Friday, November 02, 2012

Chez le Hy-Vee

Around the table (from left) at Urbandale Hy-Vee's Market Fresh Grille, Alyse, Denny, Ray and Christopher.

You've got to understand that most of us who live in Chariton are to some degree Hy-Vee junkies, since this is where the upper Midwest's largest and best grocery chain lifted off.

The symptoms vary. I never drive into a new Iowa county seat town without locating, and evaluating, the Hy-Vee (or Hy-Vees) --- more of a challenge in places like Des Moines. Details are of interest --- I'm liking the highly-polished concrete flooring of new stores, as opposed to vinyl, terrazzo and tile, plus spacious open ceilings.

The current expansion and renovation of our hometown store offers the potential for hours of fascination, not to mention minor frustrations (you've moved the pharmacy to, like, where?).

Anyhow, five of us were in Des Moines Thursday for a meeting (four were meeting, I was tagging along), so we decided, for an early supper, to try out the new Market Fresh Grille (no, I don't know why they added the gratuitous "e") at the new Urbandale Hy-Vee --- opened Aug. 14, corner of 86th Street and Douglas Avenue. 

The Grill(e) represents Hy-Vee's first step into the world of hostesses, wait staffs, menus, wine and craft beer lists --- and classy black cloth napkins. Plus, it's broken the chains of neutral but dreary gray heretofore imposed for some reason on most Hy-Vee eating establishments.

Here's how it works: Until late afternoon, the large L-shaped eating area serves the breakfast crowd and those who pick up their food on trays in a cafeteria line or at one of the speciality departments (Asian, Italian, sushi, etc.). By 4 p.m., nowever, it has been converted into a sit-down restaurant, hostesses and the wait staff have arrived and the bar is open.

We got there a little early, wandered around and eventually seated ourselves, but were politely reseated by the staff. Before sitting, we may have caused the wait staff a degree of paranoia by standing in a circle and discussing our surroundings at length --- and asking a variety of probing questions. I think poor Campbell, who did a commendable job of waiting on us, thought he was being evaluated.

All in all, it was a positive dining experience. The menu was varied and extensive, as was the wine/beverage list. The service was prompt, friendly and attentive. Our orders arrived promptly --- and the food was wonderful. My "Maytag burger," so-called because of the topping of Maytag blue cheese produced in Newton, was among the best I've eaten --- tender, tasty, juicy, grilled just right --- and the grilled vegetables I'd ordered with it, tasty and crispy-tender. Others had similar experiences.

The only glitch involved coffee, which arrived in foam Caribou cups --- only dark and light roast available. We were told the real coffee cups just hadn't arrived yet. This is a new operation, remember.

There seems to be some discontent among customers who pick up late afternoon or evening food from one of the specialty departments or elsewhere, then discover that once the transition to restaurant has occurred there's no place to sit down with it. A gentleman seated at a table when we walked in who apparently overheard our conversation asked, "you from Hy-Vee?" and when I said, "well, not exactly but kind of indirectly," proceeded to complain about that. You could feel his pain.

But it really was a great place to eat, so if you're in the neighborhood --- give it a try. Restaurant hours are 4-10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 4-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

On your way out --- there's a Starbucks and a gelato "cafe" just opposite the Grill(e) entrance.


Norm Prince said...

Great to see the change in the Hy-Vee restaurants but I will not hold my breath for a change soon in the one in Denison. I was amused at the expressions on Ray's face in the photo where you were talking about the greatness of the food offering. Almost appears as a counter offer to your description.

Frank D. Myers said...

There weren't enough jalapenos in his macaroni and cheese, but vegetarians do not have an easy life in many restaurant circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Don't take his expression as indicative of anything in particular -- Ray almost always looks like that.

Ruth Comer