Monday, February 23, 2009
There aren't many restaurants with staying power in Central Florida. Eateries are an institution one day and gone the next. Gary's Duck Inn was such so legendary that it's concept was taken nationwide as Red Lobster. The fun, quirky Bubble Room in Maitland closed. Ronnies Diner is no more. Chains and franchises litter the landscape.
One eatery that seems to grow and expand every time I visit, however, is Dixie Crossroads in Titusville. Disney has Mickey, SeaWorld has Shamu, and Dixie Crossroads has Mr. Rock, the Rock Shrimp. Served cracked open like miniature lobsters, this sweet little critter has turned Dixie Crossroads into a theme park-like atmosphere devoted to good eatin'. And every meal comes with corn fritters, sweet version of hush puppies with powdered sugar sprinkled on top.
The decor of Dixie Crossroads is a shrine to the anthropromorphic rock shrimp and Florida's native environment in which he lives. There are gigantic murals showing a proliferation of birds and other critters, life-sized rock shrimp for picture taking purposes, and a pond full of fish you can feed (Tilapia?) while you're waiting to be seated inside. Inside the wildlife theme continues with good and bad artwork of your favorite Florida flora and fauna.
It's kind of like a Disneyed version of Southern seafood restaurant. But on steroids. They have spin-off versions on I-drive and Mt. Dora, but to me the Titusville version is one-of-a-kind. A day spent bird watching at the nearby Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, followed by a meal at Dixie Crossroads encompasses two wildly different sides of Florida – it's natural beauty and it's manmade kitsch. And it just doesn't get any better!