Hot damn: Biscuits!!!
I love me some biscuits. Over my now middle-aged life, I’ve had biscuits from here and there and from high and low, and some mighty fine biscuits at that. I reached the biscuit Valhalla when I was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and ate biscuits at Waysider and City Cafe (across the river in Northport). Those biscuits were transcendental, ones I still think about (and relish) today.
However, the biscuits at Fixe Southern House are even better than Tuscaloosa’s best. I’m not even sure how to describe them… The biscuit Val-valhalla? Trans-transcendental biscuits? All I can say is that they were conjured in heaven and delivered by angels, served steamy ($9 with whipped Steen’s butter) with side options of ‘Nduja (spicy Italian pork salami), preserves, and local honey (each for a buck more). You could spread used motor oil darker than death on these biscuits and still write a letter home to mama about how good they were. These are five-star biscuits, people, with crunchy outsides and warm and fluffy insides. The bartender said it was grandma’s recipe elevated through expert use of a steam oven, but I prefer my heavenly hypothesis. I foresee visits to the Fixe bar for a thick porter and a plate of biscuits (while we were there, several to-go orders of biscuits passed through the bartender; these are my people).
Speaking of the bar, that is where we sat at a recent visit to enjoy, as it turned out, the 2 pm-to-close happy hour (only available in the bar and patio). We arrvied at Fixe sixish on a Sunday, so it was rather quiet, the tables slowly filling up through the evening. Located at the bottom of one of Austin’s new downtown skyscrapers, the place is fresh and clean with a touch of down-home southern decor in a sophisticated not-too-shabby-sheik setting.
While gobbling the biscuits off of the main menu, which were rather filling in addition to life-changing, we enjoyed a couple mixed drinks, the Honey Badger ($7 happy hour; aged Old Forester whiskey, honeycomb, and lemon) and the Bloody Sage ($7 happy hour; sage-infused Milagro Silver, blood orange, and lime). For “snacks”, we tried the smoked trout dip ($8; with buttermilk, horseradish, and smoked trout roe with Carolina gold rice crackers), which was gorgeously fantastic, and a single deviled egg ($8 for three; with fermented cabbage, smoked trout roe, and grated ham), which was also gorgeous, but, in the end, a deviled egg (and kudos to the bartender for the offering the single-egg option since the bride does not eat them debbil eggs).
For our mains, I went with the Southern Fish Fry ($10; Anson Mills Antebellum cornmeal fried catfish, hushpuppy, and Fixe tartar sauce with salt & pepper fries), and she chose the Gulf Seafood Chopped Salad ($14; pickled onion, green apple, radish, manchego, Marcona almond, gulf shrimp & blue crab, and remoulade). The catfish was the most delicately fried I’ve ever had, breaking into delicious hunks with the slightest of linework. The fries were a slight disappointment, but only because everything else had been so fantastic. As the bride declared “Good fries!”, but… The chopped salad brought balanced flavors to our palates and was much healthier than the plate of fried I had.
Although we didn’t need it, I ordered dessert, the Pear Cobbler from the main menu ($10; with sweet Fixe biscuit crust, toffee, and roasted almond ice cream). Dessert was controversial. We both agreed that the (artfully-slightly) sweet biscuit crust and ice cream were delicious, but I felt that the pear spears were not baked enough (it was impossible to slice through them with a spoon) while she thought they were great. However, eating dessert required eating the crust and ice cream separate from the pears. That don’t seem right to me.
All in all, pears aside (or not…), Chef James Robert has successfully chef’d-up (Fixe’d-up?) classic southern cuisine, something he grew up with in Lousiana. If you are looking for southern standards but with some culinary plot twists, this is your place. And if Texas knighted folks, Chef Robert would deserve knighthood for those biscuits alone.
This review is part of our sequential tour-through-the-alphabet of Austin’s restaurant scene. Now you know our ABCs!
web&where: interwebs; 500 west 5th Street; (512) 888-9133; reservations
overall: **** (food****; drink***; atmosphere**; service**; instagrammability****)
does it scramble? no doggy bag; no scramble…
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]
biscuit spreads: ‘Nduja on the top and preserves at the bottom