Nathan Webster, Roanoke native and owner of the next-door Village Grill, turned to his staff, friends and memories of his grandfather to establish his “back in the day” Scratch Biscuit Company.
What happens when a hometown boy with a hometown heart makes his living by working, imagining and investing in hometown folks?
Scratch Biscuit Company.
Nathan Webster, a native of Southwest Roanoke County and self-proclaimed challenge lover, never thought he’d wind up in the food world. From a young age, Webster knew he wanted to be a business owner but wasn’t sure of what variety. He was working in the real estate market and doing appraisals when, in 2008 an opportunity to purchase The Village Grill in Grandin Village presented itself. Webster saw the opportunity as a new challenge and just like that, he became a Roanoke restaurateur.
Webster calls The Village Grill his “crash course into restauranting.” He wrapped himself into the kitchen side as much as he could, embracing the extreme honest feedback on his food.
“You don’t know the satisfaction of success if you haven’t failed first,” says Webster, his tall frame and steady demeanor giving extra heft to the plain wisdom he speaks.
What began as a challenge quickly turned into a love for Grandin Village and desire to continue investing himself into Roanoke’s food culture. In 2013, Webster established The Lick BBQ & Company, a food truck and catering service specializing in wood-smoked barbecue and homemade sides. Then in 2015, when offered the opportunity to purchase the The Village Grill building as well as the smallish building next door, Webster was ready. He’d had a long-time vision for the little place, but knew he couldn’t make it go without his staff. Before putting in an offer for both buildings, Webster pulled his management together and pitched the idea of opening a breakfast spot. He knew it could be great, but he also knew he couldn’t do it unless his people were on board. There was no hesitation. They were in.
“We didn’t really have a plan [with Scratch],” admits Webster, shrugging his shoulders and leaning back in one of Scratch’s metal chairs. “I knew I wanted everything from scratch. I knew I wanted it to be as local as possible. We wanted it to be a down home country place…a place that when people walked in, they felt warm.”
When Webster says “everything” he truly means everything. Along with several close friends, Webster spent the next eight months gutting, then rebuilding the space, using all locally sourced woods and doing the work themselves.
“All the wood comes from these mountains,” explains Webster, sitting up and pointing around him. Walnuts, poplars, cherries, oaks—every log was specially chosen and transformed by Webster and his buddies into the walls, counters, tables and benches of Scratch.
And that is just the beginning. The farm tools gracing Scratch’s walls belonged to Webster’s grandfather, who passed away during the building of Scratch. Webster loves having this daily reminder of his grandfather, as well as giving customers the opportunity to recognize and appreciate the tools from yesteryear.
But, of course, Scratch is about breakfast—from scratch. The peanut butter, jams, spreads and pimento cheese are all made fresh in-house. The apples are peeled and cooked down every day for the Fried Apple Biscuit. The coffee—Rooster Scratch—is roasted on site and original to Scratch Biscuit Company. The meats used in items like the The Cowboy Crippler or The Hans and Franz are wood smoked outside in The Lick BBQ smokers.
Even the recipes in Scratch’s recipe book—down to the final ingredients for the biscuits and jams—are original creations from hours of collaboration between Webster and his kitchen management.