During the 1920's, Hillside Drugstore was owned and operated by Doc Young, the first African American pharmacist in Austin, Texas. The building, complete with a pea green paint job and crowned by its black and white striped awning, is now home to one of the trendier spots on Austin's already trendy East side: Hillside Farmacy. Maintaining and preserving history from the inside out, Hillside Farmacy's unique atmosphere is enhanced with its original cabinetry and display of antique pharmacy-esque decor; which includes pearl white wall tiles, shiny copper tables, an abundance of glass cases to display knickknacks and snacks, as well tall sheets of glass for displaying menu options.
Also a slick white, the inside floor tiling proved to be affected by the heavy foot traffic on this damp Sunday morning. Brunch, being popular enough already, ushered a dense crowd and it was to no surprise that we were offered a 30-minute wait. In actuality it proved to be closer to 15-minutes before my eating partner and I were seated at a table near the edge of the dining room.
Within a few moments, our server appeared with a smile and rapid fire of questions such as 'how are you?' and 'can I get you started with a drink?' without much space in between for a response. Understandable, considering the volume of tables in the small vicinity, but the experience suddenly seemed rushed. With our coffee order in, we glanced over the menu as well as the support staff. A pair of bartenders stood under a set of hanging industrial lights, manning the front counter and tight with buttoned down overalls and red neck ties; all together upping the 50's feel.
Shortly after menu decisions were made, two heavy plates were brought to us and it became immediately apparent that we were not supposed to walk away hungry. On my plate sat the Ham Steaks & Parmesan Cheese Grits ($12); a slab of pork belly, heap of creamy grits, two poached eggs and mound of crisp arugula. Across from me, my partner carved up the massive Seasonal Omelette ($10).
It should be noted that, while ordering my grits, our server assumed I wanted scrambled eggs (though the menu described fried eggs), but I modified the dish to come with poached instead. In cutting into the first of my poached eggs, it appeared tough at the surface and proved to be closer to hard boiled than poached. Perhaps the dish was meant to have scrambled eggs and I was being difficult for making the modification. Or perhaps I'm simply cursed in my search for poached eggs in Austin. Disappointing, no less.
However, the second egg was properly poached and hope was restored. The textures and flavors from the pork belly, egg yolk, creamy grits and arugula blended together quite well and each forkful offered something different; whether it be the smokey nature of the pork, peppery seasoning of the grits, or simply the crunch of arugula. All together, the dish was essentially what I egg-spected (expected, ha-ha).
While the grits set a savory tone for the meal, it was hard for the omelette to match such an array of flavor with its simple ingredients. However, the execution was on point and highlights of the omelette dish were the roasted red bell peppers, shallots and mushrooms. A side of potato medallions also offered a nice contrast in saltiness and texture, as they too were nearly flawless and rather tasty.
As we ate, the dining room thinned out significantly but still only one refill of coffee was offered. Moreover, our plates were cleared and a check was dropped without any offering of additional items or follow up from the meal. Luckily for our server, I had a hankering for espresso and ordered one partly out of principle for her negligence.
All in all, though, the experience was mostly satisfying and we left with a box of left over grits so that we could feel ashamed of ourselves twice in a single day.
(Items ordered: Ham Steaks & Parmesan Grits, Seasonal Omelette, Coffee, and of course Espresso)
Rating: 3 & 1/2 poached eggs (out of Five)
Hillside Farmacy - 1209 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702