“Cool Kids’ Diner” Meets Old-School Deli in the Heart of Alamo Heights
By Janis Turk
“She thinks my meatloaf’s sexy,” I mused as I pulled out of the parking lot of The Hayden, a relatively new diner on Broadway.
I’d just enjoyed my first meal there and landed a nice impromptu visit with owner/chef Adam Lampinstein between his busy lunch shift and the soon-to-start happy hour/dinner crowd.
Lampinstein has seemingly done the impossible: He’s brought back the patty melt, pastrami with Swiss on rye, a meatloaf sandwich, hot dogs, and yes, even chopped liver, yet managed to make them all super cool… tasty, too. Who knew?
“We like to call The Hayden a “cool kids’ diner” but we’re not too cool for a meatloaf sandwich,” says Lampinstein. “We embrace humble foods.”
Opening last October, The Hayden brought Alamo Heights something it never knew it needed but certainly lacked: a modern all-purpose neighborhood diner with old-school Jewish deli eats; an “everybody is welcome” place for breakfast, lunch, happy hour, and dinner, with pancakes, sandwiches, soups, salads, schnitzels, and a full bar to boot
Featuring a modern-mid-century vibe and a menu mingling the owners’ deep love and respect for the classic Jewish delicatessen and the old soul of a South Texas diner, The Hayden defies labels. With barbacoa stroganoff, Johnny cakes, and matzo ball soup, there’s no place quite like it, though it seems to be the perfect fit for the revolutionary new energy exploding along Broadway today.
Although it stands near The University of the Incarnate Word at Hildebrand, it’s not geared toward a college crowd. It’s simply a safe bet for a Saturday morning breakfast with the kids, a business lunch meeting space, a happy hour drop-in spot, and a dimly lit date-night place.
If you’re thinking it’s like the counter-seating diner/coffee shop on Seinfeld, this isn’t that. If you expect a traditional New York delicatessen with a refrigerated glass meat case and a cold-cut-slicer up front, wrong again. It’s a new-school-kinda-diner.
Sure, The Hayden pays homage to Lampinstein’s Jewish roots, with house-made matzo-ball soup in a chicken-based broth, lox and capers with waffle-iron potato latkes, but it also has hearty everyday sandwiches like its pastrami smoked and steamed slowly from Texas’s best brisket over a painstaking 4-day process. Served with house-made Russian dressing made with “atomic horseradish,” sauerkraut, and Swiss, it’s dynamite.
Yeah, they serve nerdy foods, too, like grandma’s chopped liver salad, but even that tastes surprisingly good. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are unique, as well, like a grilled cauliflower steak topped with a well-seasoned tomato sauce and the “almost tuna” melt. Bread comes from Texas bakers, Slow Dough.
Danish modern tables, sleek booths, retro geometric wallpaper, a grasshopper-green ceiling, potted plants, a black and white mural with local nods and pop of color, and windows letting in light, the ambiance is cheerful. Plugs at each booth are handy for charging laptops and phones.
The Hayden also tips its hat to a smart, funny sitcom, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” offering fans “The Larry David” and “The Ted Danson” sandwiches. Half the cast of “Seinfeld” gets a nod on the brunch menu, too. The menu is clever and fun; still, its chefs are serious about the food.
New York-born executive chef Bill Corbett joined the team in January. Both he and Lampinstein graduated from culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, and both have sharp minds and the same quirky sense of humor. General manager Cassie McCloud, formerly of Sternewirth and also Hot Joy, keeps customers happy.
Located near the intersection of Broadway and Hildebrand, The Hayden features foods you may have forgotten you liked. Portions are large, so split a sandwich with a friend or bring some home for lunch tomorrow. The bar offers cold brews and craft cocktails, and the happy hour hot dog with sauerkraut on a pretzel bun is big with the after-work crowd. Call ahead to avoid a wait.
Lampinstein had a restaurant in El Paso before moving back to South Texas, and he and his wife Perla, from Mexico, have incorporated global influences into their food. Corbett grew up in Texas but spent summers up along New York’s Hudson Valley, where his great uncle was a chef. Cooking has been in their blood for generations.
“We want to serve delicious food and deliver authentic hospitality in a reimagined old-school diner, so folks can break some bread together and finally find a place that reminds us we aren’t really so different from each other after all,” says Lampinstein.
If they manage to do all that and also make meatloaf sexy, The Hayden had me at hello.
4025 BROADWAY ST. SA, TX.