After writing several posts about all the wonderful places I have dined, I fully expected my readers to assume that I don’t have a discerning palette. If that is the case, then I supposed I was blessed to have breakfast at a pretty average, run-of-the-mill restaurant. I knew the ride wasn’t going to amount to much, but I had such high hopes for breakfast that it simply increased the disappointent.
It started with my weekly research. Where was the road going to take me and what could I find within 90 minutes that stirred my interest? The Dixie Grill and Steer Room! Just the name illicits images of thick cut steaks medium rare, positioned neatly next to a three-egg omelet with some whole wheat toast and homemade jam. They have a menu online? Even better. I pulled it up and it took
about 60 seconds to decide. Country-fried steak and gravy, scrambled eggs, hash browns and whole wheat toast. Now I was ready to ride.
Saturday morning arrived late. It had been a long weekend and a late Friday night that pushed my departure time back from 7:30 to 9:00 am. I had traveled Hwy 27 many times and there was little to add excitement to that stretch of the road, but Hwy 49 north to Live Oak was a new stretch of road for me. I turned off at Branford and hadn’t traveled 5 miles when I came to a crossing at Beachville, FL. Now this isn’t coastal Florida, it is right in the heart of North-central Florida farmland. I stopped, looked around, even looked up satellite images to see if there was some lake hiding in the region. NADA. Just more and more farmland covering a few square miles.
I tried doing some research online concerning Beachville and couldn’t even find current census data. The best I could do was finding an algorithm that estimated population within a 2 mile radius of the intersection. Beachville, Florida – estimated population 743 (and that would have been an optimistic guess). It wasn’t till a couple weeks later I was visiting a friend in the area that told me Beachville wasn’t a geographical name, it was a proper one. A local blues player by the name of Beau Beach (or something like that) came from that part of the state and the unincorporated area was named after his ancestors.
There were some intriguing sites along the way: the Iron Wood Preserve and Hunt club that gave you access to 5,000 beautiful acres to hunt quail, deer, and wild hogs for the small sum of $4,000 per year, and then there was Live Oak, a very typical old Florida town with is beauty, charm, and atmosphere that takes you back in time.
When I did arrive at the Dixie Grill it was with even more anticipation. The parking lot was packed at 10:00 am on a Saturday morning and I just knew that meant I was in for a treat – what I got was a tough country-fried steak, greasy eggs, that sadly were topped with some of the best gravy I had eaten in years. What I really needed were the biscuits from “The Great Southern Biscuit Co.” and the gravy from the Dixie Grill. After all the anticipation it was a monumental disappointment. The three best parts of the morning were:
- The sausage gravy.
- The coffee was exceptional.
- But, nothing topped making a trip to the men’s room at the end of mybreakfast.
That may sound strange and I can only imagine the images flowing through your head, but it was the deer mounted over the men’s urinal that made my day. In 58 years of travel I have seen lots of strange things in men’s rooms, but that was the first time there was buck suspended over the toilet. Just for research purposes I may have to use the men’s room on my next trip to Bass Pro Shop to see how it’s decorated. That made me ask myself, “who makes the decorating decisions,” because the next thing I noticed was the mounting of the buck head on the wall. Someone measured wrong and the deers right antler stuck about one inch too high and was piercing the drop ceiling. I know everyone in the restaurant must have been wondering why this stranger was laughing as he exited the bathroom.
My disappointment didn’t end with the Dixie Grill. The next week I decided to ride out to East Gainesville to the East End Eatery, another hole-in-the-wall dive that got great reviews. After 40 minutes getting there I learned they were closed on Saturdays. Since when does a restaurant close on Saturdays? I did the only thing I could do after two weeks of disappointment, I rode over to an old favorite, famous for their apple fritters and biscuits and gravy (and I had both). If you have never visited a Peach Valley Cafe (there are 7 of them in Florida), you need to stop by. If you have a sweet tooth get a large order of the apple fritters. They come with a strawberry yogurt dipping sauce and they will make you slap your momma. They are always served fresh out of the fryer. They bring them to your table in a paper sack filled with cinnamon and sugar and they shake them up real good right in front of you. The dipping sauce is the perfect complement to the fritters. The biscuits and gravy? I got a half order because they load on the sausage gravy (with the largest concentration of sausage I have ever gotten with my gravy).
Peach Valley Cafe was everything I needed to shake off two weeks of disappointment and fill my belly with the warm essence of country cooking at its best.
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