December 27, 2018

Pendleton's Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey Elevates Southern Classics

Eating at Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey is one of those “experience” dinners. But unlike the ones you love to hate (or love to love) in Gatlinburg, this one is just kitschy enough to be entertaining, yet delicious and thoughtfully curated enough that it’s poised to be your next go-to date-night hangout. The Pendleton restaurant is inspired by the trappings of the American frontier and California’s 19th-century gold rush. Its name is a nod to the term “boomtown,” which refers to the burst of economic and population growth of towns that popped up seemingly overnight during the California Gold Rush. At Boomtown, the true delight comes plated. The signature biscuit isn’t a run-of-the-mill thousand-layer flaked baked good. It’s a buttery, soft disc with a close crumb and a browned, lightly bubbled top that no breakfast chain can compete with. The food menu starts with “Pick & Shovel Sandwiches.” All of these options feature fillings like fried chicken, barbecue short ribs or mush cakes with chimichurri tofu, stuffed between two biscuits. The most popular sandwich — and the one I ordered — is the Yukon ($11), with fried chicken, gravy, smoked cheddar and thick-cut bacon. The option to add an egg is, theoretically, optional (and a $2 upcharge), but better thought of as an intrinsic part of the dish. This sandwich was sumptuous. My mind told me there were too many rich elements for one dish, but my mouth disagreed. Jokes were made about only eating half, but in the end there was nothing left to box up. Besides the sandwiches, the menu offers “Prospector Plates,” which are more entrée-style than the sandwiches; “Bowls of Gold,” which are the requisite beans and grits but gussied up; “Sundries,” aka the sides you’ll want at least a few of; “Nuggets of Gold,” for condiments and dips; and “Sweet Fixins” for dessert. My fellow diner got the vegetarian Hidalgos ($10) prospector plate, with chilaquiles, poached eggs, serrano gravy, ranchera, pico and cumin-lime crema. You can add pork for $3, and it’s worth it (if you’re not a vegetarian). Sweet and unusually spiced, I would go back just to grab a plate of it. A fair warning on the chilaquiles: the traditional Mexican dish comes with simmered, lightly fried corn tortillas — which, naturally, don’t remain crunchy. For those unfamiliar with the dish, you may wonder if you’re being served soggy corn chips. Once you understand that this is the intent, these flavor bombs become addictive. By this point, you may think the star of the show was the dreamy biscuit. Plot twist: It’s the greens y’all. For $4, the campfire greens packed more punch than the testosterone in a Spaghetti Western shootout. They were peppery, sweet and lip-smackingly savory, so much so that I wish I got my own instead of sharing with my dining companion. We also got an extra biscuit side with black and blue jam. True to its name, the jam is made with blackberries and blueberries — mostly fruit with a little sweetener. We got an extra helping of berries at dessert with Cascades ($7), a French toast made with biscuits and mixed berry compote, topped with house whipped cream and powdered sugar. I don’t need to tell you that this is what dreams are made of. The biscuits were toasted on the outside to get a satisfying “crunch” when your fork breaks off a piece, and the compote mixed with the whipped cream was light and satisfying. Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey breaks the mold — or rather makes a new, gold-nugget-shaped one — with its fun take on American favorites. Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey,1201 Broadway St., Pendleton, boomtownbiscuitsandwhiskey.com.  (McKenzie Graham Willits)
Photos by Hailey Bollinger
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Aunt Sally's Shrimp, a Thai-inspired spin on the classic shrimp and grits, made with lemongrass shrimp, coconut chili gravy and smoked cheddar grits.
Hailey Bollinger
Aunt Sally's Shrimp, a Thai-inspired spin on the classic shrimp and grits, made with lemongrass shrimp, coconut chili gravy and smoked cheddar grits.
Fool's Gold, two biscuits, local ham, bacon, egg and sawmill gravy
Hailey Bollinger
Fool's Gold, two biscuits, local ham, bacon, egg and sawmill gravy
Boomtown offers four different types of gravy, including two vegetarian options
Hailey Bollinger
Boomtown offers four different types of gravy, including two vegetarian options
For $4, the campfire greens (right) packed more punch than the testosterone in a Spaghetti Western shootout.
Hailey Bollinger
For $4, the campfire greens (right) packed more punch than the testosterone in a Spaghetti Western shootout.
One of the restaurant’s signature cocktails, the Boomtown Gold Rush, is a precise mix of Bulleit bourbon, fresh lemon juice and herbed honey.
Hailey Bollinger
One of the restaurant’s signature cocktails, the Boomtown Gold Rush, is a precise mix of Bulleit bourbon, fresh lemon juice and herbed honey.
The signature biscuit isn’t a run-of-the-mill thousand-layer flaked baked good. It’s a buttery, soft disc with a close crumb and a browned, lightly bubbled top that no breakfast chain can compete with.
Hailey Bollinger
The signature biscuit isn’t a run-of-the-mill thousand-layer flaked baked good. It’s a buttery, soft disc with a close crumb and a browned, lightly bubbled top that no breakfast chain can compete with.
The eatery is divided into two distinct sides.
Hailey Bollinger
The eatery is divided into two distinct sides.
Choosing a cocktail or a whiskey is akin to panning for gold in soil made entirely of the stuff. Order a cocktail when you sit down so you have time for another before dinner is over — and then another for “dessert."
Hailey Bollinger
Choosing a cocktail or a whiskey is akin to panning for gold in soil made entirely of the stuff. Order a cocktail when you sit down so you have time for another before dinner is over — and then another for “dessert."
One half feels more intimate, with elegant sidewalk windows and small tables, plus a tufted blue bench.
Hailey Bollinger
One half feels more intimate, with elegant sidewalk windows and small tables, plus a tufted blue bench.
Pendleton's Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey Elevates Southern Classics
Hailey Bollinger