AFTER ALL THE years you and I have been dining together, I think it’s time you met my mom.
On a recent Saturday, my wife, Mrs. Gourmet, was tending to some important business with her family, so I needed to make alternate plans for a review.
A quick look at the calendar reminded me that Momma Gourmet’s birthday was coming up (her 86th, but don’t tell her I told you), so I decided to invite her out to lunch. To make the event even more festive, I invited her beloved grandson, The Bottomless Pit (TBP), and his Girlfriend to tag along.
I had heard about Dixie Blues, a new Southern-themed restaurant that opened late last year in the space formerly occupied by the Tilted Kilt, the tartaned-up Hooters knockoff that TBP visited once and swore he would never go back.
I liked the idea of taking Momma G to a place that serves Southern food, since she has an Alabama branch in her family tree. She’s not especially adventurous as a cook or diner, though, so the chance to expose her to some foods she might have a hereditary connection to seemed kind of appealing.
Dixie Blues is tucked out of sight in the rear building of the Green Falls Marketplace plaza about a half-mile west of the Everett Turnpike’s Exit 7. You enter a big, airy L-shape space with high- and low-top tables straight ahead and the bar to the right. The tables themselves are conversation pieces, with each top covered by a enlargement of a vintage Southern-themed photo.
The menu is a sampler of cuisines from around the South — a little down home, a little New Orleans, a little barbecue. There are appetizers, po’boys, fried seafood, burgers and sandwiches, and there were enough vegetarian options to satisfy the Girlfriend.
We started with appetizer orders of Fried Pickles ($6.99) and Fried Green Tomatoes ($7.99) to share. The pickles — thick slices, nicely battered and gently fried, were as good as any we’ve had, with an excellent contrast of flavors between the dill pickles and slightly sweet coating. The fried green tomatoes — which the GF recently discovered and fell in love with — were tasty as well, but were much less interesting than the pickles. Both were served with a spicy red-pepper remoulade for dipping.
Given the range of options, Momma G wasn’t sure what to order, but after some discussion (which is to say, as soon as I mentioned I might order it), she decided on one of my favorite Southern dishes — Shrimp & Grits ($22.99).
The grits were creamy and buttery, topped with a pile of Creole green beans and a half-dozen large, spicy grilled shrimp (tails on).
Shortly after biting into the shrimp, Momma G’s nose started running, beads of sweat appeared on her forehead, and she asked if I was going to drink the rest of my water. Then she asked if TBP was going to drink his. Pretty much the reaction you’d expect from someone who never eats anything spicier than rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. I doubt she would order it again, but I know I would.
As for me, I ordered Braised Short Rib ($25.99), another favorite of mine. The beef was boneless, tender and full of flavor, though it was a bit fattier than I would have liked. It was served with a baked potato (in foil) and more of the Creole green beans, which were laced with red pepper flakes for a visible but still surprising kick.
TBP chose Pulled Pork ($14.99) from the Smoker menu. It came as a huge open-faced sandwich with two sides (he chose mac & cheese and potato salad). TBP’s pit isn’t nearly as bottomless as it once was, and he had to box up half the sandwich to take home.
The Girlfriend opted for the Veggie Burger, which also came with two sides. With a basket of sweet-potato waffle fries and the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle that came with the burger served on the side, her meal was the most colorfully attractive of the lot.
Our server twisted our arms just enough to convince us to order one dessert to share — and we were happy she did. The gooey chocolate mud pie served with vanilla bean ice cream was a treat that, even though we didn’t ask for a candle, was just the ticket for a birthday lunch.
Dixie Blues has an extensive draft beer list (heavy on the local brands), along with several signature cocktails. There’s live music on many weekend evenings.
We were a bit hesitant to try Dixie Blues, based on the mixed early reviews we found online. But it seems like the staff has hit its stride, both in the kitchen and in the front of the house.
Service was pleasant and efficient, despite a bit of a delay in the arrival of our appetizers. The prices seemed a bit high at first glance for a casual restaurant, but the servings were substantial and satisfying, and the food was good. Our tab for four people, including two apps, four entrees, a dessert and a total of six beers, came to just over $146.
We’ll be back when we’re hankering for another taste of Southern cooking. After all, Mrs. G has to check out what got her mother-in-law so heated up.