11.21.2005

Eatin' at the The Dixie Cafe



Every year we make a pilgrimage to a friend's house in Detroit. Most people would think that Detroit is a strange place to make a pilgrimage to, much less have a friend in - and most people would be right. I am sure that Detroit has plenty of restaurants that are wonderful - ethnic cuisine worthy of any chef, home cookin' that any mom would be proud to call her own. Yet, every time we go to Detroit, we have the misfortune of having the "worst dining experience yet." You know you are having a scary food weekend when a Denny's breakfast is the highlight of the trip. Well, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but the time I had stuffed green peppers that looked -and tasted- like some alien life form springs to mind.

The single exception to this rule is a small roadside diner off of I-75 (exit 26) known as the Dixie Cafe. Every year we stop in on our way home for breakfast, and every year the food is still good, the coffee is still hot and the waitresses in top form.

What is a cafe named Dixie doing in the heart of the Midwest you ask? At one time, there was an interstate that ran from Northern Michigan all the way South to Florida. Hence, the Dixie Highway. I have a feeling at one time, there were Dixie everythings – Dixie Drycleaners, Dixie Markets, Dixie Car Washes – everyone knows about Dixie cups. It’s just a theory, but I am sticking with it.

Every Sunday morning we’ve gone to the diner, it has been crowded - standing room only in a sparsely furnished waiting room off to one side of the dining room (and this in a rural area mind you). From the door, you can watch the bustle of the dining room, people hugging each other in their Sunday finest and eaves drop on discussions about knitting and crop prices.

Most of the waitresses fall into two categories: young teen gals and older ladies who have been there every time we’ve gone. Well may not those exact ladies, but as far as we can tell, it could be their clones. This time we got a young gal named Christina, who was very good at her job. She got our coffee, water and juice to us in record time, took our order without batting an eye and even let us take her picture! Service with a smile.

In the past, when we have had an older waitress, we asked about the history of the diner. It has been there for a long time, changing owners, even names (the first time we went it was the Dixie Diner) but always the same type of food. According to legend, Jimmy Hoffa of union – mob connection – disappearance fame was a regular of the establishment whenever he was in the area. There are several auto plants in spitting distance, so it is entirely possible that Jimmy ate one of his last meals in that establishment. Nothing to add relish to your breakfast like a lil’ historical rumor.

On to the food!

We went with the max number of calories we could pack in for the long ride home. First though – coffee, lots and lots of coffee. Don’t expect to find fancy coffee in a diner – just good old Java. Tony took his straight – black as midnight and hot as hell. I take mine “Double New York” according to the hubby. For the uneducated (which included me up until that moment) that means two sugars, two creams. Our daughter settled on juice and water, as she has not acquired the taste for varnish remover yet.

I wish I could say we all tried something different – but we didn’t we all went for a gut busting repast of biscuits and gravy, eggs over easy, sausage patties on the side, hash browns, and as if that weren’t enough - a side of bacon. We only got the bacon to prove that a side of bacon at the Dixie Diner consisted of 8 strips. No shit. Chants of “butter that bacon, bacon that sausage” were heard drifting from our table.

The sausage gravy is excellent. Big chunks of meat, a nice peppery bite and it wasn’t old and clotted. They have too much turnover for that. The eggs were perfect - the whites done, the yolks runny. The biscuits were fluffy and warm - I could not tell if they were a good foodservice brand or homemade. Either way, I still would not turn them down. The sausage patties had a good flavor, but were just a tad overdone – considering that everything else was perfect - I can cut them a little slack.

I know that the diner has tons of other options, but it is really hard to pass up your favorite dish when you are only there once a year. Maybe we should head back North this summer and surprise our friends with another visit – even if we have an ulterior motive - like breakfast at the Dixie CafĂ©.