Don’t expect ‘down home’ at Dixie Girl

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If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it can apply to many things — including restaurants.
Recently, the Hill Diner, a longtime Los Alamos staple closed down. Owner Denise Lane, who opened the Dixie Girl Restaurant late last year, shifted some of the Hill Diner menu items over to the new eatery, but don’t be fooled — the Dixie Girl shares very few similarities with the Hill Diner.
An attempt to visit the Dixie Girl was made a few weeks ago, but despite the sign on the door that said they close at 3 p.m. on Sunday, the door was locked at 2:35 p.m. Recently, however, the visit was successful — of course, it was also around noon.
The Dixie Girl occupies the old Central Avenue Grill location right next door to Starbucks. A menu is on display outside so you can decide if going in is worth it.
Despite the lunch hour, the restaurant was nearly empty, with only a handful of tables occupied. The hostess was pleasant and a table was secured very quickly.
The one-page menu offered a variety of choices from soups and salads to burgers, sandwiches and “blue plate specials” like meatloaf.
Hill Diner items like the New Mexican Dip sandwich and the Texan hamburger have new names, but are available at Dixie Girl — as is the club sandwich. There are a few new offerings as well.
For example, on Sunday, there is a brunch menu from which one may choose French toast, pancakes or breakfast burritos. Unfortunately, the menu didn’t specify whether those items came with sausage, bacon or by themselves.
In fact, the menus aren’t all that informative. For example, nowhere on the menu were drink choices (and prices) listed. If there’s a separate drink menu, it wasn’t provided.
At any rate, the gumbolaya (a combination of jambalaya and gumbo) was ordered, along with a club sandwich and the Texas chili burger. Two Cokes and a Sprite were also ordered. An attempt to order fried pickles was made (someone mentioned they were still on the menu), but the waiter said they did not offer them.
A side of green chile cheese fries with the club sandwich was also attempted, but the waiter said those also were not available as a side.
That was confusing, since they are listed under “sides” on the menu. If they are an appetizer, they should say so. In fact, it did not appear that any appetizers were available, as there were none listed on the menu.
The food took nearly half-an-hour to get to the table, which is a bit perplexing, considering the number of patrons in the restaurant. If the service is slow when they’re not busy, one can only imagine what it’s like when they are.
The sandwich and burger came with a side of homemade shoestring fries. Normally, homemade fries are preferable to the frozen variety, but not in this case.
Perhaps they would have been if they’d have been fried crisp. Instead, each serving was limp, as if they’d been dunked in a vat of grease and not allowed to cook properly. One should not be able to bend a fry in half and have it stay in one piece.
The burger was cooked as ordered (medium-well) and had a nice, charbroiled flavor. The accompanying Texas chili was the same as the Hill Diner offered, so there was no disappointment there. However, unlike the Hill Diner burgers, it was not smothered in the chili, but instead was topped with it.
The club sandwich was piled high with crisp bacon, turkey, ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato and was topped with mayonnaise. The bread was perfectly toasted and like the Hill Diner clubs, it was fantastic.
The gumbolaya, on the other hand, was a bit of an anomaly, but that can be attributed to the fact that it was a combination of two dishes.
It was served in a huge bowl and had andouille sausage, shrimp, okra and scallops atop a bed of rice.
A cornbread muffin accompanied it. It looked and smelled delicious, but one taste was enough to signal trouble. The broth, though it had potential, was bland for a dish of this caliber.
The spicy kick that one expects from Cajun food was absent. The sausage was good, but the shrimp had a fishy taste.
The scallops looked good and had a nice Cajun seasoning on them, but they seemed almost overcooked. They appeared to have been seared with the seasoning, then placed in the gumbolaya.
The cornbread muffin went practically untouched by someone who loves cornbread, so that should be an indication of its quality — it was dry.
Those visiting the eatery hoping to find a diner-type atmosphere will be disappointed. Though the name might make some think it’s a down-home, Southern-style, home-cooking, grits and biscuits type of place, that’s not the case.
The atmosphere is about the same as Central Avenue Grill — it’s in the same spot, after all. The tables are covered with tablecloths, protected by large squares of brown paper.
The napkins are cloth and so the décor is fancier than the Hill Diner. The wait staff don’t have uniforms — they wear their own clothes, but all appeared to be neat and clean.
Overall, the experience was just OK. Another visit might be in order to try the French toast or breakfast burrito — or perhaps some of the dinner items that have been carried over from the Hill Diner.
Time will tell how Los Alamos residents feel about the eatery.
With tax, before tip, the bill for three came to $41.28.