Market Fresh rebrands Hy-Vee10/3/2012
Wall-to-wall TV screens dominate the new super Hy-Vee’s Market Fresh restaurant. On a recent visit, each was tuned to a talk show, and all were muted. Why? Did restaurant consultants convince a team of architects and corporate executives that Urbandale diners all want a silent TV in their direct sight lines so they can guess what people might be saying? Prestige restaurants in supermarkets are nothing new. Draeger’s in California, Central Market in Texas and Eataly in New York have renowned restaurants in their stores. I don’t ever recall seeing a TV in any of them, though, let alone wall-to-wall screens.
Televisions are just part of the design at Market Fresh where the dining room is a unique combination of Industrial and Deco architecture with faux skin drum lamps, polished concrete floors, exposed ducts and engineered wood booths.
Breakfast at my neighborhood Hy-Vee has always been consistent, economic and efficient. After decades, I don’t recall ever being annoyed by delays or mistakes. My first breakfast at Market Fresh was different. I entered the main entrance. Because the hostess station was unmanned, I seated myself. After awhile I asked a server for a menu and was directed to the back door, where one orders before entering. The restaurant was less than half full, yet another 36 minutes passed before my short order was served. While waiting, I counted four different instances of silverware clanging on the floor as bus people tried to work without trays or carts. My breakfast sausage was so overcooked I couldn’t eat much of it, but I didn’t have time to complain. My toast was black on one side and perfectly cooked on the other. Eggs and hash browns were spot-on, just like they always are at my neighborhood Hy-Vee.
At dinner time, the main entrance became the proper place to enter. Two people manned the host station. (Maybe one should shift to breakfast service?) A very large menu ranged from Japanese to Italian. Commendably, crab cakes were made with real crab, hand-cut steaks were from Amana and $4 desserts were all freshly made in the restaurant’s kitchen. A flank steak was nicely executed, sliced and served with a good mushroom-and-wine reduction and an interesting mix of rice and quinoa. Macadamia nut bread pudding and chocolate-chipotle cheese cake (with cilantro whipped cream) compared well to desserts priced exponentially higher elsewhere in town.
Other things came with problems. Our waiter excused himself five times one evening to discover how to answer basic questions. Nice garlic knobs were served without butter or oil. When requested, butter came streaked with dark yellow ribbons, suggesting it had melted before being refrigerated. Grilled meatloaf sliders had perfect sears but a strange meat-to-bread ratio and barely covered half the circumference of their buns. Fish (salmon, tuna and, oddly, tilapia) in nigiri tasted odd. Fish-to-rice ratios were only about half what one expects in Japanese restaurants.
Dinner was expensive. One evening, a beverage, an entrée, an order of sliders, two sushi rolls and a minimum-sized nigiri order cost $84 with tax and tip. I don’t ever recall paying so much as $10 per person for dinner at my neighborhood Hy-Vee.
Market Fresh isn’t smoothly integrated with its grocery store. Fish department tuna and salmon glistened with freshness. Wines were $2 – $15 more expensive than in the supermarket’s wine department. Corkage fees were $10 a bottle.
Bottom line: Market Fresh is rebranding Hy-Vee’s cafés, whether it means to or not. CV
Meal Man, a multiple restaurant delivery service, opened a Des Moines branch, http://www.dmmealman.com. www.Change.org targeted Dunkin’ Donuts for protest, wanting to reduce its consumption of 1.5 billion Styrofoam coffee cups per year.
Flank steak in mushroom sauce at Market Fresh, 8701 Douglas Ave., Urbandale, 270-2572.Kitchen hours, 5 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily.