IF YOU GO
* Where: Dixie Freeze, 200 Elm St., South Pittsburg, Tenn.
* Phone: 423-837-6423.
* Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday CT.
* Price range: $1.29 (small Dixie burger)-$7.29 (combo plate of shrimp, fish and chicken with vegetable sides).
* Directions: From Chattanooga, take Interstate 24 to Exit 152. Exit toward South Pittsburg on U.S. Highway 72, which becomes Cedar Avenue as you enter town. Turn right at the second traffic light onto Second Street, and go one block to Elm Avenue. The Dixie Freeze is on the left.
The Dixie Freeze in South Pittsburg, Tenn., is a block off the main drag in this Marion County town ensconced between the Tennessee River and the Cumberland Plateau.
The menu boasts a variety of burgers and hot dogs, a hearty dinner plate and sandwich lineup, along with a rotating menu of meat-and-three dishes. The owners post specials on a wipe-off board as well as the restaurant's Facebook page every day.
The big neon sign in front featuring a soft-serve ice cream cone first grabs your attention. And, for me, it conjured images of the 1960s. My dining partner, photographer/videographer Patrick Smith, and I took on the specialty of the house. Even in the middle of the afternoon, the kitchen seemed busy and productive with a steady stream of customers past the lunch hour.
Dixie Freeze's menu is loaded with the Dixie burgers and Dixie hot dogs you'd expect, with an additional selection of sandwiches. Burgers come in 4- and 8-ounce options. A Southwest burger is flavored with Swiss cheese, barbecue sauce and bacon. Prices start at $3.59 and go up to $5.99 for the larger sizes served with fries or tater tots. There's also a small Dixie burger ($1.29).
The hot dog selection includes a regular hot dog ($2.49), a corn dog ($1.99) and a footlong ($3.49).
Sandwiches come with fries, tater tots or onion rings. The club sandwich packs on ham, turkey, roast beef, bacon, cheese and fixings ($5.69). A 5-ounce chicken sandwich can be served grilled, fried, Cajun, barbecue, teriyaki or spicy ($5.49).
Other options include a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with thinly sliced beef or chicken with Swiss cheese, peppers and onions; barbecue sandwich; fish sandwich with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce on a hoagie; and a bacon, lettuce and tomato. There's also a collection of submarine sandwiches, as well as homemade chicken salad or country-fried steak sandwich. None costs more than $5.89.
There are nine Dixie Plates, and eight come with a choice of baked potato, fries, tots or onion rings; rolls, toast or hushpuppies; and slaw or house salad for $6.99. Choices include chicken fingers; hamburger steak; butterfly shrimp; barbecue; fish; chicken served grilled, fried, Cajun, teriyaki, barbecue or smothered; popcorn shrimp; and country-fried steak with gravy. The last plate is a combo of four shrimp, fish and chicken for $7.29.
The rotating menu of meat-and-side dishes range from $4.69 to $5.89.
The day we visited, the lineup of meats included barbecue pork, grilled pork chops and meatloaf, and the daily specials consisted of a popcorn shrimp plate ($5.99) or potato soup and chicken salad sandwich ($4.99).
Dixie Freeze is locally famous for its shakes ($2.89), old-fashioned malts ($2.99) and floats ($2.49). Its soft-serve ice cream comes in several tasty flavors ($1.49 or $1.79). The dessert menu also includes banana splits, brownies and sundaes.
We went with the Dixie Freeze's house specialty, the Dixie Dagwood ($5.99), and a side of crinkle-cut french fries (an additional $1).
The Dagwood is a thing of burger-joint beauty. A piece of toast is sandwiched between its two big, thick, handmade hamburger patties, which are adorned with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon, mustard and a little mayo.
The crinkle fries were a perfectly golden brown, just crisp but still soft and steamy hot on the inside.
We made a waddling escape for $8.65 apiece; however, later back at the paper when I looked at the ticket, we were charged only for the burger and sweet tea ($1.89), and the dollar wasn't tacked on for the fries. I think we owe you guys at Dixie Freeze a couple of bucks.
Whatever the case, it was a good deal for a good meal.
The waitress was on the scene quickly, dealt out a pair of menus and had our sweet teas back in a couple of minutes. The service the rest of the meal was efficient and always timely, if not overly enthusiastic. Even as a new batch of customers crowded the tables, our server never forgot to check on us and refill our teas.
The exterior of the building harks back to simpler times when folks never worried about calorie-counting, gas prices or the range of their wireless service. Inside decor is sparse, but the place is clean and heavy with the smell of a traditional burger grill. There's a television in one corner tuned to a 24-hour news channel to occupy lone or bored diners.
Overall, the meal was generous, tasty and filling, and the atmosphere was as quiet and quaint as Elm Avenue on which it sits. The Dixie Freeze is as much a mainstay of the town as its concrete streets and is not to be missed when you're passing through if you like juicy eats that drip from your chin and arms.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at facebook.com/ben.benton1 and follow him at twitter.com/BenBenton on Twitter.