Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dixie Crossroads: Southern seafood flavors with a vivid past

Mr. Thompson and his sewing machine belt. That’s how Dixie Crossroads came to be. Or was it a pair of scissors? As I sat in for a quick interview with Dawna Thorstad, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Dixie Crossroads, I was quickly drawn into stories of all-you-can-eat rock shrimp for $5 and campaigning for environmental protection of rock shrimp spawning grounds to Lorilee Thompson’s (the present owner) leonine fishing adventures. All I could ask to myself was why has this place not come to my attention sooner? And what’s this rock shrimp hoopla all about?

All I figured was rock shrimp took off in a big way once the shell was cracked and the gold inside revealed it’s deliciousness. And old Mr. Thompson had figured out just how reap the reward. Initially, a pair of scissors split the bugger in half… soon, a sewing machine belt was brought in to peel through thousands of them.

God alone knows I hate driving. But I ventured out with a fistful of expressway toll change and a dismal-looking Mapquest print-out to a place I’ve only been once before: Titusville. But yours truly made it out there- with all my ten fingers and a healthy appetite. To my surprise, this place is big! I sat in a booth, quietly looking over the ‘moat’ filled with swarms of Tilapia when the server landed some corn fritters dusted with sugar on the table (complimentary). It was a good way to start, but to make double sure, I also ordered a Dixie Rum Runner ($6). Both were sweet with the latter easing my post-driving tension and the former setting my taste buds free. I started to browse the menu for some choices, but what caught my eye was one of the specials they were running- BBQ shrimp ($9). I still wanted to try the rock shrimp so I ordered them with classic southern grits ($11).

When the server came back, she offered an absurd BIB. However, my hesitancy over it quickly evaporated when the plate arrived. Four large shrimp atop a sumptuous ochre-colored gravy with a ridiculously addictive smell that wafted off them was nothing short of SUBLIME. In true Louisiana-style, these barbecue shrimp were shell-on. A highly fragrant buttery sauce of garlic, Cajun spices, and herbs were sopped up with a (smartly accompanied) piece of buttered toast. The sauce was tangy and oily. The oiliness would have been a good thing if the toast wasn’t oily as well. However, the main part of the dish was masterfully cooked and jolted my brain into a Southern state of mind. The best part of this entire dish was to suck on the SHRIMP HEADS to grasp even more complexity of bayou cuisine. TMI? GET OVER IT AND GIVE IT A SHOT. Live a little. I highly recommend it :)

After almost mouth-vacuuming the dish clean, the (rock) shrimp-n-grits arrived within moments. Alas, I wish I hadn’t tweaked this dish by substituting rock shrimp for regular shrimp. They were a little tough and didn’t showcase the entire flavor profile well with the grits. I must say that rock shrimp don’t taste like other shrimp do (overcooked or not). They actually have a blend of different crustacean tones that in my mind form a vague blend of shrimp and lobster tastes combined. The grits on the other hand were great. Buttery, yet flavorful, the grits simply glided down my throat as though they were on a slip-and-slide. Then, a squirt of dopamine in my brain consciously reminded me of how addicting Southern food can be especially when it’s done right.

IN A NUTSHELL: A vivid historical restaurant with a great range of seafood items on the menu (land lovers don’t be afraid- there’s plenty for you guys as well). Remember to pay homage to the rock shrimp when you get here and congratulate Lorilee on her father’s foresight for what a sewing machine belt can REALLY be used for. Did I mention they have a full bar? And modest price-points for lunch and dinner? The restaurant has a hodge-podge of décor that changes from room to room (it’s a big place) which only indicates it’s long history and unique Titusville charm. On your way out, make sure to score a few cups of fish feed for the hungry tilapia right outside. And yes, they are only kept as pets- never to land in your stomach.
Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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