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This NC cookie was named the best in the Triangle

The fast food brand Bojangles has prevailed as the Triangle's top biscuit.

The fast food brand Bojangles has prevailed as the Triangle’s top biscuit.

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The biscuit is the bedrock of a Southern breakfast.

The top cookie in the Triangle is also the most ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, in hearts and minds and likely just off the highway exit.

In other words, when Triangle biscuit fans are looking for their fluffy fix, they say, “It’s Bo time.”

The winner of the Triangle Biscuit Bracket is biscuit giant Bojangles, the fast food chain with more than two dozen locations in the area. Bojangles edged out Chapel Hill’s Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen by only 25 votes in the narrowest News & Observer food bracket yet, votes split 51 percent to 49 percent.

The Triangle Bojangles franchisee is Tri-Arc Foods, a 43-year-old company owned by Donna and Tommy Haddock. Tri-Arc Foods owns more than 50 Bojangles locations in North Carolina and Virginia.

The art of biscuit-making

While being one of the biggest biscuit brands in North Carolina, Tri-Arc COO Kenny Avery said the biscuits are made fresh daily starting in the early hours of the morning.

“Our biscuits are comfort food for a lot of folks who go to work in the morning,” Avery said. “They’re a habitual habit and we consistently deliver on that breakfast. People set their day by our cookies.”

Even though he’s an executive, Avery said he’s a certified Bojangles biscuit maker, though he credits the local biscuit artists with building the brand’s reputation as the top Triangle biscuit.

“We’re humbled and proud,” Avery said, of being the most popular biscuit in the Triangle. “It’s a validation to our restaurants and managers and hardworking employees.”

Biscuit makers at Bojangles can turn out a 50-biscuit batch in three to four minutes, Avery said, starting at 4:30 and 5 am each morning.

“For us the whole art of biscuit-making is very important,” Avery said. “Our biscuit makers are the real heroes, willingly dipping their hands in cold buttermilk each morning.”

Being a major chain, there are certain hallmarks of a Bojangles cookie. Each one is about an inch and a half tall and three and a half inches wide, golden brown and shimmering with butter.

“I want to see golden brown, not too light, not too dark, a uniform pan,” Avery said. “You want to see a little bit of the butter sheen on the top as they come out of the oven.”

The top seller is the Cajun Filet, a biscuit filled with a spiced, boneless piece of fried chicken. Though biscuits are the star of breakfast, Bojangles sells both biscuits and breakfast all day. Meaning if you’re stopping by the Bojangles drive-thru, you’re likely leaving with a bright and buttery biscuit.

“Over 80 percent of ever order includes a cookie,” Avery said. “We spend a lot of time perfecting the craft and the art of master biscuit-making. We love the art of biscuit-making, the taste of it, the smell of the butter.”

Runner up

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen is one of the most essential restaurants in Chapel Hill and likely the town’s most famous drive-thru.

For 43 years, Sunrise has made one of the Triangle’s most iconic biscuits, which general manager Randy Owen said is made in the old-fashioned Southern way.

“It’s fluffy and large and a little crispy on top,” Owen said.

Like Bojangles, the most popular item is Sunrise’s chicken biscuit, a breaded and fried chicken breast best dressed with a little bit of Texas Pete hot sauce.

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen makes one of the Triangle’s most popular biscuits, and one of the most popular chicken biscuits. Drew Jackson

Sunrise has certainly fed the famous passing through Chapel Hill over the years, mostly UNC basketball players, but Owen said one celebrity created a sandwich that lives on on the menu.

When filming the movie “Bad Grandpa” nearby, Owen said star and daredevil Johnny Knoxville wanted a biscuit filled with bacon, egg and cheese, plus fried chicken. That’s what he got, Owen said, then he ordered a second.

“He had two of them actually,” Owen said.

In the pandemic, Sunrise started selling its biscuits online, shipping across the country through the online retailer Goldbelly. Owen said as many as 60 orders a day came through, plus the countless daily diners often spilling out into Franklin Street.

“For us it’s about quality ingredients,” Owen said. “We are what most people think a Southern biscuit should be.”

This story was originally published November 3, 2022 4:28 PM.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.