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APRIL 2015 | DINING PICK
by Karen Spezia
Southern charm meets delicious flavors in this new downtown eatery.
When I first laid eyes on Fixe, downtown’s new Southern restaurant, it was love at first sight. My heart raced as I passed the rocking chairs on its porch-like entrance. I swooned when I entered its labyrinth of rustically elegant dining rooms. And I got the vapors when I saw its bar: a substantial mesquite beauty inviting me to belly up, grab a stool, and linger—perhaps even dine. I sensed I was in a place for grown-ups who liked to have fun.
Located in the lobby of the sleek new IBC Bank Tower, Fixe looks and feels terrific. But like many love affairs, my passion slightly waned when it was time to get serious. The menu perplexed me, but the friendly, polished staff quickly intervened and helped me find my way. Billing itself as "progressive southern," Fixe serves modern Louisiana cuisine with a dash of Dixie. Run by the team who founded the über-successful Eddie V’s, Fixe is a class act. Its bar is my new downtown favorite, and I suggest starting or ending (or both!) your meal with one of its top-notch cocktails. (The wine and beer selection is almost as impressive.)
If you order nothing else at Fixe, order the biscuits. They are to die for. Listed as an appetizer "snack", they come three to an order and any leftover should be wrapped-up, taken home, and eaten for breakfast the next day. Piping hot, they’re served with two sides for slathering: sweet homemade preserves and a savory n'duja sausage spread. Both are delicious, but I recommend getting a side of butter and keeping it simple. Other starters include crunchy sweet tea pickles, a tangy assortment of pickled veggies, plus upscale Southern stalwarts like deviled eggs and smoked fish.
Small plates include boudin sausage with chowchow and onion crackers and beef tartare topped with crispy oysters. Grits take center stage with three seasonal offerings: one with meat, one with seafood, and one with veggies. For entrees, the pork shoulder is tender and moist, surrounded by potlikker pinto beans, mustard greens and a jalapeño-kale emulsion.
If you like dark meat, go with the buttermilk-battered fried chicken. There’s also duck breast with black-eyed pea cassoulet and veal brisket with sweet potato, marshmallow, foie gras and pecans. For seafood, decadent temptations include lobster and crawfish potpie and grouper topped with silky lardo. Somewhat lighter are the trout and blackened red snapper. Dessert means creative upscale versions of cheesecake, sweet potato pie, and lemon cake.
Like any complicated relationship, I have mixed emotions about Fixe. I love its welcoming space, professional staff, tasty food and fabulous bar. On the other hand, I wish it had more accessible options for sharing and lighter eating. But those are minor quibbles I know its veteran team will rectify. Southern restaurants are popping up all over Austin, and I’ll visit most of them. But I have a hunch I’ll be going steady with Fixe for a nice, long time.