Worth the Drive: The Biscuit King
Turn around! You don’t want to miss the ‘ugly biscuit’
By Jennifer Kornegay
It’s not nice to call names, but if you order a biscuit at The Biscuit King’s Fun Barn in Fairhope and think it’s ugly, it’s okay. You can even say so out loud.
Owner Willie Foster won’t mind a bit. He was the first to call his breakfast creations “ugly,” and while the lumpy, odd-shaped, never-really-round mounds won’t win any biscuit beauty pageants, they could easily take the crown in a taste contest. They’re dense yet fluffy, buttery but not greasy, and they’ve got a surprise inside. Depending on which variety you choose, you’ll find eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, jalapenos or some combination of them all stuffed inside each hand-fashioned puffball of dough.
It all started when Foster was trying to recreate the butter biscuits of his childhood. He got in his kitchen and started experimenting. When he began, he didn’t know the difference between self-rising and all purpose flour, leading to a few notable failures. Living on a mountaintop in Franklin, North Carolina, at the time, these hard-as-hockey-puck and flavorless flops got tossed down the mountainside for the birds (if they’d even have them). It took months and countless batches of biscuits before he hit on a winner.
“I finally got it right, and they were delicious,” he says.
Then, one Thanksgiving, visiting family asked Foster to whip up some of his biscuits for breakfast, and he figured he’d make some eggs and bacon too. “And then I had an idea,” he says. “I thought ‘Why put all that stuff on the side or just between two slices of biscuit? Why not put it all inside the biscuit?’”
So he did; his guests devoured them, and the Biscuit King’s signature stuffed biscuit was born.
He and his wife Nancy opened a small walk-up biscuit counter, the original Biscuit King, in downtown Franklin, and they ran their little spot successfully for about a year. “Then Nancy’s dad got sick, and we needed to come back to Alabama,” he says.
They moved to Fairhope where Nancy could aid her ailing father and tried their Biscuit King concept on the good people of South Alabama. It worked just as well as it had in Franklin, and after a few years operating out of a convenience store on one of Fairhope’s main drags, they knew they had enough business to open a larger space. So they did, building their current place on family land off a rural road seven miles outside of Fairhope.
“A lot of folks figured we wouldn’t make it way out there,” Foster says. But if, for some reason, you find yourself on County Road 24, you can’t miss the long, red steel-siding building with a cartoonish couple dancing on its sign. And if somehow you do, a giant sign a mile or so down the road, will implore you to “Turn Around! You just missed the Biscuit King!” Do as the sign says.
Thousands of others have. One group of regulars, local farmers and retirees, shows up every morning, practically every day. Biscuit King sees a steady crowd during the week, and on weekends, hungry customers are lined up out the door. They’re there for ugly biscuits (definitely not the décor), and they’re prepared to wait, as the biscuits are made fresh every day, from 5 a.m. until closing at 2 p.m., and it takes a little time. If you order two, they’ll each be unique, since the dough is hand-formed.
“Every one is a little different depending on the set of hands that made them,” Foster says.
Despite its name, The Biscuit King serves more than biscuits, including lunch fare like salads; massive baked potatoes stuffed with cheese, bacon and barbecue; sandwiches and more.
The King does no advertising, relying on word of mouth and a few signs as well as some recent rave reviews in national publications like Garden & Gun to lure people to his realm of big, ugly biscuits.
But when the baking and serving is done each day, running the Biscuit King is about more than feeding loyal subjects. Owning the Biscuit King feeds Foster too. “I am, and always have been, a people person,” he says. “So I love doing this. It’s really just a ton of fun.”
The Biscuit King’s Fun Barn
9555 County Road 24
Mon.-Thurs. 5 a.m.-2 p.m.
Friday 5 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sat.-Sun. 5 a.m.-2 p.m.
Jennifer Kornegay is the author of a new children’s book, “The Alabama Adventures of Walter and Wimbly: Two Marmalade Cats on a Mission.” She travels to an out-of-the way restaurant destination in Alabama every month. She may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.