Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives lately, but Keller’s Seven Mile Cafe would make a good candidate for a future episode.
The new restaurant, part of a small chain with locations in Denton and Highland Village, is poised picturesquely (despite some gratuitous street construction) in Old Town Keller and meets all of the prerequisites for a Guy Fieri visit.
There’s its all-encompassing breakfast and lunch menu. Hollandaise sauce and homemade biscuits abound. Yet nods to healthfulness are also available, whether it’s the acai bowls, kale smoothies or gluten-free coffeecake.
Armed with an iced coffee from Portland, Ore.-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters, made on Seven Mile’s showstopping La Marzocco machine, plus a green smoothie to counteract any possible over-caffeination, we yinned and yanged our way through the menu, a tribute to “specialty pancakes,” “French toast creations,” “breakfast booze” and “bennys,” or Benedicts. (I can practically hear Fieri latch on to the latter’s completely unnecessary, too-precious nickname.)
Alas, no celebrities were present on our visit, just a bunch of townsfolk looking for, in Fieri parlance, good grub at a good price.
I could really get behind the green smoothie ($5.50), dense with kale, spinach, bananas and strawberries. Soy milk helped to thicken it, while agave was used as a natural sweetener. Our server cautioned that it was filling, so I only drank half because an order of huevos rancheros ($11) was in the on-deck circle.
Seven Mile’s version of the classic Tex-Mex dish has two tostadas loaded with luscious black beans and shredded pork. Melted cheese bound the ingredients, and two over-easy eggs topped them as if to taunt: “Think you can finish me?”
Uh, no. Two of us split one-half of the entree, which was well-matched with its Christmas sauce (red and green). This is hardly the stuff of noontime, “I’ve-got-to-get-back-to-the-office” repasts. I was reluctant to order the dish with the pork, but glad about the result: Sweet and peppery, the meat would hold its own in any barbecue joint.
Slightly lighter is the Benny Sampler ($12.50), a platter with two different Benedicts. (There are six on the menu.) The bruschetta rendition capitalized on the dependable combination of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, with a balsamic glaze to tie it together; a poached egg crested, all on an English muffin.
It was a savory and slightly acidic concoction that we wished we had more of … because the other half of the dish, the chipotle tofu benny, was near-flavorless. Fanned avocado and a grilled tomato slice did nothing for the brick of tofu, which was perched wanly on a sliver of thin sourdough toast. Chipotle sauce comes with; unfortunately, a poached egg did not. Despite it being listed under the “benny” menu heading, this iteration is vegan, all of which had me flagging down our server for a poached egg a la carte, stat.
A side of gouda grits ($4) annihilated any further designs on good health. Smoky and rich, the grits were cooked perfectly with enough texture to assuage the notion that one was eating a cup of melted cheese with a spoon.
From the lunch menu, typical sandwiches and burgers are available. The pesto chicken ($10), served on a sweet, way-too-pillowy bun, had juicy flavor; the bacon cheeseburger ($10.50) had our son happy, with its fistful of crispy bacon. Choose the coleslaw — an ideal vinegary foil with dried cranberries, cabbage and celery — over the salad as a side.
The vast dining room, which previously housed Keller’s City Hall, was renovated as best it could to look like a restaurant. There’s a weird, institutional-like hallway on the way to the restrooms that may yield an “I’m here to pay my parking ticket” reaction. But on the whole, the restaurant has a warmth that its chain brethren cannot begin to summon.
Engaging tattooed servers — everyone here wears short-sleeved black tees, even, apparently, in January — are able and affable, making the visit even more screen-worthy.
Add it all up, and the experience will likely take you to — sorry, I had to do it — Flavortown.