Ask any Southerner what their grandma made for breakfast, and that person is liable to melt like butter on a hot biscuit. They’ll wax nostalgic about country ham, red-eye gravy, fluffy omelets, creamy grits and catheads filled with everything from sausage and fried chicken to sorghum syrup and fig preserves. Many smart chefs believe the old way is the best way: Leave granny’s cooking alone! Others feel the need to play, to reinvent the region’s breakfast repertoire using familiar ingredients in clever new getups. Here, then, is a look at five terrific remakes that remind us how Southerners love their morning grub — even when it’s served all day.
Shrimp and grits at Sobban (1788 Clairmont Road, Decatur. 678-705-4233, sobban.com). What looks like a comforting bowl of shrimp and grits sprinkled with cheddar cheese is really a palate-tickling Asia-meets-Atlanta riff on the Lowcountry classic. At their “Korean Southern diner,” chefs Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor perk up their luscious pile of house-ground rice grits with salty bacon lardons, miso-seasoned kale, pristine jumbo shrimp and a touch of funk: butter sauce made with makgeolli (a milky, fermented rice liquor beloved by ancient Koreans and newly embraced by trendies).
Fried chicken biscuit at Buttermilk Kitchen (4225 Roswell Road. N.E., Atlanta. 678-732-3274, buttermilkkitchen.com). You can find all kinds of fried chicken biscuits in the ATL, but none quite as perfect as the one devised by chef Suzanne Vizethann at her Buckhead gem. The secret to her divinely tender biscuit-and-bird? It’s the roasted-red-pepper jelly and sweet-tart bread and butters, both housemade. This winner always sells out.
Bloody best at the Nook on Piedmont Park (1144 Piedmont Ave N.E., Atlanta. 404-745-9222, thenookatlanta.com). I always thought a good bloody mary should be spiked with enough Worcestershire, horseradish, salt and pepper to make it taste like a steak. It wasn’t until I ordered a $19 everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, meal-in-a-glass bloody mary at the Nook that I had a server ask me to pardon the wait while the kitchen grilled a steak to go in my drink. Yep, this 32-ounce fish bowl is garnished with multiple skewers of tater tots, pepperoncini, blue-cheese-stuffed olives, bacon strips, a slice of toast, a hard-boiled egg — plus two strips of juicy strip cooked to a perfect pink. I didn’t care much for the texture of the beef-sausage “straw,” but all gimmicks aside, this cocktail was bloody well right by me.
Bacon-studded pancakes at Lady Bird Grove & Mess Hall (684 John Wesley Dobbs Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-458-6838, ladybirdatlanta.com). The idea of mixing crispy bacon into pancake batter is an inspired one — especially when you get to dress your double-wide stack with seasonal jam, whipped butter and maple syrup. The day I forked into this glopulent dish at Ladybird, the pourable jam was strawberry with a hint of rhubarb, a bright hue that caused Belt Line passers-by to gawk and gimme a thumb’s up.
Vegetarian biscuit with mushrooms, spinach and gravy at Home Grown GA (968 Memorial Drive S.E., Atlanta. 404-222-0455, homegrownga.com). This favorite neighborhood nook is known for its larded stacks of burgers, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese and so on. But, when we want to eat responsibly, we dig the veggie biscuit, with its country-style buttermilk gravy, spinach and groovy shittakes.
Eating around the clock in Atlanta: