Tradition is a wonderful thing, which means that the Dixie House in Lakewood gets away with a lot. After eating at the same place for almost 25 years, one makes allowances.

The restaurant, the last of its name in the Black-eyed Pea chain, is not what it was when the legendary Gene Street co-owned it 20 years ago. The company to which it belongs has undergone a succession of owners, financial woes, and serious downsizing. In fact, what were once 130 restaurants throughout the South are now 48 in Colorado and Texas. Those travails have meant a host of general managers at the Lakewood location, some of whom were more concerned with cutting costs than with the quality of the food.

But how do I stay mad at the place that introduced me to chicken fried steak? That’s a debt I may never repay.

And, in its current incarnation and with current management, the food and service has improved. Wamre and I have eaten lunch there several times in the past couple of months, and I saw very little brown lettuce in the salads, the portions did not seem to be undersized to save money, and there were enough people waiting tables, even at the busiest of times. That was in contrast to visits earlier in 2007.

And the chicken fried is still pretty good.

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