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The chocolate sheet cake comes with a marshmallow surprise at Fixture Café and Social House. Photo by Robert Garner.

The location on West Magnolia Avenue that was 24 Plates Tapas Bar as recently as seven months ago has now reopened as Fixture FW, which attracts mostly older diners during weekend brunch and a younger clientele during the evenings. Like many of the other restaurants on its block, Fixture offers American cuisine made completely from scratch and locally sourced in many instances. It also goes to some lengths to declare its laid-back DIY-ness to someone walking into the place, with its décor prominently featuring exposed brick and unvarnished wood. It looks pretty much the way you’d expect a Magnolia sit-down eatery to look, but would the food distinguish itself from the pack? The verdict was mixed.

My waitperson told me that the PB&J was the most popular item on the restaurant’s sandwich-and-taco menu, and it isn’t hard to see why. The “PB” in this name stands for “pork belly” instead of “peanut butter,” and the salty richness of the meat was complemented by a sweet, hot jalapeño jelly and enough veggies (thick tomato slices, shaved carrots, shredded red cabbage, and lettuce) to convince you that you’re eating something healthy, all served on a ciabatta bun. It was, on the whole, a beautifully balanced sandwich, and it would seem to be ideal for a quick and not-too-heavy lunch, though you won’t feel unsatisfied if you order it for dinner.

Sandwiches come with a choice of side dish, so I ordered the truffle mac and cheese, which is also available as an appetizer. Truffle mac and cheese is a difficult dish to screw up, but this one was particularly fine, with the pasta cooked perfectly al dente and the sauce made with manchego and cream — no fake orange color needed on this side.

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The chicken and waffles dish is available for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, and it’s also one of the place’s most popular items, according to my waitperson. I wish I could join in the enthusiasm. My order was drowning in chipotle maple syrup. (This is the second week in a row I’ve encountered this combination. One more, and I’m calling it a trend.) The sweet sauce completely swamped the waffle, which wasn’t necessarily a setback –– the waffle had too much rosemary in it. Not for nothing is the dish served with a big sprig of the herb embedded in the meat. Ah, yes. The meat. It was a big piece of deboned thigh encrusted in a crunchy coating that stood up to the punishment of the syrup. Still, I could have used somewhat less of the sweet stuff and the herb.

The most beautifully presented entrée to land on my table was the shrimp and grits, a symmetrical arrangement of eight large shrimp on a circular bed of grits, with a tiny salad piled in the middle. I was advised beforehand that the dish was spicy, and the advice wasn’t out of line. Between the green chiles in the cheesy, creamy grits, the pico de gallo beneath the salad, and the chile oil used to sauté the shrimp, there was plenty of heat to go around in this main course that was as architecturally sound as it was delicious.

I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular when I ordered chocolate sheet cake for dessert, but I got it anyway. The cake was baked and served in its own pan and topped not only with the usual icing and chopped pecans but also with a layer of marshmallows slightly blackened in the oven. This huge portion is served steaming hot, and it’s probably best shared with a dining companion.

This inventive take on an unpretentious dessert is typical of what Fixture hopes to accomplish. Still, the fare here is awfully similar to that of a number of the restaurant’s neighbors. Whether Fixture’s accomplishments will keep the establishment afloat on Magnolia’s dog-eat-dog restaurantscape remains to be seen.

 

[box_info]Fixture FW
Truffle mac and cheese    $7
PB&J    $10-12
Chicken and waffles    $11-15
Shrimp and grits    $14-20
Chocolate sheet cake    $7[/box_info]

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