Birthday parties are one of the many celebrations that I enjoy the most. Ever since I was younger I enjoyed them. The games, the cake, hanging out with friends, the take home baggies with candies and other prizes inside; what’s not to enjoy about them? As we all get older and busier with our schedules, it seems to me that these celebrations tend to get a lot shorter and a lot more toned down. Dinner at a restaurant becomes the staple for anyone over the age of 25.
Last Friday was such occasion. Around 3 p.m. I received a text from my wife,she asked if we were available to go out with our friends Johanna and her husband Jason, since it was his birthday, he chose the place. The place he was a personal favorite of his, described on Google and Yelp as a “southern style seafood” restaurant called Dixie Crossroads in Titusville. You read that right, Titusville, as in travel for an hour to the east coast of Florida just to eat. Lucky for them they are good friends,if not, I would have stayed home and cooked that night.
After further research of the place, some word of mouth from a coworker, and Jason’s prior experience, the trip was on. We decided on a time on which to meet at the restaurant that way after dinner we would have time to drive down a few blocks to go the beach and hang out some more. Once the coordinates were set and our watches synchronized, away we went. Upon arriving, the giant shrimp holding a neon green arrow next to their sign made the location easy to spot. Parking was scarce but that can be expected about a popular local restaurant on a Friday night. Many patrons were either sitting outside the restaurant waiting to go in. Holding their pagers they sat, or stood and conversed with one another. Dixie Crossroads also has a separate building that houses their bar called the Pelican, which boasted having full bar and full menu with no wait.
When we entered the restaurant, our friends were already there waiting and no sooner that we said our hellos; we were paged by the host and led to our table. As we walked to our table I noticed the décor. The walls had varied from a sea foam green painted wall to wood panel look, making it feel like you were ready to set sail on a fishing charter. Very brightly lit on the inside, a stark contrast from the dim look of the outside outside, which greeted you with the passing of a portion of the Intercoastal waterway underneath it’s bridge/walkway to the restaurant. Other decorations on the wall were mounted fish of all kinds, plaques from little league teams thanking the owners for their sponsorship, pace program or NASA memorabilia, since the east coast of Florida is also called the “Space Coast”, and artwork from local artists currently for sale. Something else I noticed was the constant buzzing from patrons having conversations over dinner, the random laughter or guffaw, or sounds of glee when neighbor saw neighbor and walked to each other’s table to talk and catch up.
Once seated, briefly after that our server came and introduced herself and asked for our drink orders. She was friendly, attentive, with a smile as big as the Cheshire cat from Wonderland, professional, hospitable, and knowledgeable about the menu which if I were to use an adjective to describe it, it would be extensive. The menu, if you were to include the specialty drink menu, was four pages long. It covered every item that could be available, from appetizers to a small corner that housed the chicken or steak options. You could tell that seafood is king here.
Along with the drinks, most restaurants also bring a good helping of bread, or some sort of starch to entertain the stomachs of the hungry masses while they wait; Dixie Crossroads did not do that, instead, a more than generous helping of corn fritters landed at our table. This fried balls of dough dusted with a generous helping of powder sugar felt like an appetizer and dessert at the same time. The sweetness from the powder sugar complemented the warm yet savory dough, which made it very hard to not just eat a small tray or two of these wonderful culinary creations.
Whenever I visit a restaurant for the first time, I read and study the menu like an ancient manuscript and look for plates specific for the restaurant that I don’t find back home. Looking at the appetizer section, the calamari always grabs my attention, mainly because this dish is my favorite. The firmness of the breading mixed with the spices and the soft yet chewy texture of the inside always gets my vote, especially if it includes tentacles. This evening I chose the crab cake. Even though Florida is not known or famous for crab cake as Maryland is, I decided to try since I knew that the crab used in this recipe would be fresh because of the restaurant being so close to the beach and fish markets. When the crab cake was placed in front of me, the aroma of freshness, a recognizable saltiness in the air that you can only get when you visit the beach, was the first thing I noticed. The crab cake was about the size of a tea saucer and it laid on top of a small amount of remoulade. In my opinion it was not needed, commonly used as a flavor helper to some seafood dishes, the same way ketchup is to French fries or eggs (don’t judge me). The fiber of the crab meat was present and in full display underneath the breading, accompanied by the salty aftertaste that comes notorious with fresh seafood.
As an entree, my wife and I order a platter called the “Dixie Spectacular” to share. It included a Maine lobster, a dozen Rock Shrimp (more than one person advised me to ask for these), a quarter pound of scallops and a half a pound of crab legs. One thing we did notice as a table was that our entrees was taking a rather long time to get to us, but the restaurant was rather busy, and we were enjoying the company and conversation, so we never thought to ask our server. Alas, the food arrived; everything looked colorful and appetizing, until I grabbed my first rock shrimp. The shrimp were cold, so was the lobster, and the rest of the plate. No!!! At this moment we flagged our server and made her aware of this. Immediately without even asking she retrieved the plates and apologized for this great error. A few moments later she came back with our food, this time the steam that came off the food was visible creating a sort of Pavlovian effect on our taste buds.
Everything was as delectable as we imagined. All the items were cooked to the right specifications as found on cookbooks and that is no easy task especially with scallops. Even though claw crackers were provided, they were not needed. The shells for the lobster and the crab were tender enough that with some pressure from our hands the shells separated with ease in order to expose the meat that was on the inside, right before being submerged in a small pool of melted butter.
When our bill arrived we were all surprised that our bill was expunged. due to the great error committed by the kitchen earlier on by putting out cold food. The restaurant manager in his infinite wisdom decided to not charge or “comp”our entree as well as our dessert. When speaking to said manager, in order to thank him for such a generous act, we found out the reason of such a busy night at the restaurant. Dixie Crossroads was offering a free meal to any first responders, firefighters, police officers, etc., because of their hard work during the passing of Hurricane Irma a few weeks ago. Such a generous act and great commitment to the community is why Dixie Crossroads is an experience worth repeating, from service that makes you feel like one of the family, to the food that satisfies cravings and commemorates special occasions such as Jason’s birthday.