by Natalie Berry
Photography by Maddy Murray
Opening just weeks ago in the much-coveted Drag spot previously held by Fuzzy’s Tacos, Rise Biscuits and Donuts is shaking up the UT food scene. The fast-casual breakfast and lunch joint began in Durham, NC in 2012 and currently boasts 17 franchise location across the southeastern U.S. This is only its second foray into the competitive Texas food landscape. However, store owner, Kapil Rajurkar, felt confident that Rise would see success with UT students. His co-owner, Shashin Desai, already owned two locations in North Carolina, so they weren’t unfamiliar with the allure of Rise.
“I am local to Austin and felt Austin is a great foodie town and would appreciate good food,” Rajurkar said. “We picked the UT Austin area as the CEO, Tom Ferguson, is a UT Austin grad and shared his passion [for food]. He will be at the store the next few months.”
Rise’s primary food offerings focus on donuts and biscuit sandwiches. While there is competition in the area from Dunkin’ Donuts, Ken’s Donuts, and Whataburger, Rise manages to stand its own. Its main draw is quality, unique food at reasonable prices.
“We focus a great deal on our quality and the ingredients we use,” Rajurkar said. “We truly believe in ‘if you won’t serve it to your mom, don’t serve it to a customer.’ Our biscuits are freshly made and the sandwiches can be either had with our biscuit or a potato roll.”
Rise offers catering and online ordering. Since opening, they’ve experienced a steady stream of foot traffic, and they plan to be open all summer long at regular hours. Incidentally, if you’re looking for a summer job, Manager Jessica Brockman says she’s hiring for all positions.
“The first couple of weeks have gone by well and we are really appreciative of the positive feedback and welcome from people,” Rajurkar said.
Shortly after the store opening, I was able to sample a wide variety of the most popular and unique products offered at Rise. I had to see for myself what the hype was all about — after all, the “best dang biscuits around” is a lofty claim.
Starting off, I tried two different biscuit sandwiches, the Huevos Rancheros Biscuit Sandwich ($4.95) and the Savory Buffalo Biscuit Sandwich ($5.75). It’s true what they say: the biscuits are king. Light, fluffy, salty, flavorful — they definitely satisfied. I appreciated the interesting sandwich flavors, too, although the Huevos Rancheros didn’t quite make the cut. The combo of black bean, avocado, and pico flavors felt a bit wrong in biscuit form and left me yearning for a tortilla. However, the Savory Buffalo impressed me quite a bit. The addition of the bleu cheese was a nice contrast to the buffalo chicken, and it felt like a hearty meal with a decent amount of protein.
Moving on, I tried the Righteous Chicken Strip meal ($5.95) which came with three chicken strips and a biscuit. This was a well-done take on a pretty standard meal. If you’re looking for something hearty, classic, and flavorful, this is for you. Personally, I’d still probably go for the Savory Buffalo Biscuit because of the unique yet cohesive flavors.
Lastly, I was able to sample a few of their donuts, which temptingly smile at you from a glass display as you wait in line. The Crème brûlée, Cronut, and Chocolate Chocolate Cake all come in somewhere between $1.50 and $3.00. While this is definitely higher than some of the more mom-and-pop or corporate shops in the area, the quirky flavors definitely make it worth the extra buck.
The Chocolate Chocolate Cake was a lot, even for this chocoholic. The intense taste was addicting, and the cake portion surprisingly moist (we all know cake donuts have reputations for being dry!), but it was too much to handle. Along the same lines, the Crème brûlée impressed me with its gorgeous surface that closely resembled the dessert of the same name, but its sweetness was too overwhelming for the morning hours. They are both definitely more of a dessert than a breakfast food. Maybe try these around 1 p.m. when you just got out of class and you’re in the mood to treat yo’self?
That being said, I loved the Cronut. The flaky body was filled with a light creme and glazed with raspberry. I appreciated the contrast between the sweet center and tarter, fruity topping. The Cronut proved to be just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.
One of the main critiques I — and others — have about Rise is the lack of variety when it comes to coffee. The drip coffee offered was nothing too special. Plus, when appealing to such a caffeine-crazed crowd as UT students it seems like an oversight not to offer more options. That being said, Manager Jessica Brockman says that Rise does plan to implement a new menu structure geared toward UT students, and coffee may very well be a part of that (at least it should be).
Although I left the restaurant feeling like I needed a three-hour carb nap, I’d say Rise is worth a visit. This is the kind of joint you’d hit up when you’re running late for class, want to meet a friend for a quick snack, or need a carb-y pick-me-up after a bad day. It’s enticing. It’s reliable. It’s relatively affordable — even on a college student budget.
The Guadalupe location is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. all days of the week. Hop in and grab a donut to lighten your finals week mood! •
Natalie Berry is a third year advertising major from Cypress, Texas. This is her third semester with Spark and her second semester on the blog team, but she’s also worked as a stylist and a layout designer. In her spare time, she practices racquetball, attempts to make no-sugar-added baked goods, and obsesses over the photos on Dogspotting.