Over the past year Southern cuisine has made a itself a presence in San Francisco with the opening of any number of barbecue and rib joints and homestyle cooking spots that aren't so much Southern cooking as they are California interpretations of home grown dishes. Dixie down in the Presidio is one of those such places that purports to do the local organic thing with Southern food by way of New Orleans and North Florida. Me and the SO were gallivanting around the Marina in an urban sea foraging class and though since we were in the neighborhood why not try it out.
The place is huge. You are greeted with a large bar and bar area for seating when you walk in and they have a wine room that is probably the size of a studio in town. We didn't have reservations and they were booked for the night but luckily you can get the full menu at the bar so we grabbed a stool and started perusing the menu. While we were still deciding they brought out a free snack, in lieu of bread.
It was a cold black-eyed pea salsa relish and a side of whole grain crackers. We liked this snack a lot. It was bright and crisp with purple onion, cilantro, a hint of lime, some red pepper pieces--literally a pea salsa. We went through two bowls before stopping so we wouldn't fill up before the appetizers even came.
Smoked cod beignets with remoulade dipping sauce and cheddar scallion hush puppies. The cod beignets were an interesting idea that I just did not like. They were hot and crispy out of the fryer but they were like little puffs of mush and my taste buds were totally turned off. It was part texture and taste for me on these though the SO really liked them and was happy I didn't eat more than one. The hushpuppies were sadly, on the dense and dry side. I couldn't taste the cheddar or scallion and it didn't help that in addition to the grated parmesan on top they also drizzled honey over them. Neither of us liked this particularly much and didn't finish them. I don't think butter could even have saved them. Though it does amaze me that at home you get an endless basket of hushpuppies with many meals and they are hot, crispy and soft on the inside yet out here they treat them as some kind of delicacy yet no one has done anywhere near a decent job of making it worth a $7 appetizer. For my main dish I decided to go with somewhat of a house specialty, the chicken and dumplings.
Yeah, I know what you are thinking, where are the dumplings and what's that brown stuff? I thought the same thing when I saw the dish but figured it's the chef's twist on traditional and why not just dig in. The chicken was done nicely, tender, moist and with a little bit of crisp skin still on the outside. (It reminded me of that chicken dish I had at Rich Table) The carrots were also done well somewhere between crisp and soft. The dumpling, well, that was another story. It looked like a dim sum ball but was in fact a boiled ball of flour and ricotta. It was very dense and sticky and not so much a dumpling but more of a matzo ball. Fortunately there was plenty of brown chicken gravy to help get these down but I was not a fan. Considering this was a $25 dish I'm gonna flat out say skip it. The value, cost, flavor, taste ratio on this just doesn't make it worth it. Fortunately there's always dessert.
Here's where Dixie became a winner for me. Salted caramel pecan pie with malted vanilla ice cream and humming bird cake with black walnuts, slow roasted pineapple, caramelized bananas, cream cheese icing and served with ginger ice cream. Wow, both of these were delicious. The small pecan pie with (more) salty and sweet which when well with the creaminess of the homemade vanilla ice cream. Sometimes pecan pies can be too rich with all the brown sugar but this was not over flowing with the filling that can give folks a sweet-toothache and adding the salted caramel is a great touch. The cake was also very tasty. I think you can't go wrong with bananas, pineapple and cream cheese icing. The cake was moist, dense and light all at the same time. I didn't care so much for the ginger ice cream though which again was fine with the SO as he really liked it. Both of these desserts were a good example of Southern cuisine that given a California twist without totally turning it into a completely different dish (yes I'm looking at you chicken and dumplings!).
I'd say skip the entrees and just go belly up to the bar for drinks, appetizers (if you can find one you like) and dessert and you'll be glad you made the trip out to the Presidio. The bartenders are also cute and that always a plus.