Off the Rails in a Gravy Train

Cascade Biscuits and Gravy serves up big Southern dishes

Lucky Clucker. Photo by Todd Cooper.

For years, Bartolotti’s in Springfield was a glimpse of an East Coast Italian restaurant, almost a real world peek into a Billy Joel song. But the Main Street restaurant has turned in its “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” ambiance to a taste of Appalachia with its change to Cascade Biscuit Kitchen. 

Cascade Biscuit Kitchen, which opened October 2023, is the product of owner Steve Shinn’s desire to bring a taste of Southern cuisine to Springfield’s ever-growing Main Street. Like he did with Bartolotti’s, Shinn has spent time perfecting recipes that reflect tradition to evoke nostalgia in his customers. 

Shinn’s passion for Italian food goes back to his family, but he found his love for Southern food while living in the Southeastern U.S. Specifically, he found the potential of biscuits and gravy at the Biscuit Head restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina. 

“The concept has been in my head for the past 10 years,” Shinn says. To scratch that Southern itch, whenever he and his family go to Portland, they visit the popular restaurant Screen Door. “It just just seems silly that we don’t have that here.” 

When Shinn opened Cascade Biscuit Kitchen, he says he had some concerns about what his neighbors would think about a menu with biscuits and fried chicken on the menu. But he sees his restaurant as offering something different. “I call this ‘blue collar brunch,’” he says. 

Shinn didn’t develop a biscuits and gravy recipe overnight. He took time perfecting it, attempting to even win over his aunt-in-law in rural Tennessee. He recalls that she liked his biscuits and gravy but could tell it wasn’t made by a Southerner. “She could tell that it had shallots in it,” he laughs. 

Shinn spent time studying what makes a Southern biscuits and gravy recipe great. 

Chicken and Waffles. Photo by Todd Cooper.

What’s essential, he says, is cooking the sausage patties in a skillet, taking them out, and using the grease for the gravy. But to keep the base vegetarian, Shinn says the restaurant adds the sausage and pork fat — or mushrooms — afterward. 

An order of biscuits and gravy isn’t just one menu item at Cascade Biscuit Kitchen. The restaurant takes these two items and lets them shine alongside other hearty dishes. Take the Lucky Clucker, a stack of fried chicken, thick slabs of bacon between two biscuits, all surrounded by a sea of gravy that somehow doesn’t drown out the flavors of the rest of the dish. 

Cascade also has a Creole gravy, which Shinn says can sometimes confuse people new to it. Because of its tomato base, it can look like marinara sauce, but Shinn uses the dairy-free gravy for the catfish, shrimp and oyster menu items. That Creole gravy is what he says can win over people for sticking with traditional recipes. 

“The Creole gravy is kind of a low-hanging fruit, but I’ve had plenty of people from that region go, ‘This is exactly what it’s supposed to be,’” he says. “If someone’s from Louisiana and they see Creole gravy on the menu, they don’t want my Northwest interpretation.” 

Shinn recommends following up with an order of beignets, which are made in house with a little bit of a deviation from what you’d find in New Orleans. 

“We kind of put, in my opinion, a Northwest spin by serving them with marionberry preserves,” Shinn says. In New Orleans, he says, the squares of fried dough “just get served with a cup of coffee and a bunch of powdered sugar.”

Although Shinn probably won’t make gravy with shallots again, he says Cascade Biscuit Kitchen will have some Pacific Northwest tweaks to menu items as specials, such as a Benedict pizza, a way to bring the two worlds of the former Bartolotti’s pizza oven and Cascade’s breakfast. 

Even with the identity switch to Appalachia from Italian, the Main Street restaurant is continuing its Italian predecessor by moonlighting as a ghost kitchen focused on a limited Bartolotti’s menu. And in the spirit behind both kitchens, whether it’s the daytime biscuit restaurant or a to-go-oriented Italian kitchen, Shinn is keeping his vision focused on traditional dishes rather than creative chef interpretations. 

“I want that comfort. I want that nostalgia,” he says. “I don’t want to make a bolognese that is unlike any bolognese that you’ve ever had. I want you to come in and get what you wanted.”

Cascade Biscuit Kitchen is at 330 Main Street in Springfield. Hours are 8 am to 2 pm every day. For more information and how to order Bartolotti’s menu to-go, visit both restaurants on Instagram and Facebook.