Before getting into this review, let me state there is room in this town for two yak burgers. All right, let’s get started.
Swoop food truck’s triumphant new residency at the Hey Hey Bar and Grill shows the hosting old-school German Village haunt amassing a record as an unlikely restaurant incubator for talented chefs. See, Swoop succeeds the tenure of another impressive mobile vendor — yak burger-pioneering The Coop — who recently moved from Hey Hey to work on a brick-and-mortar operation all its own. Similarly, Swoop chef Matthew Heaggans has expressed his desire to be the king of his own castle. For now, though, get thee down to the improved Hey Hey to enjoy Heaggans’ fantastic food (currently available evenings, Thursday-Saturday).
Improved Hey Hey? Yes, because two side effects of dishing up more serious grub here over the past year are a seriously upgraded bottled beer list (one not style-stunted) and service that’s less confused and more conducive to finer dining (OK, it’ll never be The Refectory, but now it’s sorta like eating in a bar/diner instead of a “charmingly” creaky dive).
Regarding Heaggans’ fantastic fare — which is gastropubby without all the silly crowing about that — I’d swear several of the stylish items I tried could’ve come outta, say, G. Michael’s kitchen. Like a huge bowl of assertive but nuanced House Pimento Cheese ($7). Plated with good craggy toast points radiating about it, the sharp-tasting dip is thick, Parmesan-salty, and delivers a sorta fruity but not-foolin’-around chili kick (habanero?).
The excellent, mustard-seed-and-clove-scented Pickle Pot ($4) could also instruct blowhard-prone but less-skilled gastropubbers how to do it. Partnered with more good bread plus a contrapuntal soft-serve-like swirl of whipped butter, I got a half-cup Mason jar stuffed with sweet and sour haricot vert, anise-y broccoli florets and racy carrots.
Another g-pub staple — deviled eggs, but terrific ones with inspired “du jour” flavors — can be ordered a la carte ($5) or poultry-coupled in The Chicken and the Egg “Supper” dish ($9). If it’s the latter, you’ll also get a vibrant and richness-countering salad plus an impossibly tender, confited and sear-crusted (a popular and effective two-pronged technique here) deboned thigh with intensified chicken flavor. However ordered, the satanic ova I sampled — killer crab and crispy bacon-bit numbers — exhibited that rare kind of wit and balance that elevate no-big-whoop-sounding dishes into something memorable.
Ditto for an incredible-from-a-bar, fancy restaurant-like daily Seasonal Vegetable ($9) — an essay on tomatoes picked from Hey Hey’s backyard garden. The attractive ensemble was a creative, Italian/American South hybrid that used three types of pomodori to craftily merge fried green tomatoes with a Caprese salad and the kind of explosive salsa verde Italians eat with bollito misto. To order this is to be in love with the waning summer of 2013.
Time to talk yak. It might sound exotic, but the excellent Yak Attack! ($12, with terrific, cofited-and-seared spuds) riffs on a Big Mac-style double decker and tastes familiar, only better. On a glossy, toasted and wonderful pretzel roll-like bun were two lean but very beefy-tasting and extremely juicy yak patties perfectly married to American cheese, arugula, veggies and a mayo-and-relish-type sauce. Attack indeed!
You should also attack the at-least-as-impressive trio of seared and succulent Yak Meatballs ($9). Topped with a tangy caponata and plopped onto rich lovely grits, they’re yet another reason you’ll see me back at this Swoop iteration of Hey Hey soon and often.