Tasty vittles with a whiff of fancy are what’s for dinner at Dixie, chef Joseph Humphrey’s spacious new headquarters dotted with genteel wicker furnishings and cooled by lulling ceiling fans. By the looks of things, Humphrey may have invented his own genre of cooking: Southern gentleman cuisine.
“It’s my life, essentially,” says Humphrey, a Florida native who grew up cooking, making his way through New Orleans and some of the best kitchens in Northern California—among them Cavallo Point and Meadowood, where he earned two Michelin stars. Great mentors dapple his culinary provenance, from an influential gig in New Orleans at Dickie Brennan’s Palace Café to working with George Morrone (of Aqua fame) on numerous projects—including Fifth Floor in its heyday.
Having finally opened his own place, Humphrey is finding harmony between his Southern heritage and NorCal sensibility with folksy instruments hung as art that add musicality to Dixie. The cuisine is contemporary, with ingredients at the height of seasonality alongside nods to the Southern pantry (like gumbo filé or shaved tasso ham)—no groaning plates of ribs and mashed potatoes here.
A trio of raw, smoked, and fried oysters is the menu’s first curtsy. Juicy chicken-fried quail on a roasted garlic waffle is a can’t-miss update to the Southern classic; its cabbage slaw’s chile vinaigrette sweetly hints of home with sugar cane syrup from Humphrey’s family farm, Sopchoppy, outside of Tallahassee. Another star is the side of risotto: Served “dirty-rice style” with livers and brandy, it’s a brilliant accompaniment to the roast duck breast. Even the ole chicken and dumplings are gussied up, with ricotta gnudi filling in for the traditional dough. The dessert menu culminates in irresistible choices like decadent coconut layer cake and chess pie (a Southern staple) with roasted strawberries.
With views of the Palace of Fine Arts, the 40-seat patio is primo for lunch and weekend brunch. But for the ultimate in Southern hospitality, order the 10-course tasting menu. When you do, you’ll be invited for a course at the five-seat chef’s counter in the kitchen to see Humphrey in his element. (You’ll also meet his brother Tim, the sous chef. Yup, it’s a family thang.) Drivers, mind the wine pairings and Old Fashioneds, which also feature the familial Sopchoppy syrup: Since the Presidio is federal land, a DUI is a federal offense.