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By Allan Reid
Monday Magazine restaurant reviewer
Shanzee’s Biscuits’ shingle, hanging over the sidewalk on the Pandora side of Market Square, features a 1950s travel-trailer. Inside, the decor is reminiscent of an urban American backlot of the time with age-roughened red brick walls adorned with nostalgic photos and drawings of Victoria, and wooden shelves bearing trailer-themed trinkets.
Another wall of corrugated steel surrounds the kitchen, and everything is held up by a skeleton of exposed metal beams and post. An afterthought? Seismic reinforcement? I don’t know, but those posts and beams, new-looking in perfect dark grey paint, add to the almost romantic feeling of descending squalor.
“Shanzee’s Biscuits” in robin egg blue neon completes the down-classed 1950s backlot effect. Choose a high table near the front window, a low table inside, a comfortable arm chair at the back or go right through and enjoy the sun on an ample, elevated off-street patio where the noise and bustle of the city is forgotten. Wherever you sit, return to the front to place your order.
As the name suggests, Shanzee’s is all about the biscuit, and Shanzee’s chef, Shannon Stead, bakes exceptional biscuits: golden and flaky, yet firm and much more pleasurable than heavy and cloying English muffins. But as wonderful as the biscuits are, they need a good topping.
Biscuits and Gravy is a staple of southern U.S. breakfast fare. It’s cheap, filling and guaranteed to clog your arteries while it fills your belly to bursting. The traditional accompaniment is a sausage-cream gravy ($7.25), but given a choice, I chose the Tailgate Chicken Biscuit ($11.95) topped with mushroom gravy.
The menu claims the chicken is “slow cooked in Frank’s Red Hot and Jerk spice,” so I expected intense flavours of thyme, cinnamon, garlic and nutmeg to dance on my tongue by the heat of chilies. I found it tasty, but this is spicy chicken for the spice-intolerant crowd. The mushroom gravy, while thick, earthy-rich and loaded with mushrooms, tasted very salty.
Brent, a friend visiting from Rome, added two fried eggs to his Southern Comfort Biscuit (Bacon and Cheddar: $10.75) and declared them indispensable, though he, too, complained of a salty flavour in the gravy. (Editor’s note: Stead clarifies she uses no salt in the gravy, but adds tamari, a soy sauce alternative)
Dennis, my other dining companion, ordered the Biscuit Benny ($14.25), which features one of Shannon’s delectable biscuits cut in half and topped with thick-sliced ham under two eggs buried in Hollandaise. Vegetarians can substitute tomato and avocado for the ham at no additional cost. Either way, it is an impressive plate and Dennis declared it the best Eggs Benny ever. It came served with fresh fruit (grapes and orange slices), and shredded hash browns grilled golden.
Shanzee’s also serves a selection of sweet treats and the essential compliment of espresso-based coffees. It is open for breakfast and lunch, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. daily and all menu items are available anytime.
Shanzee’s Biscuit Café
529 Pandora Ave.
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