food road trip: rise biscuits donuts in raleigh north carolina...back in the south
It's been awhile since I'd made a trip back to ole NC. Of course, it isn't exactly the most popular state to be around lately either. Between their whole political who-ha ridiculousness and the hurricane, well, everything is just a mess. But parts of the fam are still there and sometimes familial duty calls.
Though this trip was planned before a hurricane threat was coming and sadly, I got caught up in all that. But after an 8 hour delay, 3 cancelled flights, a flight to Richmond, VA instead and a 2 1/2 hour rental car ride later through buckets of rain and a hearty wind, I arrived back in Durham. I will say the drive won't all that bad. The rental agency only had a minivan and truck left when I got there and I said, sure, give me the truck, I can be all rednecky. Here's what I got:
It was a big honking thing for sure. Though have to say, it rode smooth even in the weather and had many bells and whistles in side, but not exactly San Francisco friendly. Anyway, I had to return it to the rental company at the airport the next morning. On my way there I thought I'd stop and get a bite somewhere along the way. I pulled into a very large strip mall place that is right before you get to the airport. I made a circle around the parking lot and spotted a place called Rise Biscuits Donuts.
Well, the name alone was enough to entice me, but I remembered having heard about them last time I was here. They were like THE hot place to get biscuits and donuts these days. Seems since I was last here they really have taken off with 8 locations around the state and another 3 planned. I found a parking spot and headed in. There was a line and for a second I felt like I was back in SF with the whole "let's line up for food" thing. But it was an order at the counter line, it moved really quickly and I heard someone say "wuhdda y'all wahnt?" in a thick Southern accent. Yeah, I'm not in San Francisco.
Menu is pretty straightforward. There are standard biscuits--egg, meat, cheese kind of thing or "special" biscuits like mac and cheese or fried green tomato or sweet potato and bacon. While they sounded interesting, I was in more of an old-school mindset and decided to create my own morning bite.
I got the sausage biscuit ($3.50), then added white cheddar ($1.25) and a fried egg ($1.35). Though you could also get your egg scrambled or runny if you wanted. That's $6.10 for the above biscuit if your addition is slow. Not exactly cheap for the South, I guess times are changing? Especially when you consider most every fast food joint does a biscuit in this town and there's even a place called Biscuitville! They'll all do the same biscuit for a couple bucks less. Now I feel like I'm back in SF again.
Even for all the business, I can see them making my order and it comes up pretty quickly. It is a pretty big size. You get a thick and juicy sausage patty, a nicely fried egg and a slab of cheese on a fluffy, buttery biscuit. As far as biscuits go, it was definitely good and better than things you can get out here. (Mostly, as Brenda's does a darn fine version) Of course, even though it had the butter flavor, I personally would have put a little more on it if I'd had some. Final verdict is, yes, the thing was good and tasty but pricey for the area.
One reason I decided to skip the special biscuit creations was to try their other offering--donuts! It's great when you can get two of your favorite things in one place, right? But you know me, I couldn't just get one when they have a menu selection of Old School (chocolate or sprinkles, etc.), New School (maple bacon, creme brulee, etc.) or Our School (apple cider, Oreo, etc.). I spread it around a little bit
Let's start with top left--apple fritter $3. Not exactly the kind you get here in town. Wasn't as big or as deep fried. It had nice little chunks of apple and was generously covered in the sugar glaze. However, it was under cooked. Too doughy once you got below the outer layer, which was already a very light brown. It also did not have the cinnamon kick I was expecting either. Considering it was smaller and pricier than one from Happy Donuts, it was a real disappointment.
Top right--chocolate, chocolate cake $1.75. That means it was supposed to be a cake donut and it sort of was. Definitely looked like cake on the inside, but tasted a little too crumbly and dry. Adding cocoa powder to batter can sometimes suck the moistness right out if ingredients aren't balanced and I think that happened here. Even the sugar glaze on the outside didn't help. Neither did putting those chocolate crumb bits on top. Just more dry crumb on dry crumb to me.
Bottom left--Cheerwine $1.25. Cheerwine was actually created in NC. It's like a cherry Dr. Pepper, sort of, for those who've never had it. Here they've used it to make the icing on top. Props for definitely getting a tart crispness to the sugar glaze. The donut itself was your basic plain and it was under cooked. The dough got all sticky and tacky when you bit into it. No light and airy here. This had possibilities, they just didn't get met.
Bottom right--raspberry jelly $2.25. The whole dough problem with the Cheerwine one was also going on here. It was all just too sticky like if you wet some bread then mashed it into a ball. No rise, no lightness, just heavy, under done tasting dough. Though it did have plenty of raspberry filling, no skimping on that.
Hmmm....0-4 in donuts. I actually didn't even finish any of them. And I think we all know that is pretty extreme. Usually, I suffer through to their end, but this time I just wasn't feeling these. Theories why these weren't the best: it was a busy day and the kitchen was pulling things out of the ovens too quickly, maybe it's this particular location that isn't up to par with others, maybe they have expanded too quickly without working out all the quality control issues, maybe I just chose the wrong ones. Whichever it may be, the donuts weren't good.
Where does that leave us. 1 good but slightly pricey biscuit and 4 donuts even I'd pass on. Adding it all up comes to a place I probably wouldn't visit again on subsequent trips home. There is always a possibility the original spot is really the place to go and the off shoots have some work to do. But it is the South, I can pretty much get a decent biscuit most anywhere. And as for donuts, Durham does have Monuts Donuts, those are totally worth it and closer.