to the South to get it. No offense to people who choose to make their lives there, but the South, like most places, is at its finest in the imagination. The entire crux of Southern literature is coming to terms with the crushing weight of history in a punishing physical landscape overwritten by the psychic topography of a people forever cursed to reconcile myth with a wildly divergent reality. Faulkner wasn’t wrong.
Not to say we here in the West don’t have a similar problem. Blessedly, our region is imbued with a sense that there is an innovative way forward from the impasse of tradition. The trick for Californians dead-set on chucking the past into the dustbin of history is knowing a good thing when we see it and keeping that baby from going out with the bathwater.
I salute Astro Doughnuts for doing the good gospel work of preserving quality chicken and biscuits in a form that is still relatively affordable. They have earned a “1” on the binary and a special 8.72 merit badge for having an abundance of hot sauce.