Portland: Pine State Biscuits

Pine State Biscuits is one of a handful of iconic Portland food experiences, their beloved biscuits having earned a cult-like status since proprietors Kevin Atchley, Walt Alexander and Brian Snyder threw open the doors in 2005. It’s the place you have to go in Portland, whether you live here or are visiting. That’s why it’s also one of our 15 Favorite Restaurants in Portland.  Pine State Biscuits was born of three southern young men’s homesickness for the food of their North Carolina boyhood, and this pining led them to host biscuit tasting parties to test and develop a recipe for the perfect buttery, flaky southern biscuit.

Soon they were slinging biscuits at the Saturday PSU Portland Farmers Market, and the success was so wild that they had no choice but to open a brick and mortar to feed all Portland biscuit lovers such as myself. Pine State Biscuits was one of the first places I went when scouting out Portland back in 2014 and now that I am a resident and have been back countless times, I can assure you that (1) they have the most heavenly biscuits on earth; and (2) you will never tire of those biscuits.

Biscuits

Obviously. Pine State Biscuits’ plain cream top biscuit with butter and (or not) jam or spread is so many wonderful things.  It’s the universe’s answer to your hunger after a workout, your craving for nostalgia and comfort, your unsettled stomach due to a possible hangover, and your dilemma about where to take your visiting mother, grandmother or best friend (in my case, your hungry visiting teenage collegiate, or other out of town guest).

The Wait

As with most good Portland breakfast and brunch places though, be prepared to wait in line for your biscuit.   Brunch in Portland is a blood sport.  You may want to revisit those Portland brunch village experience episodes of Portlandia to mentally prepare yourself.  If you don’t want to get up at 7 a.m. when they open, and can’t get there before 9, you will wait.  However, the good news is that you may meet someone interesting and can practice up on your socializing and party mingling skills.

Sandwiches

At Pine State Biscuits, the biscuit has many sandwich personalities, including versions with steak, fried chicken, and greens, with or without egg. All of them are totally amazing, it just depends on what you are in the mood for.  Let’s have a look, starting with the world famous Reggie.  The Reggie’s got fried chicken, bacon & cheese topped with gravy.  Add egg and make it Reggie Deluxe, which is probably Pine State Biscuit’s most famous and oft-ordered biscuit sandwich.

If you’re feeling veggie, go with The Regina which is an egg over easy with braised greens doused with Texas Pete Hot Sauce. Savory, sloppy and delicious.

The McIsley is my #1 go to biscuit sandwich at Pine State Biscuits.  Fried chicken, pickles, coarse mustard and local honey! Divine.

My #2 favorite biscuit sandwich at Pine State Biscuits is the Wedgie.  It’s got fried chicken, fried green tomato, a wedge iceberg lettuce and house blue cheese dressing.  But I got mine dry because it’s already enough of a mess situation !

Perhaps you’re in the mood for steak?  Pine State Biscuits has got you covered with seared flank steak, blue cheese, heirloom tomato and butter lettuce.  The steak in this sandwich reminded me a little of shwarma meat . . . not chewy and even a little silky.

How about a Chicken Club with fried chicken, bacon, iceberg and tomato topped with blue cheese or ranch?

From time to time there are “special” sandwiches as well.  The past few weeks, the featured Chicken Salad sandwich special has tempted me.

Beyond Biscuits

Are you not feeling biscuits? Fear not, Pine State Biscuits also has all kinds of other things, like cinnamon rolls.  The cinnamon roll may be my second favorite thing to eat at Pine State Biscuits besides the biscuit and it’s sister sandwich personalities.  It’s moist and toothsome, even before you consider the velvety caramel sauce adornment.  It’s big but you don’t want to share too much.

And Pie.  Pine State Biscuits has great pecan pie, period.  I haven’t seen any other kind of pie offered, but you won’t mind.

I have to admit, I usually believe a restaurant can do one or two things exceptionally well, but Pine State Biscuits is one of the rare restaurants where every menu item is perfectly executed, decadent without being heavy handed and overbearing, and really delicious.  My 3rd favorite personal thing to eat at Pine State Biscuits besides the biscuits/sandwiches, and the cinnamon roll,  is the Hash Ups, golden hash browns with chopped country ham (or steak), grilled onions, mushrooms and melted cheese.

The plain hash browns at Pine State Biscuits are pretty sublime, too.  We all wish our hash browns were this translucent and crispy, don’t we?

Finally, as to sweets, you absolutely can’t go wrong with the Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes at Pine State Biscuits, a big triple stack made from scratch with Oregon blueberries, butter and real maple syrup.  Winner with my husband and son.

Being the savory person I am, I’ve also really enjoyed the Shrimp-n-Grits, a giant plate of shrimp sautéed in garlic, onion, mushrooms and bacon, atop a buttery pool of Ayers creek grits.  This is an outstanding dish from Pine State Biscuits cooks that could easily be a dinner entree on a 4 star restaurant menu.

The outlier at Pine State Biscuits is the Pine State Fried Club, a combination of creative wizardry, bold sandwich engineering, and taste explosion.  It’s is a trio of fried grit cakes, fried chicken, spiced honey, pimento cheese, fried green tomato, ham and white cheddar. It looks and sounds totally over the top, but I honestly felt like it was more of a proper snack than a crazy overblown sandwich.

Pine State Biscuits is one of so many reasons that Portland has become a world class city for good eating, with so many restaurant choices from fine dining to casual, ethnic to U.S. regional and traditional/old school to quintessential “Portlandia” weird cuisine.  Pine State Biscuits in particular has nailed the Southern regional concept for brunch food in Portland, and it would be hard to top a Portland brunch experience if you’re hungry for biscuits and fried chicken at the lower to medium price point.

The service is also consistently friendly and efficient.  Even though you may likely wait a long time in line, be assured the staff is moving just as fast as your hunger is increasing.  I’ve been to some other Portlandia brunch experiences where the service vibe seems much less concerned with  . . . well, anything relating to time.  Another wonderful thing about Pine State Biscuits is that all of their locations offer outdoor/patio dining, and serve delicious drinks along with the unforgettable biscuits and sandwiches.

What We Had:

  • Everything last you saw in the pictures above!

Still to try:

  • Andouille Corn Dog
  • Homemade featuring Otto’s Andouille Sausage served with stone ground mustard and honey
  • The Chatfield Biscuit Sandwich with Fried chicken, bacon and cheese topped with apple butter
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • BBQ Biscuit — Reverends pulled pork with Carolina style bbq sauce topped with house slaw

Pine State Biscuits (2204 NE Alberta; 1100 SE Division; 125 NE Schuyler; SW Park & SW Montgomery (Farmer’s Market on Saturdays), OR //503.477.6605 (Alberta))

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