What else is there left to say about the Stock Ham Biscuit? Dish of the Year. Charlottesville’s signature dish. “Dish of the universe,” one chef said, while another might have put it best: “so good I stare at it while I chew.”
Indeed, it is common to wonder how something that looks so simple can evoke such a reaction. Here are 1,314 words on the biscuit that still cannot explain it. You just have to see for yourself.
When an expert panel of chefs, historians, and others once convened to determine Charlottesville’s signature dish, the fried chicken sandwich received strong consideration. Fried chicken has a long history in the region, and sandwiches of it are all over Charlottesville. It’s one of the deepest sandwich categories in town.
Among a stellar lot, the most crave-inducing comes from the The Fitzroy. The difference is in the details. First, boneless chicken thighs receive a soak in a honey-dill brine. Rinse and drain thoroughly before another soak, this time in buttermilk, for several hours. Next comes a dredging in flour and spices and then, finally, they are fried. The finished thighs are placed atop a brioche bun with sliced pickles. The final twist is the addition of lemon to the cayenne-spiked aioli that gets smeared on the bun. The touch of acid works, and may be the difference-maker that has turned this into an industry favorite, drawing those who discover it back to The Fitzroy just to get their fix.
Usually you have to choose. Do you want an original cheesesteak? Or do you want one prepared by a great chef? As delicious as the original rendition is, it doesn’t exactly require a culinary degree to make. And so, when a great chef takes a stab at a cheesesteak, while the result is often delicious in its own right, the experience can differ from the sandwich made famous by former hot dog stand owners in Philadelphia.
Belle chef John Shanesy somehow does both. The cheffy tweaks he makes to one of America’s favorite sandwiches manage to enhance it while also yielding a result faithful to the original. No, he doesn’t use Amoroso rolls. He has access to hoagie rolls baked fresh every day by a world class baker: his brother Scott, with whom he co-owns Belle. As for the cheese sauce, Shanesy makes an upgraded version of “whiz” by combining Tillamook cheddar and American cheese, which he steeps at 180 degrees in Mt Crawford milk and heavy cream with dried chilies and herbs, fresh thyme, black pepper, and salt. For the sandwich, he griddles sliced steak, mushroom duxelles, bell pepper, and white onion, and chops them all together. For assembly, he smears mayo on the top bun and adds iceberg lettuce. On the bottom bun, he adds the steak mixture and cheese sauce. The result is a sandwich that may differ from the original, but still tastes faithful to the style. A classic made even better.