Haywire, Front Burner’s new restaurant at Legacy West, holds firm to five central ideas: farm-to-fork, chef-driven, made-from-scratch, local sourcing, Texas cuisine. Thankfully the metroplex is in a golden dining age; the first four of these tenets are morphing from novelties into basic requirements for any restaurant worth its pink Himalayan salt. But it’s the last idea that’s the most important: Haywire is all about Texas.
Because everything’s bigger in Texas, a one-story restaurant just wouldn’t cut it for Haywire. It boasts three. While it’s a cohesive concept, each distinct region offers a unique atmosphere. They’re as different from each other as El Paso is from Plano is from Caddo Lake.
Let’s begin on the first floor whiskey lounge, arguably the most intimate of Haywire’s locales. Fans of sister-restaurant Whiskey Cake’s bar will be pleased to note that Haywire’s is bigger and better. Small tables of two crowd in the front where drinkers can watch the buzz from Legacy Hall. Underneath a floating chandelier, patrons linger on leather couches next to the fireplace, sipping whiskey neat. Haywire refuses to be corralled into the steakhouse genre, despite the longhorn, Sirloin, jutting proudly from the wall. (This may not be a steakhouse, but this is still Texas.)
The whiskey-based cocktails are full-bodied and bold, presented simply. They don’t need to flaunt. Though whiskey takes center stage here, on every floor you can order full-service meals so feel free to indulge in poutine fries while you sample their signature drink, the Haywire: Red River bourbon, vermouth habanero shrub and barbecue bitters with a bacon garnish.
Floor two opens with a view into the artful glassed-in wine room. Guests then wander down a long hallway to the open dining room, passing right between the kitchen and bakery. Behind glass walls, chefs assemble tall burgers and slice meatloaves. Haywire’s bakery not only produces their mind-melting pecan praline pie but also Whiskey Cake’s whiskey cake, Mexican Sugar’s chocolate avocado cake and every other dessert in just about every other Front Burner restaurant in the metroplex.
The second floor is also home to the butcher bar and library lounge. The library lounge is an especially nice touch. Amid the vintage vinyls, cassettes, and radios, it feels like you aren’t in a restaurant at all, but a close friend’s house. Though based on the food, this is a very talented friend.
When Haywire does a meat and cheese board, it isn’t just any board. This is a Texas Meat and Cheese Board. There are no delicate French cheeses or thinly sliced prosciuttos here. Instead, Haywire presents thick-cut, resilient Texas game like two varieties of wild game sausage and a peppered ham with redneck cheddar and local gouda. Pepper jam, local honeycomb and spiced pecans sprinkle in some southern sunshine along with pickled okra, onions and cauliflower.
The board is remarkably well balanced and audacious. If the sausage is smokey, the jam is bright; if the redneck cheddar is rough around the edges, the honeycomb is graceful. Those spiced pecans will be fought over, so arm yourself. The jagged-edged crackers are sturdy enough to bear all manner of jams and cheeses. Go wild.
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Branding Iron Onion Rings are made with the mother of all onions, the Texas 1015 onion specifically engineered by Texas A&M horticulturalists. Huge slices of onion—breaded, fried and stacked on each other—wait to be sliced up and dunked in adobe ketchup and chipotle ranch. Thick and layered with spice, they aren’t easy to rein in alone; they aren’t so much onion rings as onion manacles. They’re more than worth the challenge if you bring your appetite.
While you browse entrees, order a whiskey flight. Haywire goes all out to provide a rich experience. A flight of three arrives with a green bottle and dropper on the side. If a guest requests scotch, they are given a bottle of true springwater shipped in from the Highlands. If you prefer Kentucky bourbon, Haywire also has limestone water on hand for you. Whiskey gets its character from where it’s produced. A drop of water from its native region opens up the flavor, changing the temperament and rewriting every sip.
Haywire is a chance to reminisce with family over a home-cooked meal. Take the Grilled Chipotle Meatloaf, which tastes and smells like home. Anyone whose mom or grandma ever made them meatloaf only needs to taste it to be ten years old again. It’s one of those dishes that carries warm memories. Once, a group came into Haywire and ordered steaks. Then, they ordered a meatloaf for the table, cut it up and split it amongst themselves. It’s the ultimate feel-good food. But for all its nostalgia, Haywire still keeps it fresh with chipotle zing and tomato-poblano salsa.
Baby Back Ribs, slathered in whiskey barbecue sauce, are trailblazers. Tender as sin, the meat has the slightest smoky crunch on the edges, but falls off the bone at the slightest tug. Haywire’s whiskey sauce hits you with a vinegar tang that soothes as it burns. It’s especially thick with tiny diced onions hiding inside. Mop it all up with the buttered hunk of cornbread. It tastes like trail food. The side of mac and cheese almost—but not quite—overshadows it, which is saying something. Wide shells catch and hold pools of creamy cheese and the occasional piece of peppery ham under a golden brown coating of breadcrumbs, it’s a grown up mac and cheese.
TX Akaushi Beef Burger, piled high with white cheddar, creole mustard, pickled red onion and chili aioli on an everything bun, it’s tall but easily squashed into an edible plateau, dotted with sproutings of arugula. The beef patty bubbles over with cheese and aioli, a beast that fills out the buttered bun.
Haywire’s third floor is a rooftop cigar lounge. A humidor waits at the top of the stairs, cigars for sale to be enjoyed amid the succulents and candles taken from the stark wilds around Marfa, Texas. An airstream trailer a la Ida Claire is available for private dining. Photographs from strange, ethereal West Texas battle it out with the changing Plano skyline.
It’s Haywire’s final platform, the best place to savor their dessert menu. For example, Homestead Garden Cake is traditional carrot cake taken to the next level. It isn’t just carrot cake, but a five layer masterpiece chock full of growing things: parsnips, zucchinis, pears, apples, carrots, Texas pecans, sweet potatoes—it’s got to be the best way to eat your vegetables. In between each slice of airy cake rests Texas maple frosting. Moist, mossy and fine, it’s a gentleman’s cake, straight from the garden.
But Pecan Pie with Pralines is the unquestioned king. A homemade cinnamon roll crust, thicker and sturdier than you’d expect, spread over a canyon of a pie dish. Then in comes a solid inch-and-then-some of praline, topped with a whole harvest of pecans. You’ll want to burrow into the soft caramel filling like a blanket and possibly live between the sugared pecans. It’s that good.
Haywire is for the proud Texan in all of us. It’s a place to celebrate diverse food and drink from all regions of an incredibly large state. With its sheer size and ambition, Haywire pays homage to the Lone Star state in the grandest way possible. They prove that old adage right: don’t mess with a good thing. Ergo, don’t mess with Texas.
Haywire | 5901 Winthrop St. Ste. 110, Plano | 972.781.9473 | haywirerestaurant.com
Originally published in Plano Profile’s March 2018 issue under the title “Hay Fever”