Our server kept complimenting everything my co-worker ordered. I was feeling a little competitive because all of my choices were met with polite indifference. I wasn’t too discouraged – I examined that menu like it was a clue in a murder. I just hated feeling like I was being out-dueled.
I’m sure if I had asked our relentlessly cheery server at HG Sply Co. (1621 River Run, 682-730-6070), she would have praised my selections as the height of reasoning and touted me as visionary. She and every employee we encountered seemed unreasonably happy to see us. I’m not suggesting the staff was insincere at all. I just wasn’t prepared for the ticker tape parade they practically threw us as we walked to and from our table.
The décor was as bright as everyone’s mood. The Dallas-based mini-chain is set in the upscale WestBend development cozily nestled up against the Trinity River just off University Drive. The vibe of the sun-drenched dining room is industrial chic, with exposed air ducts, concrete ceilings and floors, wide windows, a stunning riverside patio, and a things-in-jars motif at the bar – apparently, the place pickles its own veggies.
The PR folks call the bill of fare paleo-inspired cuisine. In other words, the kitchen stays away from processed food in favor of things that a caveman could have theoretically hunted or gathered. The paleo diet was all the rage a few years ago, so it strikes me as risky to stake your restaurant’s future on a fad. It’s the culinary equivalent of blowing your life savings on Pogs and Beanie Babies – except HG’s food was fresh-tasting and delicious, and that never goes out of style.
My impromptu order-off with my guest started with him asking our server a question about the menu’s Bison Chili Frito Pie ($11), with South Dakota bison, kidney, pinto, black beans, and Frito-looking chips slathered in poblano, jalapeño, and ancho chilies and covered in Cheddar cheese, a coconut-lime crema, neon-colored guacamole, and green onions.
“Oh, my god,” she ecstatically shrieked. “That is so good. It’s my favorite thing on the menu.”
When I ordered the housemade chips and vegan queso ($12), she smiled and either wrote down my order or was drawing a crude sketch of me with stink lines. No matter. The queso was spicy, rich, and creamy. The chips were crispy and firm but with an almost pastry-like brittleness on the tongue.
The most interesting entrée choices were like a choose-your-own adventure book. You can pick a protein (or a “hunted” item) and pair it with a combination of sides (gathered). When my pal went for the luscious, perfectly medium-rare Kobe beef hamburger patty ($14) atop a stir-fry – a spicy mélange of broccoli, mushrooms, snap peas, red bell peppers, edamame, red onions, sesame seeds, and toasted hemp seeds – I thought our server was going to strip naked and jump into the Trinity, having just witnessed the perfect food order.
“That sounds amazing,” she said, a single tear rolling down her cheek.
I braced for impact. Surely her head would pop off when she got a load of my lunch – a flaky, seductive grilled Scottish salmon ($16) paired with poblano-cauliflower grits, sautéed rainbow chard, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and a little side salad of arugula with a heap of what turned out to be a tad too much fresh dill.
“I’ll have that right out,” she said flatly, still looking at my lunch companion like he’d just cured gout.
As we walked out, the entire staff stopped in their tracks to say goodbye. I thought they were going to lineup to belt out “So Long, Farewell.”
“Man, those people were nice,” my guest said, donning a Cheshire grin.