First Look

First Look: Hugo's Invitados in the West Village is an Almost-Guiltless Escape

It's a bit hot now, but soon this large courtyard will likely be busy.
It's a bit hot now, but soon this large courtyard will likely be busy. Lauren Drewes Daniels
Hugo's Invitados has infused a bit of fresh color and energy into Uptown's West Village. The new, large outdoor dining area is full of green chairs, tables and bright orange umbrellas anxiously waiting for a good time, and when the weather is nice, it will likely be packed. Recently, however, in the blazing hot sun the only visitors were a few birds cooling off in one of several small water features around the space.
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Hugo's has created its own vibe in the West Village.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
A covered walkway leading into the restaurant is lined with the requisite wicker lighting fixtures, which are having a moment in Dallas right now. Inside Hugo's the lights are somewhat dim, the windows shaded — a nice respite from the summer sun — with tall green plants, natural wood and more deep orange making for a calming dining room. Be sure to visit the spa-like bathrooms here.

A bar at the front was empty during lunch on our visit, but with bottles of tequila lined up like books in a library and large TVs overhead, it looks ready to slake the thirst of patrons this summer.

The first Hugo's opened in Las Colinas in 2018; this Dallas outpost opened just this summer. Co-founder Hugo Miranda, who spent five years working for Meso Mayo and Taqueria La Ventanas locations, told us previously that after being diagnosed with Type I diabetes he wanted to create a place where guests can eat healthily and not feel "left out."
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Hugo's bar at the front of the restaurant.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
There's also a Hugo's Lost Colony in Highland Village, which is a sister restaurant. You can read our first look at that, which is aptly titled "Welcome to the Jungle at Hugo's Lost Colony."

Hugo's Invitados is "Mexican-influenced" cuisine with a focus on locally sourced and organic ingredients. There's not a single bowl of queso on the menu. How about some ceviche fresco instead? Hankering for a plate of nachos? You're in luck. They come topped with smoked salmon, an herbal avocado puree and mango-habanero yogurt.

The lunch menu has a build-your-own bowl and salad section with protein add-ons that include free-range chicken and eggs, sustainable tuna, Pacific shrimp, grass-fed wagyu sirloin and Impossible meat. On the more traditional plates, invitados (guests) can get quinoa instead of rice along with vegan black beans.
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House-made chips and salsa you don't have to swear off.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
While the complimentary bowl of chips and salsa may seem contrary to eating healthy, the chips are about the size of a silver dollar and thicker than the standard chip, giving a more satisfying bite and crunch. By the time we reached the bottom of our bowl, we realized these weren't run-of-the-mill chips. A server explained these corn-based chips are made from scratch, in-house, and baked (yes, baked, never fried) with some extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt. They're addictive, and you may soon be asking for a refill, which isn't so bad in this case.

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Brisket tacos
Lauren Drewes Daniels
We went with a plate of brisket tacos with rice and beans ($16) for our main. The house-smoked brisket topped with tangy tomatillo-pineapple relish and habanero sauce was spot on. It's a plate of Tex-Mex that doesn't inflict the lingering hours of miserable fullness that can often follow such a meal.

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Crackling Pollo
Lauren Drewes Daniels
The Crackling Pollo ($22), which doesn't photograph well, was just as satisfying. This free-range, pan-roasted chicken comes with a side of lemongrass, cucumber salad and a charred tomatillo salsa. The skin snapped a bit with each bite, and the underlying chicken was tender and juicy.

Other lunch entrées on the menu include a wagyu carne asada, salmon a la parrilla, scallops and red snapper. Also here is a selection of taco and enchilada plates, along with house-made soups.

The dinner menu is much more expansive and includes mussels and clams pozole, lamb chuletas ($55), a duck confit chile relleno ($35.50) and a Chilean sea bass ($43.50). There's even a Mexican cioppino, which is a fish soup ($41.50).

Hugo's has managed to pull together an exception in Dallas Tex-Mex dining; it's showy on the exterior, has a calm vibe inside and you can eat here the day before your next check-up without fear of being placed on a kale and carrot-juice diet afterwards.
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Tres leches made in-house at Hugo's Invitados.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
We did have a huge piece of tres leches before heading out. We just felt like we'd done good with our chips and meal and that a fat piece of milky-sweet cake was deserved. The large fresh strawberry and the dollops of strawberry puree (in the shape of hearts) around it was likely a whole serving of fruit. High-five.

That all goes to say that in the effort to impart a bit of health consciousness into the menu, it certainly doesn't feel like punishment.

Hugo's Invitados, 3699 McKinney Ave., Suite 200, 11 a.m. - 12 a.m. Monday - Sunday
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.