Mudhen, The Farmers Market's Flagship Restaurant, Strikes A Balance Between Health And Gluttony
Debuting as the flagship restaurant at the Dallas Farmers Market after an arduous and costly remodel means that Mudhen Meat & Greens had a lot of criteria to fill.
For starters, it had to keep in line with the market's focus on locally-produced, seasonal foods. Check.
A nutritional component was next, satisfying diners' increasing desire — nay, need — to eat healthier. Check there, too.
But what about the other half of consumers, the ones who enjoy their hearty comfort foods, carnivorous habits and libations, and who do so without fear of being judged by their health-conscious counterparts? Or what about those looking for a solid selection of proteins, cocktails, local craft beers and desserts for balance?
Well, check and check again, turns out.
For executive Mudhen chef Suki Otsuki, achieving harmony between the healthy and “unhealthy” dishes was less formulaic than one would imagine.
“I didn't have a ratio, so to speak, but I knew that I wanted to create healthful spins on classic items and pepper in a little decadence,” Otsuki says. “The goal is for each plate to be satisfying in the sense that it is flavorful but also guilt-free, for the most part.”
Many of the offerings at Mudhen leave little room for guilt in the calorie department, thanks in large part to in-house nutritionist consulting from Sundrops founder Mark Herrin. In place of carbohydrates, you'll find things like root vegetable angel hair, cauliflower rice and whole-grain salad. A take on poutine forgoes the typical potato-gravy-cheese curd route, opting instead for plantain chips, black beans and avocado cream with green chili pork and heirloom pico de gallo. Arguably the healthiest avenue, the Build-Your-Own-Bowl, meanwhile allows diners to choose from light and simple preparations of veggies, meats and starches.
To find the more sumptuous items, though, one needn't look farther than between two slices of bread.
“The sandwich portion of the menu is really where I let loose a little, while still remaining conscientious of healthful touches,” Otsuki says. “But you can't argue that the yummy breads, sauces and gooey cheese are the most healthful options on the menu.”
What the sandwiches may lack in wholesomeness, they make up for in hearty flavors. The Loco Moco, a play on a classic Hawaiian dish, combines 44 Farms ground beef and bacon in a patty before being topped with a Vital Farms egg.
The menu also features two different renditions of another classic, The Reuben. One version uses Arctic Char as the protein of choice, while the chef-favorite Iron Man replaces the traditional beef with corned bison, pairing it with a horseradish pecan cheddar and beet fennel sauerkraut.
Everything comes together in the spacious dining room, which boasts an ever-trendy view of the kitchen. The spirit of dining halls past is embodied by clean lines, vintage elements, and pops of green that imply freshness. Any need for further convincing is quickly placated by large chalkboards with the current vegetable offerings, stacks of pickles and jams and the more subtle “Born To Farm” adornment.
All photos by Kathy Tran. Mudhen is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch service begins at 9 a.m.