Guroux Khalifa had $150 to his name when he set out to serve the best biscuits Kansas City ever tasted, he shared.
“A lot of painstaking work, time, love and passion has been put into creating this amazing product. The people who really understand the value and quality of that product have stuck around and grown over the years, even when we have to close down because of COVID,” said Khalifa, the head chef and founder of District Biskuits.
District Biskuits officially opened its first brick-and-mortar location in December 2022 after years of pop-ups and catering. The restaurant, located in North Kansas City, has been highly anticipated, Khalifa said — noting that some of his customers have been around since he started District Biskuits in 2017 as a concept within Lutfi’s Fried Fish on 63rd Street.
“We had a soft opening in November, and there was nothing soft about it,” Khalifa said, laughing. “We had a line out the door and wrapped around the parking lot. The response from the community has been amazing. They’ve really embraced us.”
‘Why you mad though?’
Before the success of opening a new restaurant, Khalifa was a culinary graduate passionate about cooking and sharing food with others. He worked in restaurants across Kansas City before quickly realizing that he wanted to be his own boss, he shared.
“I started out as a private chef,” Khalifa said, noting that his time at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta prepared him as a classically-trained chef. “It was difficult because it was only me and my services. I was spread so thin, and there were no opportunities to scale.”
Feeling extreme burnout, Khalifa took a trip to the Dominican Republic. When he came back to the States, he had his epiphany: do something simple, he said.
“My mother would make biscuits growing up, and I’ve taken her process and tweaked it over the past 15 years,” Khalifa said. “… I struck a deal with [Lutfi’s Fried Fish] to operate during the hours that they weren’t open. They opened around 11 o’clock, so I served my chicken biscuits from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.”
Business for District Biskuits in the beginning was extremely slow. Bored in an empty restaurant, Khalifa called into Hot 103 Jamz! to encourage the hosts to try his chicken biscuit sandwiches.
“They had a segment called ‘Why you mad though?’ and I said I was mad because you guys haven’t come and tried these chicken biscuits,” Khalifa recalled. “We were just having a conversation, and afterwards I didn’t think much about it. The next day, a flood of people started coming in.”
District Biskuits went from three customers a day, to 15, to 35, to 50 to a couple hundred customers on the weekends, Khalifa said.
“In a matter of two months, I would have a line wrapped around the building,” he said. “I had to start closing earlier because I was bleeding into the restaurant’s opening time.”
When Khalifa started popping up with District Biskuits, his focus was primarily on not letting himself walk away from the business, he recalled.
“Early on in my career, I had an issue with not following through when things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to,” Khalifa admitted. “With this particular concept, I told myself that I was not going to quit. Even if I only served one person a day, I was going to push forward. I am not going to stop.”
Moving to North Kansas City
It was clear to Khalifa that there was a strong demand for him to open a restaurant of his own.
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the food and service industry in 2020, he closed the Lutfi’s Fried Fish pop-up location to focus on catering, other pop-ups and consulting for restaurants.
“That’s how I stayed afloat,” Khalifa said. “This location in North KC became available to me because a friend of mine gave me a call and said that the business he had opened here wasn’t working out. I talked with some of my mentors, and we decided on the spot in November 2021.”
District Biskuits’ colorful location includes both indoor and outdoor seating. Khalifa envisions the space as a place where the community can come together for good food, good music and good drinks, he said, teasing that a cocktail menu is coming soon.
“We have a liquor license, so we will be offering brunch style-cocktails; we also have milkshakes and juices on our beverage menu,” Khalifa noted. “We’re putting a few more tables on our patio and installing our shade sails, lighting and music. We plan to host day parties on the weekends. It’ll be a nice, vibrant environment for people to have a good time.”
When customers walk into District Biskuits, they are greeted with the tagline “crafted for the culture.”
“It means that this business has been crafted for the culture of Black people, melanated people,” Khalifa explained. “It centers itself around the culture of Kansas City and what it means to be a part of this city.”
From partnering with Black-owned businesses to naming the menu items after iconic Kansas City landmarks and business, Khalifa is passionate about uplifting and celebrating his fellow entrepreneurs, he said.
“If we all help each other, we can win a lot faster,” Khalifa said. “Why rely on outside sources to build up our community when we have so many here?”
The coffee served at District Biskuits is Black Drip Coffee — a local, Black-owned coffee brand. The hot honey sauce on “The Charlie Hustle” sandwich is from Kansas City’s Mother Clucker, and the freshly ground chicken sausage is from Wiener Kitchen in Overland Park.
The most popular menu item at District Biskuits is “The Wonder,” Khalifa’s staple chicken biscuit breakfast sandwich named after the historic Wonder Bread building on Troost Ave.
But don’t ask him to pick his favorite menu item.
“People ask me that all the time, but it’s like choosing your favorite kid — you can’t!” Khalifa said, smiling. “The Wonder is our best seller. The Charlie Hustle sandwich we just introduced has become super popular. People love The Crown, which is our double smash burger. OK, if I had to choose, my personal favorite is the DB Hash; I add a little drizzle of hot honey on the top to give it a kick. Just be sure to come hungry.”
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