Yesterday, Eater got an all-access tour of Burnside Biscuits, the Southern-inspired restaurant that's opening soon in Astoria. Below, everything you need to know about Burnside, including what they're doing with that fancy pizza oven:
1. Leading the kitchen is executive chef Sam Crocker. He's put in time in prominent New York City kitchens like Il Buco Alimentari and Jean-Georges. Also helping shape the culinary vision is the Bareburger Group's executive chef Andrew Sarda.
2. The restaurant is big. Very big. It's in the former Athens Cafe space, which takes up the entire triangular block, and the look is traditional (think wallpaper and wood accents) meets modern (subway tile and copper). The restaurant can seat about 135 and come late summer will have outdoor patio seating too.
3. This is Southern cooking, but the Burnside culinary team doesn't want that to mean heavy and gut-busting. There are several vegetable dishes on the menu, and plenty of non-fried options.
4. It's not going to be a 24-hour operation, but Burnside Biscuits is going to be open late. It's going to open up at 11 a.m. and stay open till 2 a.m. on weeknights and till 4 a.m. on the weekend. The late night menu will be smaller, but you will be able to get drunken biscuit sandwiches and snacks like baked crispy smashed potatoes with green goddess dip and the country picnic spread, which features Edward's of Surrey ham, smoked trout spread, pimento cheese, and house-made benne crackers.
5. The Southern-inspired menu is expansive, but the key dishes to watch out for are the fried chicken (available in quarter, half, and whole bird portions), the biscuit sandwiches, and the vegetables coming from the wood-fired oven.
6. More on the namesake biscuits: The large biscuits are made from soft winter wheat, lily white flour, duck fat, and butter. The biscuit sandwiches include unusual combinations like grilled eggplant with charred broccoli pesto as well as more traditional combos like classic egg and cheese.
7. More on the fried chicken: "It's based not so much on a sweet tea but a regular tea brine, mixed with lemon and thyme," says Crocker. He doesn't need to play to the sweetness brines like this can sometimes bring because he wants to focus on the bird itself, which he gets from Goffle Road Poultry Farm in New Jersey. True to his word, the final product doesn't taste overtly of tea.
8. More on the oven: The upstairs open kitchen is tricked out with a Marra Forni wood-burning brick oven. But don't expect pizzas. The oven is being used to create sophisticated vegetable dishes, like broccoli roasted with a "Carolina curry" baste and carrots roasted and served by the bunch over carrot puree. "Open flames and open fire are a big part of cooking and a big part of the story of South," says Crocker. "For me, with vegetables, which I'm passionate about, that high heat and that wood imparts the best kind of flavor. It's the best expression of what we want to do here."
9. The Burnside crew brought in Colorado-based chef Kelly Whitaker as an wood-fired cooking advisor. Whitaker is known for his open-fire cooking at Boulder's absolutely essential restaurant Basta, and for his buzzy Denver wood-fired pizza destination Cart-Driver.
10. As previously reported, the Bareburger team is behind the operation. While Burnside Biscuits is a full service restaurant, the Bareburger crew is already thinking about an express spinoff which might zero in further on biscuits and chicken. But don't look for that right away. For now the focus is squarely on getting Burnside Biscuits up and running.
11. The opening date is still tentative, but the team is hoping to have doors open (even if only in soft open mode) on or around July 13. Staff training and final menu refinement are underway.