Restaurant review: Both sides of The Hyde Out

Hyde Park's Hyde Out has an enjoyably eclectic mix of cuisine and cocktails, restaurant and bar.

click to enlarge The Hyde Out's tasty airline chicken over "mac 'n' cheese" cous cous. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
The Hyde Out's tasty airline chicken over "mac 'n' cheese" cous cous.

Keep your eyes peeled when you’re zooming east on Platt Street, lest you miss the hiding out Hyde Out and find yourself beyond the Selmon Expressway as I did. Then it’s a maze of streets that render going around the block to correct your mistake impossible. When I finally arrive, it’s up an alley and into the $5 valet parking exit.

My posse, already waiting with drinks in hand, has wisely and easily found street parking. I am more than ready for a beverage, and master mixologist Eric Bloomquist has assembled an inventive cocktail list to calm my nerves. My Big Wig selection puts a lovely spin on an Old Fashioned by adding cinnamon syrup in perfect balance with Woodford Reserve Bourbon and bitters. I am finally over my arrival ordeal and realize that I may have to try this at home.

Imagine, if you will, that Ms. Sports Bar succumbs to the irresistible charms of Mr. Sushi. It’s a consensual affair, but he neglects to mention that he’s in an open relationship with American fusion, whose orientation is ambiguous. They all decide to hook up to “make drinks, not war.” The result inside The Rack’s old Hyde Park home is The Hyde Out.

click to enlarge This version of eggs Benedict swaps Canadian bacon for house-made sausage. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
This version of eggs Benedict swaps Canadian bacon for house-made sausage.

What saves the schizo mashup that boss man Kip Byrne and Co. say functions as Dr. Jekyll by day and inexorably slips toward Mr. Hyde come happy hour is quality and attention to detail. The restaurant and lounge touts a truism “that handmade is better” and follows through with art and fixtures created by local artists. Based on my sampling of the eclectic menu, the same is true for the food, which is really good, even during brunch.

I use eggs Benedict as a marker for restaurant kitchen technique. Luckily, there’s a skillful kitchen staff here. Savory house-made sausage replaces Canadian bacon on the English muffin base. A picture-perfect elliptical poached egg, finished with stellar fire-roasted tomato hollandaise sauce, puts a twist on this morning favorite. The technique is impeccable and your taste buds know. Plus, it comes with sweet potato tots — salty and sweet and totally irresistible, as is the French toast with berries.

Airline chicken is an unfortunate descriptor for a delicious bird. It has nothing to do with what passes for a meal at 30,000 feet. It’s merely a crispy skin boneless breast with the wing drumette attached. The Hyde Out serves its rendition on a huge “mac and cheese” portion made with tiny pearl-like Israeli cous cous flavored with truffle oil and bacon. It’s as comforting as it is addictive.

Crossing over into Mr. Sushi’s world, you find a plethora of choices, and I encourage you to stretch. We try for Uni (sea urchin), only to be told it’s not available. Still, there are many wonderful options. Unagi (eel) may sound daunting and slimy, but it’s delicious and wrapped in a seaweed belt to keep it from slithering off the clump of acidulated sushi rice, just like the Hiragana (conch). I prefer nigiri’s pressed rice base for the fish; the subtle touch of sweet and sour is an enhancement for my palate. However, if you go for the riceless sashimi, know that the fish is fresh and satisfying. The visually stunning Tobiko (flying fish roe) is brilliantly traffic-cone orange atop a nori-wrapped rice cylinder.

click to enlarge The restaurant's staff prepares offerings at the stylish sushi bar. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
The restaurant's staff prepares offerings at the stylish sushi bar.

Our selection of sushi rolls, fashioned uramaki-style with rice on the outside, includes the Go Be a Roll with spicy tuna and salmon, masago (roe) and avocado topped alternatively with red and white tuna. The vegetarian roll is a troika of cucumber, avocado and takuan (pickled daikon). Both versions make you want more, but it’s time for dessert.

We skip the brownie à la mode for banana pudding, which arrives as an au courant Mason jar treat. The jar is surprisingly flat, reminiscent of a face cream container, maybe because you feel like smearing the delicious contents all over your happy mug. The bottom layer of dense house-crafted Nutella is topped with creamy pudding alongside banana slices, fresh whipped cream and cookie crumbs. It’s delightful.

The joint — which is close to debuting a fresh menu for the in-and-out lunch crowd with dishes priced around $8 to $10 — has a pool table, a regular bill of DJs and is lined with 18 huge HD flat screens that appear to be 55-inchers. That’s 23,274 inches of viewing pleasure. Suffice it to say, The Hyde Out is not a contemplative place to hide out. Check your Jekyll at the door, then choose a potion to embrace your inner Hyde. 

Jon Palmer Claridge dines anonymously when reviewing. Check out the explanation of his rating system.

About The Author

Jon Palmer Claridge

Jon Palmer Claridge—Tampa Bay's longest running, and perhaps last anonymous, food critic—has spent his life following two enduring passions, theatre and fine dining. He trained as a theatre professional (BFA/Acting; MFA/Directing) while Mastering the Art of French Cooking from Julia Child as an avocation. He acted...
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