Fixture Kitchen and Social Lounge
401 W. Magnolia Ave.
The vintage W.F. Lawrence Fine Flowers sign still hangs outside, and very little has been modified on the brick exterior. But inside, Fixture Kitchen and Social Lounge has the feel of a modern loft with three elevations plus a simple patio for dining, drinking and socializing.
The welcoming atmosphere on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and May Street invites patrons to kick back for a leisurely meal, to meet friends over shared small plates, or to bring along your pooch and listen to the live band on the patio every Thursday night.
The duck confit ($12) is a shared plate with a great combination of flavors. Grated sweet potato is formed into oversized tater tots, topped with clean-tasting duck confit. The tots are tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The pulled duck is drizzled with a thick blackberry and balsamic glaze, bringing both a tang and sweetness to the dish. It is sprinkled with bold basil chiffonade, making the plate as tasty as it is appealing.
From the menu’s Hand-Helds section you cannot go wrong with the house burger ($14). The Angus beef was simply velvety and cooked well. It was served with melting cheddar cheese and a fried egg. A fun cocktail skewer of pearl onion, stuffed olive and pickled okra reinforced the interesting bloody Mary ketchup that keeps you searching for more. The burger is wrapped in a fresh kolache bun that efficiently holds the stack together but seems to disappear, leaving the focus on the perfect patty, just where your attention should be. The side dish of chili cheese grits was a nice departure from the standard fries. They were fluffy with just a hint of green chili spice.
The Knife and Fork section offers a couple of fan favorites; the 14 ounce ribeye ($30) was being served to tables all around us with nice grill marks and crispy pomme frittes, and the chicken and waffles ($15) is popular all day long, as well as holding its prominent position on the brunch menu, with rosemary-scented waffles and chipotle maple syrup.
Arriving in a small cast iron skillet, the mushroom spätzle ($16) at first glance appears to be a deceivingly small portion. By the time you make it half-way through the buttery, tender noodle dish you won’t think so. Hand-made German spätzle is a rare find, and these are folded into a rich whiskey and mushroom cream sauce featuring both cremini and shiitake mushrooms. Tiny asparagus and cherry tomato dices added a pop of color, more for garnish than anything else.
Chef Ben Merritt has been wearing all the hats and holding down the fort since opening last April. His much-needed reinforcement arrived on Sept. 17, when Cameron Cook, formerly of Bolsa in Dallas, took over as general manager, freeing the chef to get back to what he does best − designing interesting menus.
With many separate rooms to explore as well as the pergola-covered patio and communal seating in the bar area, this is a relaxed place to enjoy lively craft cocktails. For example, the vodka-based agua fresca ($8 or $30 carafe) was a seasonal watermelon at the time of this writing, and the ruby belle ($10) is a unique savory cocktail made with Railean Blue Agave rum, Art in the Age-Sage craft gin, sweet yellow bell pepper puree, mango, simple syrup, lemon juice and a red beet ice cube.
Merritt is all about featuring natural products and introducing/supporting local ones where he can. Fixture is particular about its ingredients; the website states, “If it couldn’t be made 150 years ago, we don’t want to use it.”