The popular aphorism that the Chinese words for “crisis” and “opportunity” are composed of the same characters actually isn’t true, but the idea behind the saying is still apt, particularly in the case of Jake and Janie Burkett, who transformed their personal tragedy into a new business endeavour: The Biscuit Bar.
In 2016, the Burketts lost two babies of a triplet pregnancy — one miscarried in the first trimester and another, Bryce Joelle, passed two weeks after a 28-week delivery due to an infection. After spending two months in NICU, baby Blake was discharged during the holiday season of that year, a risky time for premies when cold weather viruses such as the flu are widespread. Naturally, the Burketts stayed at home as much as possible, leaving only for doctor appointments that still proved intense and stressful.
Due to their housebound status, extended family gathered at the Burkett’s house for holiday meals that year where biscuits and gravy became a recurring favorite. On New Year's Eve, Janie wanted to do something different, but the family wasn’t having it. One person wanted eggs with biscuits and gravy; others wanted fried chicken or pulled pork, so Janie proposed a biscuit bar where everyone could top their biscuits as they pleased.
Jake, with a background in venture capital, started thinking about the potential profit margins a biscuit restaurant could yield, and the New Year's Eve dinner became the catalyst of an idea: Maybe we should open a restaurant.
Janie was skeptical; she had studied performance piano and neither had experience in the restaurant industry. But when she was scrolling Facebook one day, she saw an advertisement for a T-shirt printed with the words “Mind your biscuits and life will be gravy.” She took it as a sign. Today, those Kacey Musgrave lyrics hang as a neon sign in their first location at Plano’s Boardwalk at Granite Park.
In the year between the incipient idea of the Biscuit Bar and its April 2018 opening, Jake experimented with their family biscuit recipe by making what he estimates to be 10,000 biscuits until he finally found the balance between a buttery crust and a flaky interior that was still able to hold up as an intact sandwich. The second most important menu item in a biscuit restaurant would be the gravy, and Janie’s sausage gravy is made the old-fashioned, non-diet way: whole milk, butter, sausage fat and seasonings.
As for what goes between the biscuits, there are options. For those who like gravy, fried chicken and dripping jack cheese on a honey-buttered biscuit, get the HOSS ($8). There’s also a Monte Cristo ($6.50) with ham, smoked turkey, jack cheese and strawberry preserves on a french toast biscuit. There’s a burger biscuit, the B-bar Burger, for $7.50. The Nashville-style chicken with house-made ranch on the Hot Hot Chicken ($6.50) satisfies. Or go all out with the Rough Night ($13) that has about all the fixings one could fit on a biscuit: fried chicken, a burger patty, ham, turkey, pulled pork, bacon, tater tots, cheddar and, oh yeah, Janie’s sausage gravy.
Another neon sign heralding “Biscuits, Tots and Taps” hangs above the entry door serves as the restaurant’s slogan. The Tots menu features regular or sweet potato tots that can be topped with bacon, eggs and cheddar in the Breakfast Style ($6-6.50), or use the tots as another opportunity to get some gravy with the Southern Style that includes cheddar and green onion as well ($6).
Regarding taps, there are nine Texas beers and eight pre-batch cocktails available. Not only are the pre-batch cocktails more economical for the consumer, Janie says, they are also more expeditious, making it possible to serve up hundreds of Bloody Marys during the weekend brunch rush. Brunch Punch with pineapple, lemon and sparkling wine offers an alternative to the traditional mimosa, but there are still mimosas and fromosas, too.
For lunch and dinner time biscuits, the Wobbly Arnold with grapefruit vodka, peach liqueur and rye whiskey lemonade goes down quickly. During happy hours from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and again from 9 p.m. to close, get the Wobbly Arnold for $4.50 or choose from six other cocktails ranging from $4.50 to $6. The taps continue with five wine options, Nitro cold brew and two kombuchas.
The Biscuit Bar keeps the menu exciting with seasonal limited-time biscuit offerings in addition to the standards. Beginning Wednesday, you can get the Gobbler — a biscuit topped with slow-roasted turkey, herbed cornbread stuffing, brown gravy and cranberry sauce. On Dec. 1, there’ll be a Hot Chocolate Biscuit — that’s a biscuit topped with chocolate gravy and toasted marshmallow fluff. If it sells as Janie expects, it will go on the permanent menu thereafter.
The Biscuit Bar’s unapologetic Southern comfort food will be available at a second Highland Park/SMU location that’s set to open early next year. From deep personal loss and grief that relied on biscuits and family to get through it, the Burketts have extended their dining room table to the public in an approachable and affordable restaurant, all with their own recipes.
“This is what our friends and family like," Janie says, "and this is what we think people will like, too.”
The Biscuit Bar, 5880 State Highway 121, Plano
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.