Thirty-one years ago, just a Trinity River stone’s-throw away from HG Sply Co., the new patent-leather red, industrial-chic paean to paleo dining and more, I had my first meal in Fort Worth.
It was at a no-frills, old-school bar and grill named Daniel’s.
HG Sply shares exactly two things with that mid-’80s darling of the TCU set: It is on the river. And it also serves food.
Step into this 21st-century machine that hums loudly — it can be deafening at dinnertime — along this slice of prime riverfront property and you’ll see a glimpse of the kitchen, churning out coconut-oil-fueled concoctions, kale salads and poke bowls with aplomb, if not an occasional hiccup.
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No new restaurant in Fort Worth exemplifies the city’s dining evolution more than this import from Dallas, where the original location still stands on Lower Greenville Avenue.
Sure, you can get a cheddar bacon burger and fries here ($13), but you’re more apt to see people eating the quinoa burger ($13) or bowls full of zucchini “pasta” with Akaushi beef. Many of the dishes on the menu skew low-carb/high-protein, so flocks of ladies in tennis skirts have taken heed and fill the dining room at virtually every weekday lunch hour.
Really, what could be better than sharing an order of vegan queso ($12), with its sea of deeply fried thick-cut tortilla chips surrounding a bowl of spicy dip that looks suspiciously like queso, but lacks the cheese that, you know, defines “queso.”
It’s quickly become one of the most popular dishes here, toeing the health-minded line thanks to its dearth of dairy. (It is made from a blend of veggies, cashews and coconut milk.) And it makes for an OK substitute for the real thing. It was dense with onions, salsa and cilantro, guacamole lines the bottom, as if paying homage to the ’80s classic, seven-layer dip.
Perhaps it was harder to get Daniel’s out of one’s mind than I had thought.
Many items here read like a spin on “real food,” which is what HG Sply is all about. For first-time visitors, your server will offer a short explanation of what HG stands for (“hunt” and “gather”), meaning food here is responsibly sourced and “honest.”
I honestly did not like my chicken-fried steak entree ($23), two slabs of all-natural skirt steak served atop bland mashed sweet potatoes and green beans. Every bite of the crispy-coated steak screamed “COCONUT OIL,” which permeated the CFS batter. It was nutty and discernible, and did not gel with the classic good-ol’-boy dish.
Another misstep was the quinoa burger, which just had too much going on. Ginger-infused, pungent hummus thickly bathed a molasses wheat bun, which engulfed a house-made quinoa patty. A Kalamata olive tapenade, slices of tomato, avocado and lettuce imbued the sandwich with a healthful if not schizophrenic malaise.
A much better example of using coconut oil for good and not evil was the duck fried “rice” ($22), which features riced cauliflower playing the role of the “offensive” carbohydrate. Slivers of red onion, carrot and bell pepper conspired with bits of broccoli and caramelized halved Brussels sprouts, and a perfectly cooked duck-leg quarter was splayed atop.
For dessert, another standout is the cherry chocolate cookie ($10), a brownie-like cookie whose sweetness was matched with cool, almond milk ice cream. Brandied cherries and candied pecans rained on top, adding crunch and texture. Four of us shared it, as if to say to the dietary gods: “Look, we’re exerting portion control!”
Service on the whole is slick and assured, which dovetails nicely with the upscale, shiny atmosphere. As The Chainsmokers’ Closer played in the background and the baseball playoffs droned discordantly on the bar-side TVs, I thought about escaping to the patio, where a bare-bones setup offers stellar river vistas and up-close views of runners and cyclists.
Outside, after dinner, I couldn’t help thinking about Daniel’s, which existed in a humbler time, when flat-screen TVs didn’t exist and cooking with coconut oil was just plain nutty.
Sometimes simpler is better, even if the okra at that ’80s mainstay tasted a little greasy.