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Hot pastries from new mini Biscuit jam Midtown sidewalks

Let's cut to the chase: At Flying Biscuit Cafe's new Midtown branch, the eponymous pastries are high, wide and then some -- freshly baked, comfortingly large and as creamy-delicious as the incomparable beauties created at the Candler Park mother house. Substantial and solid but not heavy, with good crumb and attractive brown-gold crowns, the biscuits accompany various breakfast, brunch and all-day diner items. Regular and whole-wheat versions are served with soft spread and cranberry-apple butter. Fillings such as sausage, egg and cheese can be added. Filled and unfilled, biscuits can also be bought and taken away.

The Midtown menu differs little from the quirky list that helped define Candler Park's renaissance. And why should it? The original Biscuit's package of organic breakfast foods, PC animal proteins, sassy salads, homey desserts and celebrity backing is approachable yet highly distinctive. The stylish Mex-American accent with which some dishes are blessed -- fried eggs on black bean cakes with tomatillo salsa, for instance -- adds a slightly exotic note to what is otherwise a pretty standard health-food lineup.

Can the Midtown fledgling compete with established, high-volume neighbors such as Zocalo, Cha Gio, Nickiemoto's and Einstein's? Yes, when the food is as good as the crab cake sandwich special offered last week ($8.95). Served on an oversized whole-wheat bun with Asian mayo, lettuce and tomato, the flavors of crab, spice and greenery blended perfectly. Still, Flying Biscuit is almost defined by inconsistency, and this plate was far from ideal. A tasteless, throwaway side salad consisting of yellow peppers, broccoli and snow peas added little except color and expense.

With founding chef April Moon living elsewhere, variations in signature dishes are to be expected. Still, as many misses as hits turned up. Egg-ceptional eggs -- the egg and tomatillo breakfast entree mentioned above -- combined perfectly fried eggs with black bean cakes that tasted muddy rather than healthful ($6.50). Turkey meatloaf in sandwich form landed on my stomach like a quart of lard ($7.25). A soggy black bean quesadilla was only marginally less heavy ($6.50).

A "3B" chicken sandwich (blue cheese, basil and turkey bacon) arrived in slightly over-the-top condition ($7.95). Though the grilled chicken breast was moist, the greenery fresh, the bacon greaseless and the slathered tamari aioli a nice touch, the pungent cheese was piled on with such generosity that it swamped the other flavors. No doubt, however, some folks would appreciate the dairy bounty. The salad of organic field greens was far tastier than the vegetable hodgepodge beside the crab cake.

Sides, starters and desserts are highly variable. Organic white corn grits actually taste like corn; they're as good as can be found locally ($1.95). A potato and leek soup is ordinary as newsprint ($2.50). Chocolate cheesecake is better than that, though overpriced for the small slice ($4.95). Coffee ("locally roasted," according to the menu) is real, real good. Soft drinks are refilled often.

Takeout biscuits could be your best bet, especially during rush hours. The Piedmont-at-Tenth slot is tiny. With a dozen closely packed tables and counter space for eight, it feels smaller than a Waffle House. By comparison, the original Candler Park storefront is second cousin to the Georgia Dome. Although a line out the door is said to be a restaurant's best advertisement, this situation could backfire. At busy times, with more hungry people waiting for tables than being served, customer dissatisfaction can build up fast. It may be that some sort of adjustment -- taking over the moribund Tenth and Myrtle franchise? -- can be effected before food rage sets in and people start breaking up the furniture.

Servers do better than cope. They dance among tables, undulating their knees and hips in tight spaces and bearing up their burdens with the grace and fervor of Martha Graham disciples. They smile and offer light conversation, yet go about the work with becoming seriousness. They place food before their customers as if offering first-born sons to the Goddess. What a show.

Imagine what they might accomplish if they had more room to work with.

Contact Elliott Mackle at 404-614-2514 or Elliott.mackle@creativeloafing.com

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