Writing about Ace Biscuit and Barbecue

I’ve posted before about Ace Biscuit and Barbecue and their wonderful food and the funky vibe, but it wasn’t until this morning* that it struck me how special of a restaurant it is, especially in the larger scheme of American restaurants and American food.  We’re so spoiled here in Charlottesville to have small-scale, local restaurants be the norm and to be surrounded by a culture centered around artisanal foodstuffs (think cheese, wine, and butchery), thoughtful and mindful consumption, appreciation of our talented chefs, and celebration of regional cuisine.  In such a food-rich town, an unassuming restaurant like Ace might be only thought of as only a great breakfast place that also has barbecue and tailgate catering.  It takes repeat visits to uncover the charm of the place.

Andy, one of our regulars,  a professor at UVA, enjoying a breakfast biscuit

Andy, one of our regulars, a professor at UVA, enjoying a breakfast biscuit

It might only be after sampling the perfunctory pulled pork sandwich or perhaps a classic sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich that one ventures on to more unique and exciting menu such as breakfast chicken and waffles, a distinctive phenomenon in southern cuisine.  Special effort goes into preparing the chicken and waffles—and all the food at Ace for that matter.  The waffle batter contains both egg yolks and whipped whites to keep them extra fluffy; the fried chicken is made with deboned thighs because they’re extra juicy and well-sized to fit atop waffles (or biscuits); chef Brian’s homemade, day-old biscuits are crushed up and used to make the gold, extra thick crust; and the plate comes with syrup along with Ace’s homemade hot sauce (because serving anything not homemade or out of a bottle would just wouldn’t be right!).

Or perhaps one will discover the pork spare ribs, smoked and glazed in root beer barbecue sauce, and lovingly coined “belly on a bone.”  There’s also the inspired “Ol’ Dirty Biscuit” which is topped with fried chicken, sausage gravy, smoked pimento cheese, and house-made dill pickles.  Ace also does their own take on pastrami by brining, smoking, and then steaming beef brisket and serving it one of their famous biscuits, and topping it with caramelized onions, spicy mustard, and a fried egg.

Since my last time writing about Ace, I’ve been hired there as a cashier.  While not directly making use of my cooking and food interests, but I get to interact with and observe the chefs there, learning from them and tasting their crazy, meaty creations.  I also get to serve people honest, good food that I believe in and to share my love of barbecue and pork with other enthusiasts.  Such a homey, food-focused atmosphere also inspires me to write about food, and that is the origin of the following vignette:

There was a moment I witnessed this morning* from behind the counter at Ace that struck me as particularly poetic and poignant.  There was a new customer who was debating what to try from breakfast from our large and customizable menu.  I glanced over at him once he had received his breakfast to check that he was enjoying it, and his profile was silhouetted against the diffuse, morning light from Ace’s front windows.  It was a cool morning, and we had the front door open, so I noticed visible steam rising from his sandwich as he paused briefly after the first few bites.  He was turning the sandwich in his hands, inspecting the pillows of homemade biscuit, the oozing fried eggs, and the swinging ribbons of melted cheese.  To me, the meal was a perfectly normal affair, one I had seen made by the chefs in the kitchen and watched devoured by customers countless times.  But I glimpsed briefly, through the eyes of that new customer enjoying his sausage biscuit, what such a breakfast really meant in an age inundated with plastic-wrapped, premade, mass-produced food and microwave meals.  Despite the ubiquity of large-scale, industrial food production and the vilified McDonald’s of today, there still exists a place where you can order a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and where you choose exactly how you want your egg to be cooked; where the sausage is house-made and as juicy as a fresh burger; where the cheese on a breakfast sandwich can run down your face and stick to your chin; where the coffee is roasted and hand-delivered by the guys down the street; where the regulars are greeted by name as they come in the door, and where one day, if you’re lucky, you might even get a sandwich named just for you.

Andy enjoying the first beer served at Ace (we just got our ABC license) at 9am on a Saturday

Andy enjoying the first beer served at Ace (we just got our ABC license!) at 9am on a Saturday

* I must admit that I did not witness the described scene this morning.  It was actually a morning almost a month ago, and it’s simply taken me this long to finish writing the post.

2 Responses to “Writing about Ace Biscuit and Barbecue”
  1. Mom says:

    Is it odd that reading this brought a tear to my eye? Seriously – I felt like I was there watching. And now, I want a sandwich named after me – one without a biscuit of course.

  2. Aunt Clare says:

    I enjoyed that illusionary breakfast soooo much, yum…Aunt Clare

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