Magnolia Avenue’s restaurant row could stand to have a good sandwich shop, and one has come along in the form of Great Harvest Bread Co.
It’s the second national chain to open recently on Magnolia, which, until Gus’s Fried Chicken came along late last year, had been dominated by mom-and-pop restaurants.
Any trace of a corporate, Big-Brother-is-watching vibe is well-masked. The Magnolia location (a Southlake one opened in 2016) of this 40-year-old Montana-based chain is a franchise, locally owned by restaurant first-timers Jon and Andrea Davis, whose staff makes mostly everything from scratch, from the half-dozen varieties of whole-grain bread, the wheat for which is milled in-house daily, to pastries and desserts.
The food is more sprouty than gourmet; more often than not, it’s of palatable caliber.
Peppy staffers greet each visitor with an invitation to try samples of the day’s breads and sweets. You then move to another counter to place your order, after which you try to snag a seat in a tiny dining area decorated with exposed brick walls and shiny metal tables.
The kitchen is quick: During my two visits, food was ready in less than 10 minutes. Of course, that food consisted of salads and sandwiches, which historically do not take long to prepare.
The “Sophisticated Grilled Cheese” ($8.75) was a very good option. Dressed with layers of sharp cheddar and provolone, bacon strips, thinly sliced apples and a mango-jalapeño spread, it was the ultimate tribute to salty and sweet, with the apples providing a nice crunch.
One of the restaurant’s few hot sandwiches, it came on white sourdough bread scarred with grill marks.
The Texas pecan chicken salad sandwich ($7), on honey whole wheat, is a popular choice but a little pedestrian. The chicken needed seasoning and the “sweet and spicy” pecans were neither; they were just real salty. Lettuce and tomato were unquestionably fresh, though, and the bread was pleasantly spongy and slightly sweet.
A sandwich made with veggies and hummus ($7) yielded the best results. Made in-house, the hummus had an terrific earthy flavor, and cucumbers and carrots provided juice and crunch. The Dakota bread — honey whole wheat dotted with sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds — was soft but had a grit to its texture.
One drawback to the sandwiches: They’re not served with sides. Since some of them hover in the $8-$9 range, it’d be nice if they came with chips or a small salad. For $2, you can add a bag of chips and a drink’ for $4, soup and a drink.
In addition to sandwiches and a rotating soup, there are also three salads. The Hippie Chick ($8) was as good a bet as any of them — a fine mix of spinach leaves, white chicken meat, roasted chickpeas and raisins. This was after I scooted some of the grated Parmesan cheese to the side; there was a lot of it.
I wish the chicken would have been hot or at least warm. A creamy avocado dressing was excellent.
Desserts rotate on and off the menu. On most days, there are freshly baked cookies and brownies, as sweet and rich as you’d expect them to be.
Great Harvest Bread Co.