KEENE — The Dixie Cafe and Quick Stop is something of an anomaly.
It's a relatively modern place in a very old Kentucky town, Keene.
It's a place that sells Irish bangers, quesadillas and cheeseburgers.
It's a quick stop with good food.
This last point is important. For all of us who have wandered the highways, fantasizing about walking into a little store where something local, fresh and interesting is served only to be assaulted by the smell of rancid lard, really old pizza slices and a surly staff, the Dixie Cafe offers hope.
For starters, let's make it clear: the Dixie offers good food, not fine food. It's a laid-back, unpretentious, inexpensive place. For example, its Texas twister potatoes ($1.95) are fantastic but don't expect them with truffle oil. Likewise, the cheeseburger ($5.45) I had was very good — good meat, well cooked, dressed with fresh, sweet onion, but served on a plain, off-the-shelf hamburger bun, no talk of brioche or gluten-free rolls. While on a bread jag, let me say that the corn bread, cooked on the griddle like a pancake, is great. Nothing sugary or cakey about it, the real thing.
The "Dixie" in the name comes from Dixie Alexander who, with her husband Edward, ran a Dixie Cafe in Borger, Texas (hence, the Mexican flavor in the menu). Edward was from Missouri, where his family had moved from Central Kentucky a couple of generations earlier. When his son and granddaughter landed back in this area they decided to revive the family's Dixie Cafe, opening their version in 2010.
Open Monday through Saturday, the Dixie caters to a farm crowd. While there are some lighter offerings, no one needs to leave the Dixie hungry. Generous breakfast plates are on offer, including one I tried, the Santa Fe Special ($5.95): eggs scrambled with tortillas and fresh salsa, bacon (or sausage or city ham), pan fried potatoes and biscuits (or Texas Toast). The eggs were scrambled just right, not runny or dry. The bacon was crisp, the salsa was indeed fresh and the biscuits light.
The chili sampled at another outing had a rich flavor without being too spicy. Relying on good beef, beans and a tomato base, it was a satisfying lunch on a cool day. It comes with either crackers or corn bread. Take the corn bread — no Yankee stuff. As mentioned above, this is the real thing and a great counterpoint to the chili. We found the ham and pinto bean soup bland, although the ham was good quality, tasty and not fatty.
The sandwiches we tasted, other than the satisfying cheeseburger, were a bit of a mixed bag, too. A reuben had abundant, flavorful corned beef but was a little mushy, the tuna melt was undistinguished. But, the Texas twister potatoes — essentially curvy, crisp potato chips, were great, even cold. Get them.
The Irish food is not on the menu but in the retail section at the front of the building. The dining section is set off behind a lattice divider, so the eating area has a degree of privacy but enjoys light from the front windows. You order at a counter that overlooks the kitchen, and the service was uniformly pleasant.