Mise en Place: Kansas City’s art of homage with Guroux Khalifah of District Biskuits
Guroux Khalifah kneads classical training and generational wisdom into his restaurant in North Kansas City, District Biskuits. But there’s more to it than buttery, structurally perfect biscuits. Guroux speaks on the balance of homage and interpretation, scaling a business, and milkshakes for breakfast.
The Pitch: Tell us about your journey from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta to District Biskuits in North Kansas City.
Guroux Khalifah: I came back to Kansas City after I finished school and worked at some of the best hotels and restaurants. So I would say my true background is savory but I do enjoy baking a lot. Hence the biscuit, which was something that my mother showed me.
I started out with wanting to create something that people will be familiar with, being biscuits, but also something different, which was building the whole menu around biscuits. Now it’s a very popular concept. I feel like I caught the wave when it was just starting.
My idea was originally called The District Biskuit House in 2017. I bartered a deal with a local restaurant to operate in the hours that they weren’t open and started with only $150. I bought a package of chicken, some flour, and butter.
A few months in, I had a line wrapped outside of the door. I was in The Pitch, the Star, I had people traveling from all over the country, solely off of the reach that social media had back then, which was much more organic.
How have you personalized the biscuit?
Mine is more towery and buttery than most. I wanted to give it more of a southern feel. I know that people may see this as sacrilegious but one of the examples that I went off of was Popeye’s. That one is theirs–I can’t do that. But I wanted to put my own twist on the field, wanted it to be able to hold up as a sandwich to the ingredients inside and not crumble.
A lot of people didn’t think that The Crown (a double smashburger) would work on a biscuit. Now it’s one of our top sellers. The rich and fatty flavor from the meat soaks up into the already rich base.
What do you find unique about the Kansas City food scene?
This city does a really good job of showing respect to wherever a product comes from. It’s not that we do anything different, but I think we show respect. Like I think that Tay’s does a really good job with their Philly Cheesesteaks, showing homage to Philadelphia. Pizza Tascio and Providence Pizza showing homage to New York style pizza.
I feel that I show respect to the southern style biscuit. I can’t take any credit for inventing it, you know, outside of developing a recipe that works for the concept that I’m attempting. None of these things came from here, but we do our best in showing respect to those ingredients and dishes.
Do you bake much at home?
No, my wife does most of the cooking and the baking at home. Here I’m constantly still tweaking and refining the recipe–I’m looking to get into distribution so I need the product to hold up to freezing so that I can distribute to coffee shops and bakeries that don’t necessarily have this product.
What is the ultimate District Biskuits brunch meal?
DB Hash, Cookie Butter Shake (a secret menu item), and black coffee. That way you get a little bit of everything–crispy hash brown coins, chicken sausage gravy, sauce, scrambled eggs, bacon jam, and shredded cheese. And it’s never too early for a shake.
The South Side Shake has crispy fried potato bits in it. Did you grow up dipping french fries in milkshakes like I did?
Yes, thanks to my brother Tech N9ne. He took me to see Batman Beyond for the first time and introduced me to the sweet and salty combo. Popcorn and chocolate, fries and milkshakes, etc. One of my very vivid memories of childhood.
Note: Just before I was there, Travis Kelce stopped by for a breakfast worthy of a pro-athlete. Starting with a black drip coffee, he then ordered the Charlie Hustle, which is the Nashville-style chicken biscuit, and Wonder, the flagship sandwich featuring fried chicken, a fried egg, American cheese, bacon, and chives. For his sweet side, he ended with a Union Station milkshake, with coffee ice cream, toasted marshmallow, and Nutella. When in doubt, try the #87 special.
District Biskuits is located at 504 Armour Rd, North Kansas City, MO 64116. It is closed on Mondays but open from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.