Restaurant Week in the Twin Cities has come and gone, leaving new restaurant discoveries and full stomachs in its wake. The week-long event, which stretched from October 16 through October 21, was hosted by Mpls St. Paul magazine and featured fixed price menus at many of the top Twin Cities restaurants. Hundreds of restaurants throughout Minneapolis, Saint Paul and the surrounding suburbs participated in this annual event which has been a highlight of the food-enthusiast scene since its inception in 2007.
For my first foray into Restaurant Week, I chose to go to Dixie’s on Grand. Dixie’s has been in the same location on Grand Avenue for the past 30 years, and shares a building with two other restaurants: Emmett’s Public House and Saji-Ya. Headed by Chef Erin Legé, a Louisiana born chef, Dixie’s focus is on Southern comfort food and warm hospitality.
Although we were afraid that we would be turned away without a reservation, Dixie’s was surprisingly empty on a Thursday at 6 p.m. The dining area was vast with large expanses of walls dedicated to backlit whiskey bottles. We were quickly seated and provided with both the standard menu and the Restaurant Week menu.
The Restaurant Week menu consisted of a $20 fixed price, three course dinner. For an appetizer, one could choose between any of the three soups offered (Louisiana gumbo, corn and crab bisque or the soup of the day) or a house salad. For the main course the options consisted of a blackened catfish filet served with red beans and rice, or fried chicken, cheddar grits and collard greens. The final course was a piece of key lime pie.
Luckily for me and my friend, the entrées on the fixed price menu had been what we were considering on the regular menu, so we both chose to do the Restaurant Week menu. The soups were stellar across the board. I had the Louisiana gumbo, which according to Dixie’s website, won Chef Legé a gold medal in the 2008 Louisiana Cook-Off. The gumbo was thick with chicken, andouille and okra ($6 cup/ $10 bowl on the regular menu). It came with a small cup of deviled egg potato salad and a portion of french bread. It was flavorful and hearty and would make a fantastic meal in its own right.
My dinner partner started off her meal with the corn and crab bisque ($6 cup / $10 bowl on the regular menu). The sherry-cream base was rich and there was a substantial amount of crab and fresh corn in the small portion. Oyster crackers accompanied the steaming cup of soup.
For our entrées, both of us ordered the fried chicken, cheddar grits and collard greens ($17 for fried chicken and grits / $7 for cheddar grits on the regular menu). The dishes came surprisingly quickly and consisted of one chicken breast and two wings. The chicken was succulent and the breading was well spiced and crispy. Unfortunately, the chicken was already room temperature by the time it got to us, which was bizarre considering how fast we had gotten it.
The cheddar grits and the collard greens each came in their own bowl on the side. The cheddar grits were steaming hot and had a great, creamy consistency. The collard greens came soaked in a pool of what seemed to be meat broth. While they were well cooked, the broth was far too salty, which made them quite overwhelming overall.
The key lime pie, which was not listed on the regular menu, was the perfect end to the meal. It was tangy and sweet and the crust was thick and not too crumbly.
For the Restaurant Week price, our meal was worthwhile. The regular menu portions are significantly larger than those on the Restaurant Week menu. Although the regular menu is quite a bit more expensive, if you are hankering for a larger portion of fried chicken, gumbo or grits, check it out. While the service was the most attentive I have ever experienced — we were in and out of Dixie’s, having eaten three full courses, in exactly an hour — the food was a little too room temperature and salty for my liking. This being the case, I personally would be hesitant before going back without the lure of the subsidized menu. But if you are looking for a substantial meal, fast service and proximity to Macalester, Dixie’s on Grand is as good a choice as any.
Dixie’s on Grand is located at 695 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul, and can be accessed by the 63.