EAST VILLAGE — The South will rise again — or, at least, its biscuits will.
Empire Biscuit, a 24-hour eatery serving up Southern-style biscuits, is slated to open early this summer at 198 Avenue A, near East 12th Street, replacing the hookah bar Habibi Lounge that shuttered there in November, EV Grieve first reported.
Owners Yonadav Tsuna, 22, and Jonathan Price, 33, met in 2009 while working as waiters at Bouley, the upscale French restaurant in TriBeCa. At the time, Tsuna was a student at NYU’s Stern School of Business, and the two spent spring break drawing up business plans for a biscuit shop that would serve up tastes of their home. Tsuna hails from Memphis, and Price has roots in both Florida and North Carolina.
While Southern food is sometimes associated with grease and messiness, Tsuna and Price plan to serve up a more refined version of the classic biscuit.
“It doesn’t have to be sloppy to be Southern,” Tsuna said.
Empire Biscuit, which will not serve alcohol, will be open 24 hours a day because “biscuits are a 24-hour food," Price said. "In the morning, it’s biscuits and jam. At night, maybe it’s biscuits and gravy.”
The owners said the shop will be baking constantly to ensure that the biscuits are fresh at every hour.
“Biscuits have a moment of perfection,” Price explained, noting the shop hired a chef to primarily oversee the baking. “After a few hours they’re just not as good.”
The owners declined to give specifics about the menu, but said they have so far hosted three 10-course tastings at Price’s small Brooklyn apartment, each attended by about 60 guests. The pair plans to hold one more tasting before the menu is made official.
Price has more than a decade of experience in the restaurant business, mostly at high-end establishments, including the famed Magnolia Grill in Durham, N.C. Tsuna is newer to the food industry, having spent a few months working in investment banking after graduating from NYU last year.
“We’re really excited to be in the neighborhood,” Price said. “Avenue A is just a great place to be right now.”