It takes a certain sophistication to pull off a Southern accent. FIXE, the “progressive Southern” hot spot which is rooted on the ground floor of the downtown Austin’s IBC bank tower, knows this. They’ve got attitude and sex appeal in spades.
“A lot of people’s first impression when they hear Southern cooking is that it’s heavy and sticks to the ribs,” says Keith House, the Director of Operations at FIXE. Keith is from Texas, which means he’s no stranger to Southern elegance. All of the dishes at Fixe have a certain finesse and balance.
Keith works the front of the house. He’s honed his skill for delivering top notch customer experiences at restaurants across the South, including Nava, Bluepointe, and Pano’s and Paul’s in Atlanta. He met James Robert, Executive Chef and co-owner of FIXE at Eddie V’s. James, born and raised in Opelousas, Louisiana, knows a thing or two about the kitchen.
James, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont, applies the French technique to his culinary repertoire. He hails from Boston’s L’Espalier, Brio Vista in North Austin, and Eddie V’s, where he rose through the ranks to become the Corporate Executive Chef, overseeing all culinary operations for the restaurant group. It was at Eddie V’s that he met future partner Keith.
In 2013, Robert and Keith made the move. Joining forces, they decided to merge Robert’s culinary know-how with Keith’s dining room savvy to open their own restaurant. Drawing upon their years and years of collective fine dining experience, and their individual Southern roots, their vision of FIXE began to finally take shape.
“My personal favorite item on the menu?” For Keith, it’s a no-brainer. “The biscuits. I knew they were going to be a hit, but the responsibility became greater when I would sit there and listen to the customers say ‘my momma would slap me if she heard me say this, but I grew up eating biscuits and these are better than hers.’ “What I quickly realized was that the biscuits were a connection for these people to someone in their past. We were connecting to people on another level through Robert’s biscuits.”
FIXE’s style doesn’t stop with the food. Ambient lighting accents the dining room. Everything is made from reclaimed woods. Through design partnerships with Pinnacle Construction, Nelsen Partners, and EDG Interior Structure and Design, the interior of FIXE recalls Southern home life. Opulent Southern home life. The interior maintains a delicate balance: not too stuffy, thanks to rich, wood tones that off- set the lush, dark lighting. Rustic touches here and there lend to an antique feel, which complements the cuisine, service, and tone of the restaurant.
“We really wanted a warm and cozy environment,” Keith says.
“What I quickly realized was that the biscuits were a connection for these people to someone in their past. We were connecting to people on another level through Robert’s biscuits.”
They’ve also worked to redefine the traditional restaurant experience. Instead of “happy hour,” FIXE offers a “Daily Social,” which features a special menu available at the bar, lounge, and outdoor patio from 4pm to 7pm. During Daily Social, cocktails and glasses of wine are $1 off, and they can get pretty popular. Featured menu items are a “Southern Fish Fry,” Sweet Tea Pickles, and Beef Tendon Chicharrones. There is no better example of the marriage of Texas flavors to Southern ingredients than the section of the menu marked GRITS. like “TheHerbivore,” “The Pescavore,” and “The Carnivore” offer different variations beyond simple grains and butter. For starters, the grits are a heirloom variety from the Carolinas, a region which knows everything about grits. The Pescavore, for example, features hearty Texas shrimp, freeze-dried corn, shrimp butter, and bottarga, which is a rich, salted, cured roe from grey mullet or tuna. Little touches like this take traditional shrimp and grits and turn it on its head.
The Potato Salad isn’t simply your grandmother’s mayo or mustard recipe. Robert offers “peewee potatoes / Fixe country ham / green garlic / pig’s blood gelee / white barbecue.”
Sign us up.
But ask Keith if someone could only eat one item on the menu, and he takes no time at all to answer. “Fried chicken,” he says. “It’s the least expensive item on the menu, but the most profitable. It’s simple, but executed to perfection. The hot sauce is barrel-aged.” That says it all.
“I had a hard time coming up with something that was one or two syllables,” he says. “Then one morning, it came to me. I sat up and thought of the word fixe. We added the ‘e’ to the end as a play on ‘getting your fixe.’ “In one word, it summed up our goals and standards. We want people to keep coming back to get their fix.”
The FIXE team rounds out with the Chef de Cui- sine Zach Hunter, a graduate from the Arizona Culinary Institute, and Bryan King, who serves as the Assistant General Manager. Zach spent a year as Chef de Partie at Magaritz under Chef Andoni Anduriz, then later worked the kitchen at the #3 ranked restaurant in the world. Bryan did time at both Union Kitchen and Tap, where he drew focus on both craft beer knowledge and the art of craft cocktails.
That’s a lot of swagger for one restaurant, enough for guests to return often to get their FIXE.