is about as much a Southern city as Galveston
is a New England port.
Abilene is pure
West Texas. Not only,
as the famous song says, do people there not treat you mean, folks
in Abilene do not
seem to dwell overmuch on the Lost Cause if at all. No school in
Abilene has a rebel
as a mascot, though there is an elementary school named after Gen.
Robert E. Lee. While there are doubtless some residents interested
in Civil War history, or who have ancestors who fought for the South
(or North), Abilene
is decidedly not the kind of place you'd expect the oldest eating
place in town would be called the Dixie Pig.
That eatery opened in 1931 during the Great Depression and it has
been serving Texas comfort food (biscuits and gravy, chicken fried
steak and other Lone Star staples) through four wars, one Cold War
with Russia and the more recent Cool War with Russia, one horrific
drought in the 1950s and several medium-to-bad droughts, numerous
ups and downs in the price of cattle, cotton and a barrel of crude
oil and more.
Surely there are other restaurants in Texas that date back further
than the 85-year-old Dixie Pig, but there couldn't be too many.
was barely 50 when the DP (not to be confused with that popular
Texas stopping place with initials ending in Q) opened for business.
For a place that's been around for so long, surprisingly little
has been written about the DP. The Abilene Reporter News
did a long feature story on the place in the summer of 2016, but
other than that and a profile in a book on old Texas eateries, that's
As the Abilene
newspaper story reports, O.D. Dillingham founded the Dixie Pig at
14th and Butternut in 1931 when that area was on the edge of town.
Since then, like many long-time businesses, the restaurant has had
a succession of owners, but Barbara Bradshaw has owned it since
1985. Its current dining area dates to 1941, with an addition done
in the 1950s.
What the story does not explain is how the place came to be called
the Dixie Pig. Was it inspired by the pioneer curb service eatery
founded in Dallas in 1921,
the Pig Stand? Considered the first drive-in restaurant in the U.S.,
the Pig Stand eventually sired piglet Pig Stands across Texas (well,
at least in Austin and
San Antonio) and
six other states.
Pig obviously refers to pork and its derivative menu items, including
bacon, sausage and ham. But in Texas, neither fare ever became more
popular than hamburgers or fried chicken.
More puzzling is how Dixie became associated with Pig in Abilene.
Maybe Dillingham's grandfather fought for the South or O. D. was
better at cooking than he was in geography and cultural history.
The only other Southern-sounding business in this city of 120,000
is a gentleman's club called the Dixie Rose and the Southern Mattress
Ironically enough, turns out no one even knows how "Dixie" became
a synonym for the South. One version says it dates to a $10 bank
note issued in early New Orleans, "Dix" being French for 10. Soon
the bill became known as a "Dixie" and Louisiana as "Dixieland."
Another story says the name honors a kind Northern slave owner from
the 1820s named Mr. Dixy. Most likely is that the name comes from
Jeremiah Dixon, who surveyed the famous Mason-Dixon Line.
Nomenclature aside, some venerable eateries have been around for
so long that it's not free advertising to write about them. They
have transcended merely being a place to have a meal. They are institutions.
And the Dixie Pig is definitely an institution.
With old friend Merkel cartoonist (and fellow ex-patriot Austinite)
Beverly and I recently made our first visit to the DP for breakfast.
We had Roger's regular order, two eggs over-easy, bacon and two
biscuits, each the size of a medium grapefruit. All that was washed
down by coffee from never-empty cups poured by waitresses who know
the names of all the regulars.
The DP's biscuits, it was apparent after the first bite, were "home-did,"
the only ingredient coming from a can being the shortening and baking
powder. They came with a bowl of white gravy, which in Texas and
the South is generally regarded as a beverage.
While the origin of the Pig in DP remains a mystery, a high shelf
lining the dining room's walls are snout-to-tail with what appears
to be every variety of ceramic, plaster, metal or plastic pig ever
made. Beneath the porcine parade are black and white photos of the
DP back when.
For years, the DP stayed open around the clock, seven days a week,
but these days, the doors open at 6 a.m. and the last table has
been cleaned by shortly after the 2 p.m. closing time. The South
is not likely to rise again, but Abilene
residents--and visitors who know the place--hope there will always
be someone up early baking biscuits at the Dixie Pig.
"Texas Tales" April
26, 2017 column
More Columns | Food
| Texas Towns