A southern staple - and a family tradition - comes north
The Biscuit Shed
BRATTLEBORO — When southerner Carson Stanley first decided to convert his landscaping trailer into an open-air kitchen of sorts at the Brattleboro Farmers Market, he had crepes in mind — filled with fresh organic ingredients, sweet or savory. It seemed like a Vermont thing to do.
"We were going to be called 'Farm to Crepe,'" said Stanley, owner and operator of The Biscuit Shed on Putney Road, in front of the Black Mountain Inn.
"I just mentioned biscuits to some friends of mine. They started an email thread and were like, 'Dude, we think you might have a really good idea. No one's doing biscuits up here. It's definitely a niche thing. You're from down South. Why not biscuits?'
"So I went to the Farmers Market jury," he explained. "They were expecting to get crepes and I dropped off a bunch of biscuits. They were very cool with it, and actually really excited about it. It was kind of on a whim."
That was three years ago. Now, thousands of buttermilk biscuits later — split in half to envelop southern fried chicken with Cabot cheddar and maple barbecue sauce, or stuffed with bacon, egg and cheese for a hearty and delicious breakfast sandwich — Stanley's "whim" is starting to take off.
"We use local and fresh ingredients. The King Arthur's organic flour is our No. 1 thing that sets us apart," Stanley said. "And the quality is better. Everything is handmade, it's artisan. We cook our biscuits fresh throughout the day, and there's such a focus on consistency, so that it's moist and warm. Everything that goes out the window is cooked to order. Whether it's a regular or a first-timer, I want (customers) to be blown away. We take pride in it."
Stanley, 34, and girlfriend Bridget Jones have been dishing out biscuits from the "Shed" since last fall. Stanley bought the trailer from Adam Grinold, owner of Wahoo's Eatery in Wilmington and executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation. He was set up in front of American Traders in West Brattleboro for about a year before taking the advice of a steady customer to move to busy Putney Road, just off the Exit 3 interchange of Interstate 91.
"It's on wheels but it's not going anywhere," Stanley said of his "Shed." "The thing about having a food truck is that you actually get to cook the food, and then you get to see the look on peoples' faces, and they come to you and thank you and tell you how good it was, versus having that wall between you and the servers here all day."
"The customers make it definitely worth it," said Jones, who grew up working in busy restaurants in summer along the New Jersey shore. "You make relationships with people that you never would have had the opportunity to before. That's my favorite part of it. Also working in the kitchen. I like cooking."
There is no secret family recipe behind the Shed's southern-style biscuits. But there is a family connection. Stanley's grandfather, Larry Stanley, owned a donut shop in Myrtle Beach, S.C., called the Do-Nut Dinette in the 1950s before converting it into a successful hamburger joint. "He ended up becoming more famous for his hamburgers and fresh-cut fries than his donuts," Carson said.
Eventually, Larry Stanley moved back to Anderson, S.C. and opened the Uptown Lounge and Restaurant, a fixture in that community for more than 40 years. "He definitely set the pace," Carson says of his grandfather. "I loved going into the lounge, even as a young kid. Every day was like a family reunion. Everyone was so nice. They would let me wash dishes. That's kind of how I got familiar with the industry in the very beginning.
"My granddad was a staple in the community, always helping people out. He put some of his employees' kids through college, paid off mortgages."
Tragically, Larry Stanley was murdered in a botched robbery attempt in his bar on Father's Day weekend, 1998. Carson Stanley said he thinks about his grandfather every day. "He would still be running the restaurant if he had lived. It gives me motivation. I'm kind of following in his footsteps a little bit."
In some ways, owning a mobile food business — even a currently stationary one like the Shed — is an appropriate career path for Stanley. A big music fan, he started his own food service by following bands like Phish or Phil Lesh and Friends around and cooking pizza at concerts and festivals.
Carson's father, Lawrence "Stan" Stanley, also works in the food industry as a longtime salesman for a distribution company out of New Jersey. With his father's help, Stanley hopes to open more biscuit locations and some day franchise his business to make the sweet, flaky product available in grocery stores for take-home "bake-it-yourself" distribution.
But that's all in the future. For now, Carson and Bridget will continue to make their individual biscuits (with honey butter, Nutella, local jam or Vermont maple cream) and a variety of signature sandwiches to please customers young and old. The most popular is the chicken sandwich with cheddar and grilled onions. "We do sell a lot of the Southern Chicks," Stanley said. "It's not just a working man's sandwich. We've got a lot of little old ladies who come in specifically for that, because they just love it. It's huge; they get three meals out of it."
Other popular items include the "Vermonster," with egg, sausage and maple syrup on a "French toast" biscuit ("like a gourmet McGriddle," Stanley said), and healthier gluten-free options like a roasted potato bowl and a quinoa bowl with avocado, peppers and onion. Stanley also hopes to develop a smartphone app to make it easier for customers to call in their orders. He would also love to do a "biscuits and jam" event, with acoustic musicians set up to play on the grass picnic area next to the Shed. "We could run some barbecue specials, maybe pulled pork on a biscuit."
Larry Stanley would no doubt be proud of his grandson's culinary journey to the north. "It's been really good, about as good as it gets," Carson said of Brattleboro. "I love it here."
If you go ...
What: The Biscuit Shed is at 959 Putney Road, in front of the Black Mountain Inn.
When: Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday to Sunday, 8 a.m.to 3 p.m.
Online: On Facebook and Instagram
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