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With "rise" of Mason Dixie and Biscuit Lab, is DC seeing a "biscuit culture" boom?

Biscuit culture is, ahem, on the rise in D.C. Mason Dixie Biscuit Company, a local food startup dedicated to selling biscuit sandwiches, recently won a $500,000 investment at Launch Pad and six months residency at Mess Hall and officially opens their doors for business today at EatsPlace on Georgia Avenue NW. The company will serve biscuit sandwiches, platters and spreads Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"We're excited to finally be in a place of our own for a while," says Mason Dixie CEO Ayeshah Abuelhiga. "Being a nomad is hard. Getting your fans to move around and follow you is hard." Prior to opening at EatsPlace, Mason Dixie held a series of pop-up events at Dolcezza, Roofer's Union and Jack Rose.

Winning Launch Pad means that Mason Dixie will still be bouncing between spaces for a while. "EatsPlace is a retail [location]," Abuelhiga says. "We'll be there for breakfast and lunch during allotted hours. But we won't be able to prep for catering there." For large catering orders, and to create some of the retail products (frozen biscuits and jams) that are in the works, Mason Dixie will use their Mess Hall space. That means two chefs essentially overseeing two kitchens; cofounder/pastry chef Jason Gehring is already onboard.

And the second chef? "We're bringing on Lucas Bogetto-Power as our first employee," Abuelhiga says. "He brings a lot of experience," most recently at Rose's Luxury, recently dubbed the best new restaurant in America.

So, in a world of cupcakes and doughnuts and cronuts and bagels, why biscuits? "There's a lot to say about the culture of a biscuit," Abuelhiga says. "D.C. is still in the South. It's south of the Mason-Dixon line. There used to be a bigger presence of soul food [here], but it died away due to [the rise of] health[ier] food. Southern food is making a comeback. There's a sense of calm and family, a return to warmth, home, family values and a slower pace of life."

Mason Dixie isn't the only biscuit shop in town. The Biscuit Lab Baking Company, cofounded by Phil Coppersmith and Mike Visser, isn't quite as far along in their startup journey as Mason Dixie, is but they are already working to put biscuits in front of diners.

"We'll be popping up at Lyman's Tavern at 14th and Quincy Streets NW starting Sunday, October 26," says Coppersmith. Lyman's, a neighborhood bar that opened less than a year ago, "is letting us handle the food for their Sunday brunch." Visser and Coppersmith hope their pop-up will become a recurring thing.

While Visser, who is from Charlotte, NC, questions whether D.C. has a biscuit culture to speak of, he admits that "biscuits in D.C. will have their moment in the sun. If it's the next big thing, we can ride that wave. I'm all for it." Still, he says he'd rather be like SweetGreen, "a cool place to eat, with a great reputation and a sustainable business [model]—not necessarily a craze."

Both companies agree that biscuits' time has come. "Biscuits have been an afterthought," says Abuelhiga. "We're putting them at the center [of the plate]."

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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