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It’s time the biscuit had its moment in Los Angeles

Is L.A. a biscuit town? We’re quickly becoming a pizza town. It’s definitely a bagels town, too. One could successfully argue that the collective appreciation for carbohydrates is on the upswing.

There are some really great biscuits here. And there have been, for a while now.

David Lefevre’s cheddar bacon and chive biscuits at Manhattan Beach Post, based on his mother’s recipe, may be one of the most beloved dishes in all of Los Angeles. The cheddar jalapeño biscuits from Lucky Bird at Grand Central Market are a work of art. Everson Royce Bar is arguably making the flakiest biscuits in town. The biscuit bakes at Honey’s Kettle in Culver City are among my favorite breakfast items ever created.

And a recent slew of new biscuit offerings is nudging me even further toward the realization that yes, L.A. is a biscuit town. Indeed, it’s a great biscuit town.

Biscuit sandwiches and gravy from Pa’s Biscuitisserie

Biscuit with spicy lamb gravy from Pa’s Biscuitisserie.

(Nick Westbrook )

Nick Westbrook’s biscuits are not the biscuits you’re thinking of. They’re not tall, flaky layered towers of butter and flour. Westbrook’s biscuits are hand-shaped drop biscuits, squat, round and not fully golden, just the way he likes them.

“When Pillsbury bought a patent for the canned biscuit in the ‘50s, they went with the layered biscuit because it’s easier to replicate in a can,” Westbrook says during a recent call. “Then the layered biscuit took hold in the culinary zeitgeist and everyone forgot about the original style, the drop biscuit.”

Westbrook’s earliest memory is making drop biscuits with his grandfather in Cumming, Ga. He says his grandfather, “Pa,” passed away when Westbrook was too young to get the recipe. In his early 20s, when he was homesick for Georgia in New York City, he started trying to re-create the biscuits. He spent about five years tweaking the recipe, in hot pursuit of a biscuit that would be worthy of his memories.

He launched a biscuit bakery that did mostly wholesale in Los Angeles about 10 years ago. Now, Westbrook, who is a bartender at Farmshop in Brentwood, operates a weekend biscuit pop-up called Pa’s Biscuitisserie, named for his grandfather. He started the pop-up in August out of CouCou in Venice, and recently moved to Hey Hey in Echo Park.

It’s a small operation, with Westbrook baking the biscuits in an oven on a table in front of the drinks shop. You can order them plain with honey butter and jam, as a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich or split and smothered with a spicy gravy.

If possible, eat your biscuits as soon as Westbrook hands them over, while they’re still steaming and almost too hot to comfortably handle. The cracked, rugged exterior will be crisp and dappled with pockets that are just starting to turn golden brown. Inside, the crumb is fluffy and delicate with a slight tang. It’s cakier than a flaky biscuit and feels more decadent.

The components of Westbrook’s biscuit are familiar: flour, butter, buttermilk, baking powder and salt. But Westbrook uses White Lily flour milled from soft red winter wheat. It’s a low-protein flour that helps yield that specific soft, fluffy texture of biscuit. And he bakes his biscuits hot and fast, rendering the butter into the dough immediately, retaining all the moisture without any leakage.

The biscuits share the spotlight with the spicy lamb gravy, made with lamb merguez from Farmshop. Westbrook fashions a béchamel out of goat’s milk and flour, then layers in grilled shallots and tomato. He purees the gravy, then spoons in the crumbled sausage. It’s wonderfully rich, spiked with heat and warm spices from the sausage.

For some biscuit purists, a pat of butter is never a necessary accessory. I always want butter. Westbrook’s honey butter is sweet and speckled with what he calls pie spice. It tastes like the holidays.

For now, he’s selling biscuits every weekend from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. or whenever he sells out. But the goal is to eventually open up a biscuit restaurant that will operate as a casual place for breakfast and lunch, but also perhaps something a little fancier for dinner.

“I want to do like a five-course mini biscuit tasting menu with things that inspire me,” he says. “Caviar biscuit. A little lobster biscuit.”

That’s a tasting menu I can get excited about.

Everything biscuits and fried chicken biscuits from Auntie Beulah’s Biscuits & Chicken

The bacon, egg and cheese on an everything biscuit.

The bacon, egg and cheese on an everything biscuit from Auntie Beulah’s Biscuits & Chicken in Mid-City.

(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

The biscuits at the new Auntie Beulah’s Biscuits & Chicken, at Pico Boulevard and South La Brea Avenue, are the biscuits you probably picture when you think of biscuits. They’re tall and square with golden caps. The deep grooves along the edges hint at the layers inside.

Auntie Beulah’s biscuits are those biscuits, soft and tender, but sturdy enough to not buckle under a fried chicken thigh and pickles.

Owner Aryn Drake-Lee, who has spent the last 25 years as a real estate broker, tapped chef Melvin “Boots” Johnson of Harlem Biscuit Co. to develop the menu of biscuits and fried chicken.

Beulah's biscuit with fried chicken, chili honey, shaved onion and pickles

Beulah’s biscuit with fried chicken, chili honey, shaved onion and pickles from Auntie Beulah’s Biscuits & Chicken in Mid-City.

(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

She’s attempting to capture the nostalgia many people have for biscuits, regardless of the style and where they’re from. And she wanted to serve a dish that’s accessible and affordable, settling on the biscuit.

“It was important to us to create a food experience that’s an homage to the Black lineages from my family lines and many other family lines within the community that I live in,” Drake-Lee says during a recent interview. “We don’t have that many biscuits in L.A. and it was an opportunity for us to share that culinary history.”

Auntie Beulah’s is a small storefront with a bright orange facade and signage that let’s you know there is fried chicken and biscuits inside. Beginning at 6 every morning, the buttermilk biscuits are rolled out by hand. The restaurant opens by 8 a.m., and there are warm biscuits until 3 p.m. or whenever it sells out.

You can mix and match your biscuits for sandwiches or to eat with one of the restaurant’s many spreads. I lean savory, so I skipped the strawberry lemonade jam, but there’s a collection of butters to choose from, with herb butter, maple cayenne butter and molasses butter.

The bacon, egg and cheese on an everything biscuit is a winning combination. The biscuit lid is crusted with everything bagel seasoning, adding extra crunch and pops of onion and sesame seeds. Shredded cheddar cheese melts into a light, fluffy square of egg. The bacon is crisp. It’s a textbook perfect bacon, egg and cheese with strong everything bagel vibes.

The namesake Beulah’s biscuit is a hearty sandwich built with a 20-hour-brined fried chicken thigh that’s much too big for the biscuit, enough chili honey to leave your fingers sticky, some shaved raw onion and sour pickle chips. I ordered mine on a plain biscuit but go nuts if you wish. The extra pops of seasoning from the everything bagel could only enhance the sandwich. And I bet the cheddar and chive biscuit, generously studded with cheese, would make a fine bun.

Where to get biscuits right now

Pa’s Biscuitisserie, 1555 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, www.instagram.com/biscuitisserie

Auntie Beulah’s Biscuits & Chicken, 4972 W Pico Blvd., #101, Los Angeles, www.beulahsbiscuits.com

Manhattan Beach Post, 1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-5405, eatmbpost.com

Lucky Bird, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, www.luckybirdla.com

Everson Royce Bar, 1936 E. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 335-6166 ,www.erbla.com

Honey’s Kettle, 9537 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (323) 396-9339, honeyskettle.com

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