The Skeptical Diner: Dixie’s on Grand

There’s a theory on BBQ joints that basically goes like this: the quality of food you’re going to get is in inverse proportion to how fancy the place seems. If the restaurant is one beaten up old piece of plywood on cinderblocks with plastic chairs, that’s probably a good sign.

And whether I’ve been eating in Little Rock, Chapel Hill, or Memphis there’s been a lot of truth to this. Even Redbones in Boston, a mega-profitable urban BBQ joint that I frequented back when my zip code was 02141, took pains to be boisterous and rough-hewn.

On that front: I knew Dixie’s in St. Paul was a questionable choice. The place looks like an upscale chain restaurant — an elegantly laid-out dining room with carefully staged planters and artfully deconstructed brick hearths that help break up the space and make a big restaurant feel cozy.

Note to self: Gotta trust the gut.

My Shack sandwich, a fairly conventional pulled-pork BBQ affair, was not bad, although the cheap hamburger bun quickly disintegrated under the assault of the meat. The BBQ sauce was not overly sweet and had a nice spicy afterburn, and the whole sandwich was a decent if non-spectacular main dish.

My wife was not so lucky. She got a blackened chicken and bacon sandwich which tasted first, last and only of carbon; you know you’ve overdone the “blackened” thing when even the taste of the bacon gets overwhelmed. And for all the burnt edges, it was surprising how bland the chicken actually tasted — any trace of an original spice rub was gone.

The real culinary low point, however, was my corn on the cob. The kernels were small and chewy, most likely due to overcooking. At this time of year, it’s actually difficult to avoid finding good corn in most any grocery store, which makes me wonder: was this stuff in storage? Did it come from a Sysco truck? How could you screw this up?

We skipped dessert, figuring pie-from-a-can was probably in the offing. Guess we’ll stick to Market BBQ until we get a hot tip…

10 Comments so far

  1. Kitch (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 8:59 am

    rule of thumb: rub the wall with you thumb if its slimy/greasy its going to be good.

    2 places come to mind.

    Roosters BBQ – 979 Randolph Ave., St. Paul.
    Maverick’s- 1746 Lexington Ave., Roseville for the beef brisket sammy.

  2. dharma bum (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 9:27 am

    Too bad you had such a disappointing experience. Next time, try hole-in-the-wall Lee’s and Dee’s BBQ just a mile away, on Victoria and Selby. The real deal.

  3. James Norton (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’m looking forward to following up on them…

  4. Abe (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 12:40 pm

    OMG, you haven’t been to Ted Cook’s 19th Hole BBQ at 38th and Hiawatha?

    GO. NOW. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just GET THERE. NOW!

  5. Erica M (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 1:23 pm

    I have eyeballed Ted Cook’s every time I go by, but no one will ever consent to going in there with me. Some nonsense about eating healthy.

  6. Ed Kohler (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 3:49 pm

    First, let me say that you were right on with your organic avocado tip a few weeks back. I picked some up while biking home from work and loved em.

    Now, onto Dixie’s. Skip it.

    Moving on: If you’re looking for some BBQ to go, Ted Cook’s on 38th St E near the LRT is no nonsense goodness.

  7. Ed Kohler (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

    Looks like Abe was all over the Ted Cook’s scene. Good work, Abe.

  8. ryanol (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

    I like the old folks home of bar-b-que….Market BBQ. The smell of vitalis mixing with smoked brisket is fan-effen-tastic.

    All and all though the foods good, the ribs are dry ribs, you determine how much sauce. Thats the way I like it and the toast is good too.

  9. kt (unregistered) on August 24th, 2007 @ 10:07 am

    I’d like to second both Rooster’s and Mavericks recommendations for the great sandwiches!

  10. Erica M (unregistered) on August 24th, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    I vaguely lamented the closing of Dixie’s Calhoun a couple years ago since I always thought it would be a good place to try but never got around to it. Guess I didn’t miss anything.

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