Scene & Heard, Springfield

Cascade Biscuit Kitchen dishes out ‘blue-collar brunch’ on Springfield’s Main Street

SPRINGFIELD – The key to Steve Shinn’s most recent success in the restaurant industry may have simply been marrying into a Southern family.

The native Oregonian said that “as an Italian who married a Southerner, we pretty much go from baked ziti to fried pork chops and cream corn on any given day, so it just made sense” to open Cascade Biscuit Kitchen: a restaurant which features a fusion of cuisines.

Since its soft opening last October, Cascade Biscuit Kitchen has found its footing in downtown Springfield as a “blue-collar brunch” spot. Shinn coined this term because the restaurant gets its rush around 9:30 or 10 a.m. – and the food served is definitely adequate fuel for any blue-collar worker. The restaurant’s best-sellers are beignets, chicken and waffles, and the Lucky Clucker, a biscuit with thick-cut bacon, fried chicken, and sausage gravy, according to Shinn.

The recipes are mostly Shinn’s, but he does get some input from his mother-in-law, who is from rural Tennessee. Cascade Biscuit Kitchen employee Kate P. Ott described the restaurant’s food as “a Southern biscuit and gravy with a West Coast spin,” and she praised Shinn for being a boss who “does the best he can for his employees.”

“He’s one of the only bosses I’ve ever had in the kitchen where he can come in to fill in shifts – and he will come in to fill in shifts,” Ott said, commending Shinn for jumping into kitchen duties when necessary.

Shinn said that, although Cascade Biscuit Kitchen is intended to be a fusion of cuisines, its current menu has mostly Appalachian influences.

“I keep trying to get more Northwest in, and every time I want to add something that has more of a Northwest flavor, someone will ask me, ‘Why don’t you do this?’ and it’ll be something that, quite frankly, is much more simple than what I’m trying to do,” he said. “I was like, ‘Sure, if people would prefer that, that’s fine with me,’ and before I knew it, it’s become essentially an Appalachian, Midwest, Southern, kind of all-American brunch spot.”

Although this fusion of a myriad of cuisines across the country is a new concept for Shinn to execute in a restaurant, he is by no means a novice in this industry. Cascade Biscuit Kitchen is just his newest self-imposed challenge. He has already found success through his Italian pizza restaurants Bartolotti’s and Craft Pizza, each of which has two locations.

Both Bartolotti’s are in Eugene; there is one food truck on Friendly Street and one restaurant located on University of Oregon’s campus. The Craft Pizza locations aren’t quite as close together; one is in Cottage Grove, located at 603 E Main Street, and the other is on Lane Community College’s campus in Eugene.

Shinn decided it was time for him to branch out of his Italian comfort zone with the creation of Cascade Biscuit Kitchen, which he said brought something to Springfield that it was missing. It’s located at 330 Main Street in Springfield, which is where Shinn originally had a Bartolotti’s storefront.

Cascade Biscuit Kitchen makes its food from scratch “way more than other restaurants do,” according to Shinn, which brings its own set of challenges.

“The hardest part is getting some of the ingredients that aren’t common ingredients here,” he said. “Southern ham is really difficult to get here. A decent pork sausage, quite frankly, is really hard to get here. We special order our bacon because it’s a quarter inch thick, so you can’t just get that anywhere.”

The restaurant has weekly shipments of provisions that Shinn would be unable to find locally, and he even wrote a list of the ingredients which the restaurant cannot run out of – otherwise, certain menu items will be unavailable. Some items like flour and oil were no-brainers for him to suggest buying locally, but he said he does this to “just be true to the food.”

“There’s a lot of things you (can do half-way), and most people wouldn’t notice if you did,” Shinn said, “but just enough people would that you would get called out for not serving the real deal.”

He admitted that running “five restaurants with no business partners is a lot to handle.”

“There was a part of me that thought, ‘Maybe we just start shrinking the company a little bit.’ But I think, weirdly, I wanted to prove to myself that I can run the company,” Shinn said.

While there may be growing pains each time Shinn begins a new facet of his food empire, his accolades don’t go without notice. Mayor Sean VanGordon commended him for being an impressive entrepreneur because of his variety of business ventures.

“Anybody who has three different businesses, that’s who you’re looking to try to attract to the city,” VanGordon said.

VanGordon’s respect for Shinn and other local business owners is above and beyond what Stinn has experienced in Eugene and Cottage Grove.

“No other leadership from any town that I do business in has ever reached out to me, a small restaurant owner, and asked how everything’s going, or what can we do? What can the City do?” he said. “Other cities, the only time I hear from the City is when they want money – and don’t get me wrong, Springfield wants their money, too, but I feel like I get something for Springfield. Whereas the other end is like, I guess the cost of doing business comes off more like borderline extortion.”

Shinn admires Springfield’s City leadership team because the City has been a constant support for his Springfield-centered restaurant endeavors. Stinn added that, being a local business owner in Springfield, “you feel the city leadership; you’re a partner with the city leadership, which is perfect.”

“There are not that many small business owners who have the mayor’s cell phone numbers – not his work phone; not his home phone; I have his cell phone number. I can call Mayor VanGordon right now. That doesn’t happen,” Shinn said. “Springfield’s a small town, but it ain’t that small. He has a lot of things to do, and if I called him right now, he’d pick up. That’s pretty awesome.”

When considering what makes Shinn the happiest about Cascade Biscuit Kitchen, he explained that he loves seeing people back in his dining room because it was hardly used toward the end of Bartolotti’s time in that facility.

“It’s been exciting to provide hospitality, not just a box of food,” he said. “Part of owning a New York style pizzeria is slinging pizzas in and out the door, right? It’s comfort food; it’s convenience food. But we weren’t providing hospitality, and that’s your connection to the community. That’s the part of the restaurant business I really liked.”

“I loved cooking, but I never liked a restaurant where I was in the back cooking, and I never saw people. I like the hospitality part; that’s why I like counter service restaurants with open kitchens because you get both,” Shinn said. “I loved when I was making some guy’s pie, we’re talking about the football game the night before, talking about measure 110, or talking about whatever was going on – and for the last few months of Bartolotti’s, we just didn’t do that.”

Although Shinn enjoys having his dining room full while Cascade Biscuit Kitchen is open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., he very recently began closing the dining room in the evening to tackle another new feat: combining the Bartolotti’s and Cascade Biscuit Kitchen menus into one kitchen.

“Our pizza really is exceptional. People were upset when they couldn’t get it anymore. We needed a couple months to figure out storage, deliveries, and if we can even manage two separate menus in one kitchen,” Shinn said. “Now that we understand that, we can do it.”

Since Jan. 7, seven days a week from 5-8 p.m., people can order from both the Bartolotti’s and Cascade Biscuit Kitchen menus either through the services GrubHub and DoorDash or by calling in for takeout. While the dining room is closed, the kitchen is open. These hours were selected by Shinn because “during the time (Bartolotti’s was) open in Springfield, 80% of our profits were between those three hours.”

He compared this to a ghost kitchen – a business which operates from a facility which prepares food for delivery directly to customers – and said he has “always thought that idea was cool.”

“If you have a picky family, now you can literally get some fried chicken and a pizza and a cannoli and biscuits all at one place,” Shinn said. “This wasn’t what I was trying to market, and then all of a sudden I was like, you know, some people would really like that angle that they can go to one place and get food from two different restaurants.”



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