Swing state

Scott Dozois and Nina Esquire serve up dishes from biscuits and grits to pastries and pies.

Scott Dozois and Nina Esquire serve up dishes from biscuits and grits to pastries and pies.


Pine State Biscuits is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn more at pinestatebiscuits.com.

Pine State Biscuits began with some Pacific Northwest transplants from North Carolina longing for the flavors of home. I’d heard some hype prior to its Reno outpost’s grand opening. And, based on weekend lines out the door, it seems it’s made a splash.

“Please order food before sitting; consider folks waiting; kindly bus your table,” read the sign at the counter. Another promotes “the best clucking Bloody Mary around.” Challenge accepted. For $9, you get a pint glass with a spiced rim filled with a well-iced cocktail, garnished with celery, lemon wedge, a cocktail onion and pickled okra. Other than the glass, the beverage was utterly lacking in heat and definitely not “the best.”

The menu offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. My egg-and-dairy-averse friend selected the Hash Up ($7), a plate full of hash browns, topped with sauteed onion and mushroom, skipping cheddar cheese and adding shaved North Carolina country ham for an additional $1.50, and a side of collard greens ($3). So often I find hash browns a mushy disappointment, but I swear this may have been the thinnest, crispiest, most enjoyable potato hash ever. The sauté was good, but the dry-cured pork was extremely salty, to the point of distraction.

The collard greens offered are vegan. Real southern greens are a medley of hearty leafs and pork, stewed for hours in chicken stock and seasonings to infuse flavor, while breaking down the tough, fibrous leaves. These were indistinguishable from sauteed kale—not bad if you’re into that, but not what I’d expect from Southern folks.

Onto the raison d’etre, biscuit sandwiches. You can watch biscuits being scratch-made in the open kitchen, and admittedly they’re pretty good. One of my friend’s boys ordered a Reggie ($9) with fried chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy. He then upgraded to the Reggie Deluxe with fried egg ($10.50), asking for gravy on the side. The chicken was pounded breast meat in a decent coating, the bacon crispy. But having forgotten the egg, the wait staff brought it out as a side. The gravy’s flavor was fine but oddly grainy in texture.

Next was the Club biscuit ($10) with brisket, bacon, iceberg lettuce and a thick tomato slice. It comes drenched in blue cheese dressing. With knife and fork I enjoyed what was essentially a stacked wedge salad with biscuit topper. The beef was very tender but noticeably lacked smoke or seasoning. Our server admitted the “house smoked” brisket and pulled pork are sourced from an outside vendor.

The friend’s other boy’s plate of shrimp ’n’ grits ($12) with six medium prawns sauteed with garlic, green onion, mushroom and bacon and served over creamy grits swimming in butter. It was delicious. The bacon added a lot of smoke to the sauté, the shrimp were great, and the grits were fantastic. I enjoyed the dish more than the kid who ordered it did, so while I helped out, he moved on to something sweet.

The seasonal pop tart ($4) was a s’mores confection so good, it’s a crime to compare it to those mass-produced toaster pastries. Filled with a dark chocolate and graham cracker ganache, the pastry was light, crispy and flaky—reminiscent of strudel. Topped with toasted housemade marshmallow, it was a visual stunning and delectable cap to our visit.