The Brunch Dish: Comfort Revisited at Hearty
"Comfort revisited" is the culinary mantra at Hearty, a restaurant rooted in reinvigorated American nostalgia and a hefty dose of whimsy. Naturally, this formula lends itself well to brunch, the meal period most affiliated with such eccentricities, so it makes sense that Hearty would excel in the vein of pancakes, breakfast corn dogs, and corned beef hash, all of which are present and accounted for come Sunday morning. But it's not enough to pimp a few classics with some hollow razzle-dazzle; you've got to offer whimsy with substance, something Hearty achieves in strides.
Cinnamon rolls with goat cheese icing ($2.75) are the greatest way to start a meal since Olive Garden bastardized Italian cuisine with those glorious, irresistible breadsticks. This thing is a thing of beauty, not so much in that it's flawlessly shaped and frosted because it's not, but more so in that the flavors are exceptionally well-balanced and illuminating. The texture is a tad on the doughy side, but that's Nirvana for me, as I'm an avid fan of all things doughy. Just ask the family-sized pack of Parker House rolls I just inhaled for "dinner." Or any bao ever. The roll isn't under-baked, it's just a bit dense and chewy, which I think provides nice body to stand up to the generous frosting of tangy goat cheese icing. The contours of the roll are laced with delicate notes of brown sugar and cinnamon, just enough so you know they're there and you're eating a cinnamon roll, without clobbering you over the head with cinnamon-sugar flavor. I dare you to restrain from inhaling the entire thing.
A fun riff on your standard stack of pancakes is Hearty's beer-braised apple pancakes ($9.50), laden with Granny Smith apples and plump raisins, dripping in lager syrup. The pancakes themselves are pretty classic and divine, fluffy and light, yet substantial enough not to wilt like a wallflower underneath its accompaniments. They're perfect for sopping up boozy syrup and layering with tender fruity niblets. The whole thing tastes like the best diner-style pancakes of your youth, all grown up and with a minor drinking problem.
A savory standout on the brunch menu is one of the more unique items, the honey mustard breakfast dog ($9.50). It's the type of dish you order out of sheer, gluttonous curiosity, and why wouldn't you? It's a bacon sausage immersed in cornmeal batter, deep-fried, and heaped atop cream cheese-scrambled eggs. My pants just tore typing that. First of all, I am really enjoying the prevalence of bacon sausage on brunch menus. More of that please. In this case, the smoky, fatty sausage performs particularly well in a honey mustard-scented cornmeal sheath, especially when dipped in maple syrup. Hearty even gets whimsical with simple sides like scrambled eggs. They look pretty typical, but grab a forkful and you'll discover these eggs are silkier, richer, and creamier than any egg you've scrambled. Thanks, cream cheese.
One of the most straightforward preparations, in case you're allergic to whimsy or something, is the corned beef hash ($9.50). The kitchen plays it pretty close to the chest on this one, but that's not a bad thing when the beer-braised corned beef is as succulent as this, adjoined by sweet apples and onions, and two fried eggs.
A splash of lager, a pinch of honey mustard cornmeal batter, and some beer-braised beef are some of the requisite ingredients for a brunch menu tastefully based in nostalgic whimsy. Put on your stretchy pants and take a jaunt down memory lane at Hearty, the kind of restaurant where memory lane is paved in goat cheese icing.