GAINESVILLE — Three years ago, Scott Dixon moved his family to Gainesville from Alpharetta, where he worked as a marketing director. But he wasn’t doing what he loved: working in the food service business.
Now, he is a proud, first-time restaurant owner of Scott’s on the Square in Gainesville and is enjoying every minute.
"The people of Gainesville (have been great)," said Dixon, a self-taught chef. "The reception that we have had here has been so warm. We have been open for about 40 days and I have people that have dined at this restaurant seven, eight, nine times."
Dixon’s eatery opened in the former Hiroba location on Dec. 10. Joe Burnett, executive director of Mainstreet Downtown, an organization that helps promote downtown businesses, said the new restaurant represents the next generation of restaurants in Gainesville.
"When our program started 12 years ago, one of the main focuses was to increase the food service industry. We have increased those restaurants from eight to 22," Burnett said.
"Scott’s represents the evolution of food downtown. It is a local creation and locally run and operated, which is important to Gainesville and Hall County."
Scott’s on the Square is open seven days a week, with a new brunch on Sunday.
"We just decided to add onto our lunch menu," Dixon said. "Five or six brunch items and then the perennial favorites. We did an eggs Benedict (and a) tenderloin Benedict, which we just replaced the Canadian bacon with a filet mignon with the hollandaise. There is a different omelet every week, either a quiche or an egg casserole like a strata."
The brunch is a la carte and ranges from $6.95 to $11.95, according to Dixon.
"There also is a Bloody Mary Bar where you mix your own Bloody Marys," he said. "You can say ‘I want to start with Absolut Citron,’ then you go up and you have four or five different mixes to choose from as well as my own special Bloody Mary mix.
"Then you have all the condiments to add in there — chopped garlic, fresh horseradish, olives, peperoncinis, spicy pickled green beans or anything else — as well as the traditional celery."
One of the more interesting items on the brunch menu is Bananas Foster French Toast.
"It was something different; for brunch you think of the Belgian waffle with all the fruits and all sorts of things," Dixon said. "I thought it was something nice to do and something that still has a batter. It’s not a pancake, it’s not a waffle."
To make your own Bananas Foster French Toast, start with the syrup.
"You start out with the butter and add your sugar to it, add cinnamon and let it melt down," Dixon said. "Then you want to add the banana liqueur to it, to get the flavors going. Get that bubbling away, take it off the heat so that you are not over the fire to add the rum ... bring it back to a boil and as it boils the vapors come out from the alcohol and you want to ignite that and burn off the alcohol."
Dixon said any type of banana liqueur would work just fine for the recipe.
"Then you basically make a French toast batter," Dixon said. "Which is really easy, use half and half, eggs, a little bit of flavoring with the vanilla and a little salt. That is what you want to bring to the griddle — put some butter on there and just cook in the butter until it’s brown on both sides."
Dixon tops the finished dish with sliced ripe bananas, chopped pecans and powdered sugar.
While the Bananas Foster French Toast is just one item from the brunch menu, the dinner menu adds many other tastes along with many of Dixon’s favorites.
"The menu is a combination of my personal recipes and my favorites that I’ve had of other people’s," he said. "(They are) my rendition or my version as an homage to other things that I love."
Dixon mentioned that the Filet Medallions with Lump Crab Meat and Bearnaise sauce, along with the Snapper Fanchaise, are two of his own favorites.
The 22-ounce USDA prime, aged, bone-in rib eye, at $36.95, also is one of Dixon’s suggestions.
"That is the quintessential steak-lovers’ steak," he said. "It is prime, which is the top 1 percent of the beef supply. We leave the bone in for extra flavor. It’s grilled; it is a fabulous steak."
Kitchen manager Paul Anthony suggested the Medallions Trio for newcomers to Scott’s on the Square.
"It is a two bone rack of lamb, 3 ounces of pork (tenderloin) and 3 ounces of beef (tenderloin)," he said. "It’s served with a complimentary sauce for each meat with mashed potatoes and asparagus."
Dixon’s goal when opening the new eatery was to combine upscale casual fine dining with great wine.
"I really wanted to have a list; they are all available by the glass," Dixon said. "We will do a 2-ounce tasting pour, except of the really high-end wines ... so they can see if they like it and people can be more adventurous that way."