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The chicken-fried steak sandwich was stuffed with fork-tender meat. Photo by Velton Hayworth

Hearth Cafe

990 Hwy 287 N, Ste 124, Mansfield. 817-225-6567. 6:30am-2:30pm daily. All major credit cards accepted.

Mansfield doesn’t lack for early morning options, especially if you’re a fan of greasy spoons filled with tchotchkes and fueled by waitstaff sass and coffee strong enough to strip the enamel off your teeth. Hearth Cafe is the newest member of the city’s collection of non-chain breakfast eateries, though the recently opened egg-and-java joint lacks the crust and clutter of the rest of the pack.

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Hearth’s space looks clean and modern. Despite the absence of all the cliché dive-joint baggage, the restaurant has all the requisite diner accoutrements, including glass-covered platters full of baked goods made in house by a real baker in the wee morning hours. 

The menu pleasantly strikes a balance between wholesome (yogurt and granola, salads, a veggie sandwich) and comforting (pancakes, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, pork chops). Because it’s a newer, trendy little restaurant, avocado toast is a breakfast item –– but so is the Texas-fried chicken toast, a huge fried breast sandwiched impossibly between two thick slices of Texas toast. The moist bird absolutely dwarfed the generously sized bread. Thick, tasty, flawlessly cooked bacon and a gooey fried egg accompanied it, along with a crema that was subtle and airy to the point of (almost) flavorlessness. Vinegary pickled jalapeños and a tart, piquant onion jam beautifully offset the rich fried bird and egg. Some of the best crispy potatoes you’ll ever eat – crispy, double-fried, half-moon pillows – were served alongside it.

Hash may be a mood thing for many people, though if you are of the hash persuasion, the menu offers a brilliant mess of potatoes, veggies, cheese, meat, and eggs. More of the excellent bacon arrived crumbled atop those divinely crispy potatoes, along with sweet, sautéed, caramelized onion and a textbook-perfect over-medium egg. The dish was garnished with a generous amount of the crema, which was actually tangy and delicious in the right quantity. Mimosas would have been an excellent addition, but at the time of this writing, the restaurant is dry. Both breakfast entrees were so enormous, they could have been shared comfortably. Treat yourself to a side of fabulous sausage cream gravy –– it’s especially tasty as a side to that fried chicken and handy as a sop for any stray potatoes.

On my second visit, my guest and I found the lunch menu to be fairly simple. Unlike the dozen or so breakfast options, the kitchen offers nine choices for lunch, and three of those are salads. The bacon-wrapped meatloaf sandwich was glorious. A hefty portion of better-than-Grandma’s meatloaf came smothered in just the right amount of tangy barbecue sauce. A scientific marvel, the meat managed to be appropriately dense and fluffy at the same time. Lusciously melted smoked cheddar cheese and a smear of horseradish cream elevated the dish to gourmet comfort. Just as with breakfast, the two slices of toasted sourdough bread were inadequate borders for the amply portioned meat. Sadly, the accompanying potato chips came from a bag, not a fryer.

The brisket Reuben sandwich sounded so promising and delivered. Brisket subbed in for pastrami, and more familiar ingredients shared space between the rye bread: Swiss cheese, tart sauerkraut, and housemade dressing. The fork-tender meat was sublime if a little more difficult to eat than what you’d find on a traditional pastrami-filled Reuben. The one miss was the coleslaw, which lacked pepper, salt, or anything besides mayo. 

Save room for the desserts and treats. The morning of my breakfast, strawberry scones beckoned, but my guest and I were just too full. When lunch was over, we were seduced by a red velvet cheesecake brownie. The insanely moist red velvet base mingled with some of the best cheesecake topping this side of Junior’s Deli in New York City. 

Breakfast was moderately better than lunch only because of the diversity of eye-opener menu options. There’s a completely different bill of fare for weekend brunch as well – another Hearth’s feature that stands out amid Mansfield’s breakfast row.

Hearth Cafe 

Hash $10

Texas-fried chicken toast $11

Sausage gravy $2

Brisket Reuben sandwich $11

Bacon-wrapped meatloaf sandwich $12

Red velvet cheesecake brownie $3

 

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