After you’ve paid for your food at the McCullough Street Hearthstone’s order counter, you’ll be given a buzzer to take to your table. Before long, lights will start flashing and a raucous buzz will erupt from the device. You then take it to the kitchen counter and exchange it for your food. You can’t turn the thing off, so speed is encouraged.
It seems unlikely that what you exchanged your device for is the product of a classically trained chef. Take the minestrone with meatballs: The soup doesn’t have the taste of having been thickened with flour, but its consistency is nevertheless almost gelatinous. The concoction might have been redeemed by great taste, but, well, the meatballs were good.
Strange thinking also characterizes the Southwestern salad with Habanango™ dressing. The small version is served in a large cup, and it’s extremely difficult to eat. The individual parts are uninteresting in any event: “seasoned” corn wasn’t, the trademarked dressing made no impression … and why put guacamole in a leafy salad when avocado slices would make much more sense?
Well, on to the sandwiches. The Gobbler almost made it, despite the marbled rye being dry. Though there didn’t seem to be much mozzarella, the turkey itself was okay. Even the sweetness of the dried cranberries in the cranberry mayo seemed to work — though the mayo was oddly watery.
A basil pesto mayo dressing the Bella Portabella panino suffered the same watery fate: it seemed to disappear in the mix of lettuce, tomato, minimal mozzarella, even less apparent sautéed peppers and small slices of mushroom. The appeal of portabellas is mainly in their meatiness, a quality that has been exploited in sandwiches all over town utilizing the whole, grilled cap. That quality doesn’t come across here.
Okay, desserts often save the day. Hearthstone was promoting their crème brûlée by offering small, free samples with each plate. Decent (and very buttery) taste but somewhat odd consistency. Texture was an issue with the peanut butter-over-chocolate brownie, too; it occupied a curious middle ground between chewy and doughy. But the multi-chocolate chip cookie delivered on all counts, and the peanut butter cookie, so tender it nearly fell apart, rated raves on the rave to razz scale.
Yes, here I was again, at breakfast this time, looking for the sweet spot in this bakery café with an apparently successful first location in The Forum. (For this, their second location, Hearthstone has taken over the space formerly occupied by The Lighthouse at Olmos Park.) The breakfast menu offers wraps, panini, bagels, croissants and English muffins as a base to which you can add various egg-based fillings. Here’s what I can say about the flour tortilla wrap with a “Benedict” filling: don’t. The hollandaise was watery to the point of disappearance, paprika was not detectable, the eggs seriously lacked seasoning, and the whole thing just seemed heavy.
The coffee is okay, though, and the machines that dispense plastic cutlery are quite cool.
Hearthstone Bakery Café