By Thomas C. Pavlik, Jr.
I’d guess that when most people think of a grocery store it’s not as a dining destination, but rather a place to get food to make meals elsewhere. And despite having multiple business lunches there since Hy-Vee opened, I never thought about reviewing it – after all, it’s just a grocery store. But it’s a grocery store with a restaurant worth visiting.
The Market Grille at Hy-Vee occupies the southern half of the store and has its own entrance. For being located in a grocery store, the ambiance isn’t too bad. The floors are polished concrete, there are several TVs so you can catch the news or the latest game and there’s a separate bar area. Patrons are seated at booths along the floor-to-ceiling windows or at tables. There’s a separate entrance into the grocery store proper.
Given the exposed ceiling and concrete floor, I expected acoustics to be a problem, but that wasn’t the case. We all appreciated that tables and booths were not stacked on top of each other and we never felt at risk of having our conversation overheard by other diners.
My guests and I arrived shortly before noon and were pleasantly greeted and shown to our table. Our server quickly appeared and announced the day’s specials. This was the first visit for one of my guests and he was impressed with the scope of the menu. Market Grille has something for pretty much everyone, from sandwiches and salads to more traditional entrées. We appreciated that many of those more “dinner” themed entrées (such as the pastas and the shrimp tacos) are available in lunch-sized portions between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
If you’re in the mood to sample several different items, the buffet is also available. Hy-Vee has a separate area inside the grocery store for prepared foods with its own seating area that’s not part of the Market Grille. Market Grille diners are provided passes entitling them to ceramic plates for buffet dining. The buffet ($14.00) doesn’t include the sushi but does include an ample salad bar, pizza, Asian offerings and more traditional buffet items like chicken, BBQ and potatoes.
Items that caught our collective eye included the Monte Cristo club sandwich ($8.00 – turkey, ham, bacon, and mayo served on egg-dipped sourdough with spiced apple jam), the Sicilian flatbread ($13 for the 12 inch – meatballs, sausage and fresh mozzarella and basil) and blackened shrimp tacos ($9 for the lunch portion of two, instead of three, tacos served with grilled Cajun shrimp and cabbage slaw).
Although I opted for the buffet, my guests decided to sample a few orders of sushi and to each get an appetizer – the Colossal Wings ($10, available boneless or traditional, with choice of sauce) and the bruschetta ($8 – tomatoes and mozzarella on top of fresh bread brushed with garlic and topped with oil, vinegar, basil and Parmesan).
The sushi came out first. The tuna tartare ($12) was not what I was expecting – 4 ounces of five-spice dusted tuna over sushi rice, avocados, seaweed salad and lime. It was a decided hit and something I will order on my next visit. The vegetable roll ($7 for nine pieces, $4 for four pieces) was good but paled in comparison.
The buffet does offer quite a few options but the highlight was the salad bar. Everything you could imagine is available. However, I did note that the more expensive items were located toward the back of the bar where access was a bit difficult. I also noticed that staff appeared not to be monitoring the bar – several of the containers were perilously low during my entire visit and I never noticed the inevitable spillage being cleaned.
The other prepared foods were adequate but not as good as the made-to-order items from the menu – but that’s the double edged sword of the buffet. Judging from the flow of diners, the Asian entrées and the pizza were the standouts – something confirmed by my palate.
The appetizers were very generously sized for the price. The wings were truly colossal-sized and the buffalo sauce hit just the right notes with the perfect amount of heat. The wings themselves were reported as being juicy and not overcooked.
The bruschetta was another winner and proved that there’s a real benefit to having your own bakery onsite – it was the delicious bread that anchored this dish. And hats off to the Market Grille for finding some ripe tomatoes and for letting the ingredients shine by not overpowering the fish with too much balsamic.
Service was very friendly but slow – something I’ve observed on other visits.
Hy-Vee has done a nice job with the Market Grille and its location between downtown and the farther west side makes it a very convenient location for a business lunch. If you haven’t already, you should give it a try.
HY-VEE MARKET GRILLE
2115 South MacArthur Blvd.
hy-veemarketgrille.com (put your
menu on capitalcitymenus.com)
Monday – Thursday: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday – Sat.: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday – 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
with Brunch 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Credit Cards: Yes
Suitability for Business Lunch: ****
Thomas C. Pavlik is an attorney with Delano Law Offices, LLC, in Springfield.