I love finding good food in the most unassuming of places. And that's exactly what happened when MJ and I went to High Country Market on our most recent restaurant outing. What looked like a typical Exxon station on the outside was something altogether different on the inside. With a full service kitchen, High Country Market is satisfying its patrons with NY style specialty pizzas, gourmet burgers, creative sandwiches, and even a brunch menu. They've also got craft beers on tap as well as an impressive wine area where they host wine tasting sessions. But wait! There's more! In the market, you can find a pastry case, gourmet coffees, specialty grocery items (lentil crisps, anyone?), and the kicker - free Wi-Fi.
Now MJ's a total sucker for pizza especially if we're talking about homemade, hand-tossed dough. And that's exactly what they're doing at this so-called "gas station." Although the gourmet sandwich options tempted her, she succumbed to her affection for the savory pie. And on this particular day, she went with the BBQ Chicken Pizza. Topped with roasted chicken, red wine BBQ sauce (yeah..they're making that in house, too), red onion, cilantro, jalapeno and a duo of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, it was definitely not at a loss for flavor. It took everything within us not to grab one of the piping hot slices before capturing enough glamour shots of the dish. As I appreciated the balance between the spicy jalapeno slices and the sweet & tangy BBQ sauce, I could tell MJ was mesmerized by the texture of the crust. How did I know?? Well, when I started to notice my slices lacking crusts, it wasn't very hard to put 2 and 2 together.
As for me, I ordered the house salad... Yeah, right!! Who am I kidding? I ordered the Classic Burger :). The usual guests were there: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and mayo all served on a freshly baked bun. For a lil extra, I added thick cut bacon and cheddar cheese. I subbed the house chips with french fries and a side of truffled rosemary ketchup and completed my meal with a nice tall glass of Maine Root Mexicane Cola. That ketchup... They need to bottle it up and sell it! It was so intriguing that it took me a while to get going on my burger. Where's my head? I almost failed to mention that they make their patties using house ground steak. Yup. Still in the cafe of a gas station. The burger got off to a great start with a stream of meat juices flowing down my arm upon taking that initial bite (I'm still cleaning out dried up grease from my watch). I do find it imperative to note, however, that the meat to bun ratio was a little off for my liking. What was worse was the insane lettuce to everything else ratio! I'm all for the refreshing green veg in my burger but with our biweekly CSA boxes I think I'm good on my consumption of greens ;). Now I realize I could've just taken out some of the excess lettuce, but when I'm trying a dish for the first time, I like to eat it as presented. My reasoning? Somebody in the kitchen must've balanced the ingredients this way on purpose. Right? Sadly, in this instance the lettuce just ended up swallowing the tomato and pickles and nearly the rest of the burger. Furthermore, the application of mayo was a little heavy-handed, but the most egregious offense by far had to be the poor execution on the bacon. Some parts resembled jerky and had the crunchy texture of bacon bits which is fine...if that's your kind of thing. I like mine to have a nice balance of crunchy and juicy.
All this said, I sincerely enjoyed my burger. As odd as that may sound, the meat patty was so tender and flavorful that all was not lost. The bacon still imparted a smoky richness to the experience and the red onion slices added a bright pungency. The fluffy bun, tenderly kissed by the griddle, held up well to all the burger juices. So in spite of the missteps, the burger as a whole still satisfied.
You can't help but appreciate High Country Market's commitment to fresh ingredients and homemade food. Their attention to quality goes beyond the cooking and is equally evident in their service. MJ and I can't wait to get back and explore more of their unique menu. I've also got my eye on some of their craft brews. 😉 Which also reminds me - I need to get back into home brewing!
High Country Market is located on 3701 Gattis School Road Bldg. A, Round Rock TX