As my travels begin again after the challenging last 15+ months, one of the things that I realized I have missed is the opportunity to visit some of my favorite food places across the country. Look, I love food! I love to get to try local places and what they are known for. And then I do have favorite “items” I like to try and find in many of the locations I visit.
On my first trip as we start to get back to normal, I’m in Florida… on the Space Coast… a place I have visited more times than I honestly can recount in the last 25 years. There is a restaurant that goes as far back as some of my first visits to the Space Coast that is still going strong and a must visit for me… Dixie Crossroads in Titusville.
Let me put it to you this way, I am such a fan of this restaurant that upon landing at MCO (Orlando airport), once I had my rental car I pointed it immediately in the direction of Dixie Crossroads! This restaurant has been an icon for nearly 4 decades and is a favorite of locals as well as many of us space industry.
Photo Credit – Dixie Crossroads
What makes it so special, you’re wondering… well the first element is a shrimp that very few places have – rock shrimp! In fact, it’s the founder of Dixie Crossroads who even figured out how to use these shrimp that are difficult to get into. These rock shrimp are a bit like mini-lobsters and I personally haven’t seen them anywhere else before! But I am getting ahead of myself…
I sat down in the booth and was so excited about this lunch I was giddy. I had to look at the menu only to try and figure out what combo it was that was available that had all I wanted. The waitress was incredibly kind and very helpful and pointed me in the right direction of what combo plus add on I wanted to get all my taste buds were craving.
Out first comes some of their deliciously addictive corn fritters. (Some might also call them hushpuppies.) These are SO good! You can’t eat just one and I will tell you it is dangerous to be eating there alone because an entire little basket of these tasty treats comes out and it is difficult to moderate how many you eat! (Okay maybe not for you, but for me!) Along with that I ordered a sweet tea and was thrilled it came out in a glass that was totally on brand with Higher Orbits colors!
Second course was the coleslaw that I ordered as part of my combo. I am a big fan of creamy coleslaw and Dixie Crossroads has some of the best. (All along the way I continue to eat those delicious fritters… couldn’t resist!) Then came the main event! I ordered both rock shrimp as well as the royal red shrimp. Both of these are shrimp I don’t see elsewhere and are absolutely scrumptious! The rock shrimp require a little work because they come with a tiny shell that you peel off the back – sort of like a lobster tail. Now, I am going to get on my soapbox a bit here, when you order any sort of shrimp, you are going to be asked how you would like them cooked. For the sanctity of the special nature of these divine crustaceans please do NOT get your rock shrimp fried! It kind of ruins the whole point of them.
I was not disappointed. The shrimp were all absolutely delicious. And yes, I ate every single one of them. I was even tempted to order another dozen but decided that might be just a bit too much. But as I type this, my mouth is watering with the anticipation of visiting again for these delicacies!
You know me, I love a good theme and when companies are on point with their brand… Dixie Crossroads embraces the shrimp and does it well! From the stained glass windows near the entrance to the giant crustaceans you would be remiss to not take a picture with, they nailed it! And yes, of course I took a selfie with the shrimp!
So, what does this have to do with space and what was I reminiscing about while I was eating? In general, Dixie Crossroads was host to many a space event from employee parties for Kennedy Space Center to launch parties during the Space Shuttle era. That’s how I came to know this place.
In 1997, I had the honor of attending the launch of STS-94 as a guest of Astronaut Janice Voss. While she had a larger pre-launch party at the Brevard Planetarium (which I don’t even know if that exists anymore) she also had a family and close friends reception at Dixie Crossroads. (I still to this day can’t believe she invited me to that. I was blown away with the invite.) This was the first time I ever stepped foot into this fine establishment and it’s an event that I will think of every time I return to it for the rest of my days. It also reminds me of the kindness and generosity that Janice was so kind to share with a wide-eyed college student who she’d only briefly met. I feel fortunate that she became a mentor to me in some ways and I do miss her so very much!
Given their rich space history, it’s only appropriate that Dixie Crossroad’s has a case of some space memorabilia on display as well!
Check out the space stuff and the stellar shrimp next time you are on the Space Coast. You won’t be disappointed!