Maple Street Biscuit Co. rising in San Marco

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Scott Moore and Gus Evans are creating a new San Marco restaurant with a twist.

In fact, that’s just how they describe their new Maple Street Biscuit Co., “inspired Southern comfort food with a modern twist.”

It’s all biscuits — their own recipe, with a twist of maple syrup — turned into breakfast offerings as well as signature sandwiches, including “The Loaded Goat” with a fried chicken breast and a fried goat cheese medallion.

“We’ve been working on the perfect biscuit recipe,” Moore said Monday in the 2,400-square-foot space, which is being transformed into an almost 50-seat “community café.”

“We did do a lot of research,” he said, which included weekly tastings at Moore’s Avondale home. They took a basic buttermilk biscuit recipe and tweaked it.

They knew they hit the mark when a neighbor paid homage in proclaiming a winner. Evans, the cook, discovered the maple twist.

“I was playing around with a recipe and exchanged maple syrup for sugar,” he said.

The restaurant is being built out at 2004 San Marco Blvd., the former site of Moe’s Southwest Grill. It should open Nov. 8.

Moore, 51, a former Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. vice president, and Evans, 33, a former project manager at Elkins Constructors Inc., formed a partnership to open the restaurant when both found themselves downsized after 10 years on the job.

Moore and his wife had visited a biscuit restaurant in Portland, Ore., and he was interested in the concept.

Moore and Evans attend the same church, Orange Park Bible Church.

“Gus and I were meeting for coffee and prayed over it,” Moore said. They’re in it 50-50.

Maple Street Biscuit Co. will operate 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It will have indoor and outdoor seating, including an inside community table, and employ six people.

Biscuits will be made fresh all day in a “theater” atmosphere, where patrons, especially those at the counter, can watch the big mixer at work.

They use a 3.5-inch cutter, which makes a 4-inch biscuit.

The two invested in new equipment. Evans is the chief cook.

The location had been available for some time, and Moore said they signed just as another potential tenant was ready to snap it up.

With Moore from Avondale and Evans from the Venetia area of the Westside, both considered historic San Marco “the perfect location,” Moore said.

They’re investing at least $50,000 in the build-out and equipment.

Their wives helped design the restaurant, which will feature wood and earth tones. Customers will order from a menu board. There will be coffees and syrups for sale.

Moore said the two are focusing as much as possible on using local vendors, including Coffee Roasters of Florida, which provides the coffee blends.

First Coast Creative designed the logo. Giglio Signs handled the signs. The maple syrup, however, not a Florida staple, comes from a farm in Ohio.

Moore and his wife have three children, all in their 20s, and Evans and his wife have two boys, 6 and 3.

During their research, they found it’s best to not overcomplicate creating a good biscuit. They say the key to building the layers is to freeze and shred the butter.

Grape & Grain build-out OK’d

San Marco will gain another retail venue next to Maple Street Biscuit. The City approved interior build-out for the Grape & Grain Exchange in San Marco at a project cost of $106,267.

Parallel Inc. is the contractor.

As the Daily Record reported in August, restaurant and wine veteran Robert Smith wants to bring the “garden-to-bar” and speakeasy movements to San Marco Square. He and his business partners are building out the Grape & Grain Exchange and The Parlour at 2000 San Marco Blvd.

Smith said the Grape & Grain should open Nov. 15 and The Parlour a month later.

“The speakeasies and craft cocktail bars are making a comeback,” he said in August.

Smith said his group was trying to be the first in town to tap into the multifaceted concept, which features serving craft beers and wines; small batch spirits; cocktails made with syrups and purees of seasonal local fruits, herbs and vegetables; locally baked bread along with international cheeses; equipment for those wanting to set up a home bar; and a back-room speakeasy with a separate entrance like the Prohibition-era lounges.

It will offer local blues and jazz, including artists from the University of North Florida and regional acts.

Smith plans a neutral-toned front of the house for the Grape & Grain Exchange and dark woods and 1930s Chicago art deco décor for the 50-seat Parlour.

The shop will operate in 1,300 square feet of space while the bar area will use 1,800 square feet.

Former tenant Sandy Myers, who opened the My Best Friend’s Closet consignment shop in the front part of the space 2 1/2 years ago, moved over Labor Day weekend to a larger location a few doors away at 1992 San Marco Blvd.

Smith said he has been in San Marco since 1987. He also grew up a “foodie,” landing his first job at the age of 14 at European Street Deli at Regency Square mall and remaining in the restaurant business.

In San Marco, he worked at the former St. Mark’s restaurant and the French/Asian fusion restaurant L’Orient Chez Guy during a restaurant boom in San Marco that included the openings of Bistro Aix, bb’s and Matthew’s. He also worked from 2001-05 as manager of The Grotto wine bar in San Marco.

Smith’s business partners are Jackson Somphonphakdy, who will serve as bar manager and a mixologist, and Anthony Norton, who will serve as musical director and a mixologist. Smith said the business will employ up to 10 people.

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