This past spring, Hillside Farmacy opened in the spot that used to house Gene's Longhorn Po-boy on East 11th. Gene's was a total dive, but served a mean sandwich, and it was sad to see them close a few years ago. Enter Chef Sonya Cote of Eastside Show Room, and her passion and dedication to locally-sourced foods. There's a nice article from the Statesman that tells the story of how they secured the Gene's site and what the inspiration behind the look and feel was.
I was immediately struck by the decor when I walked in to meet a friend for lunch. It's sort of like a Parisian bistro without the cigarette smoke. Loved the black and white wall paper! The walls are lined with Texas products that are for sale, making it a combo grocery and restaurant. The hallway to the men's and women's restrooms has a communal hand washing sink, complete with old-fashioned spigots.
Even at 1 pm on a Thursday, the place was crowded, but fortunately, my dining companion had been a few minutes early and secured us a table. Old apothecary bottles are used for the salt and pepper shakers, and drinks are served in canning jars. My foodie friend has been there several times, and is partial to the crab salad; I chose the Pee Wee sandwich, which features braised pork belly.
It's a great looking sandwich, but I realized after the fact that I really do prefer my pork belly seared, or at least with a bit of crispiness and caramelization to it. This was pretty floppy. But I think my main disappointment lies in the bread the sandwich came on -- it simply did not hold up to the sandwich. It fairly well disintegrates when you take a bite. It was a white bread, not unlike a brioche with it's very soft crumb. The pork had okay flavor, but nothing really stood out. The tiny pile of salad on the plate didn't add a whole lot of value, and the pickle was limp. Kind of a disappointment for $11.
Neither of us were really hungry for dessert, but opted for a couple of macarons. This was one of the best salted caramel macarons I have ever had, because you could actually taste the salt! The lavender was much more subtle, which was fine by me.
In HF's early days, they were frequently knocked by the local bloggers and media for having poor service, which is one of the reasons it has taken me six months to try them out. They seem to have that worked out now; our waitress was attentive and polite. Water, ice tea and ice coffee glasses got filled regularly. My friend and I were deep in conversation, so I did not share my displeasure about the bread with her, though half a plate of uneaten bread may have been a clue. I would like to go back and try some other menu items, or maybe even a cocktail. But for now, we'll chalk this one up to catching up with an old friend trumps quality of food.