5/29/2012 06:11:00 PM

First Look: Dixie Debuts in SF's Presidio

Strawberry-mint julep anyone? The bar at Dixie.
It’s been as slow as molasses to open, but Joseph Humphrey’s long-awaited Southern-inspired American Dixie has finally opened in the Presidio. It’s an ambitious venture on many accounts, from its sheer size and culinary reach to the challenge of renovating a protected historical space. Here's what to expect:

The Look
With a charming setting (former army barracks) and an outdoor terrace affording views of the Palace of Fine Arts and San Francisco Bay beyond it, the bones of the operations were already impressive. But designer Michael Brannan (Zero Zero) was brought in to warm up and update the sprawling 300-seat set up (which was formerly home to Pres A Vi.) The restaurant still revolves around the main dining room with its vaulted wood ceiling, now outfitted with plantation-style ceiling fans and antique musical instruments. Additionally, there’s a bar area, serving snacks and drinks and a glassed-in veranda whose walls and columns are painted to resemble white birch trees.

The Food
As the name suggests, Southern cooking is the launching pad for the menu and you’ll see a fair share of grits, collards and ham incorporated into the food, but Humphrey’s employs them with contemporary American techniques that amounts to something much more. Lunch, served Monday-Friday, is a two-course fixed menu ($19) with a choice of items such as po’ boys and deviled eggs with asparagus and pork tasso. The expanded dinner menu (topping out at $25) include the likes of pork with grits, collared greens tortellini, halibut with sassafras and sea urchin remoulade and good old chicken and dumplings. Diners at the bar can nibble on small bites such as pimento cheese curds and pork cracklings with Szechuan peppercorns and nori salt. For foodies look for a real adventure, Humphrey will prepare a nightly six-course tasting menu ($74, with optional wine pairings for $54), of which one of the courses will be served at chef’s counter inside the kitchen.

The Drinks
Expect plenty of Dixie (duh!) beer, American whiskeys served neat and updated Southern libations such as strawberry mint julep, Old Fashions and something called 2 Bens - a pint of Guinness served with a shot of Jack Daniels, which is an homage to Humphrey’s dad and grandfather’s favorite drinks. In addition, the bar stocks a full selection of wine including those from Skywalker Ranch, courtesy of their Presidio neighbor, George Lucas.

The Details
Open for lunch Monday-Friday 11:30-2:30 PM, dinner 5:30-10PM Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-11PM Friday-Saturday; located in the Presidio, One Letterman Drive, Bldg D, Suite 150 San Francisco, CA 94129; 415-829-3363

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