HG Sply Co.’s chicken legs are perfectly crisped. Photo by Steve Steward.

If you’ve never heard of the “paleo diet,” or your dashboard is so covered with Whataburger wrappers that any kind of “diet” sounds like a joke in need of a punchline, “paleo” is a cooking and eating routine that eschews all processed foodstuffs in favor of naturally available meats and produce. It’s theoretically in line with what our Stone Age ancestors subsisted on –– the plants, seeds, nuts, and animal proteins regularly gathered and hunted by early man.

HG Sply Co., newly opened in the upscale West Bend retail development on University Drive, takes its inspiration from the paleo diet –– the HG part stands for “hunter-gatherer” –– but that description is barely suited for the dust jacket on what is a compelling (and delicious) culinary tale. If HG’s menu is anything like what cavemen ate, I can see why a lot of modern humans want to get back to their early homo sapien roots.

[box_info]HG Sply Co., 1621 River Run Dr, FW, 817-730-6070. 11am-10pm Sun-Thu, 11am-12am Fri-Sat. VISA and MC accepted.[/box_info]


OK fine, it’s unlikely that cavemen had it this good. Luckily, the prehistoric origin story pretty much ends at the no-processed-food rules. If you’re afraid of walking into a restaurant that looks like a Universal Studios ride based on The Croods, you can smooth your pleats, because the restaurant’s vibe is firmly rooted in 2016. That means lots of vertical space and unfinished wood, dishcloths for napkins, and a $7,000 juicer.

The juicer, used to squeeze the lemons and limes in the restaurants drinks and dishes, is at the end of the back bar. It’s a transparent, citrus-colored contraption loaded with limes, and it leads your eye to jars of house-pickled veggies and house-made juices on shelves stacked up to the ceiling. The back bar, decorated in a wall of white tiles, curves upward, and if you follow its trajectory, you’ll be directed into turning around in your seat and gazing across the dining room to a spectacular view of the Trinity River.

Staring at nature is always a plus at any restaurant, but at one that doesn’t even use any butter, it’s actually an enhancement. The space, expansive and full of natural light, is high-volume, both in terms of seating and sound, because it’s a lot of people having a good time over dishes that are as filling as they are fresh.

Since its paleo-inspiration precludes using butter, its chefs have gotten creative –– its poblano “grits” are actually made from mushrooms and cauliflower, for example –– and if it’s possible to make decadent comfort foods good for you, HG Sply deserves high marks. I’m not sure you’d lose weight from eating the Bison Chile Frito pie, but you owe yourself to try it and see what happens. Simply put, it’s an exciting dish, and not only because of the zip and heat of the chili’s poblano, jalapeño, and ancho chile combo. The bison’s salty goodness underscores a tasty coconut lime crema sauce, sending the flavor of an ordinary trailer park standby into the stratosphere.

Sauces, like that coconut lime crema, are but one area in which HG really succeeds. The lemon aioli ranch on the Bacon Cheddar Burger is creamy and piquant without overpowering the lightly crunchy, uncured bacon, itself the perfect complement to a savory Kobe beef patty. Then there’s the glaze on the Mango BBQ TX Chicken Legs appetizer. It’s sweet yet subtle and deserves to be sampled with a bite of the bed of green papaya salad underneath, which packs a good amount of zing. The legs are cooked in coconut oil, and you’ve probably never had a chicken leg more perfectly crisped.

Besides upscale, healthier comfort foods, HG Sply Co. also serves salads (the Greens and Grains salad is both a health-nut and food-texture fan’s dream) and bowls ranging from a yellow curry and a stir fry to a Tex Mex bowl and a zucchini pasta bowl, each one available with quinoa, grilled chicken, grilled Scottish salmon, Kobe beef burger, sautéed Akaushi beef, grilled steak, pulled pork, or lamb. Of these, the yellow curry reigns supreme (especially with the lamb). Topped with a cucumber-mint-cilantro relish, the coconut curry broth was a creamy, mellow delight full of cauliflower, sweet potatoes, baby kale, and grape tomatoes.

Interestingly, for a restaurant that aims to provide an enjoyable, healthy, sit-down dining experience, the dishes arrive fairly quickly, on simple platings and without a lot of fanfare. The staff is highly enthusiastic and mostly knowledgeable about the menu –– if you have a nut allergy, be sure to ask which ones are in your salad before you bite, in other words. They also strive to get everything perfect, so expect to be asked how you’re doing even if you’ve barely had a nibble. All in all, HG Sply Co. is filling, flavorful, and it’s a fun place to be. Butter be damned.

[box_info]HG Sply Co.
Bison Chile Frito Pie     $11
Mango BBQ TX Chicken Legs     $12
Bacon Cheddar Burger     $13
The Yellow Curry (with lamb)     $19[/box_info]