It's impossible not to notice the minute you step inside the front door: Hero, the new Victory Park restaurant and bar from the restaurant group behind HG Sply Co., is massive.
The decor is bright and happy, the cocktails sugary and colorful. TV screens are huge — and absolutely everywhere you look. As for bars, there are multiple (six in total) with seating options ranging from bartop to lounge-y leather couches.
The 25,000-square-foot restaurant, located just steps from the American Airlines Center, has a lot going on: the main dining room, which seats 540, has two full-service bars and "an open-air facade facing the south and east walls," according to a press release. At the opposite end of the space is a huge indoor/outdoor bar area, dubbed The Meantime, that seats 560, has three full-service bars and includes a 24-foot TV screen.
On the small patio out front, you can bring your dog and watch as crowds file into the AAC. There's a small arcade with games like pinball, Ms. Pac-Man and Air Hockey. The restaurant's even got retail inside: Bullzerk, Dallas' beloved custom T-shirt company, opened a store in the dining room selling its snarky goods and Dallas-themed merch.
All told, Hero can serve 1,100 people at one time, a goal that seems easy to hit when Victory Park is swarmed by hungry people coming to or from events at the AAC. Its monumental size, however, makes the restaurant feel kind of empty even when it's far from it, as we noticed on a recent visit when AAC was quiet.
The food menu is equally massive, and it really runs the gamut. If you're familiar with 80/20 Hospitality — the restaurant group behind HG Sply Co., Gung Ho, Standard Service and the late Remedy — you'll spot some familiar dishes on the menu. Remedy fans will be stoked to find not just the beloved Remedy burger ($15), but an option to have it in taco form ($13). You'll also spot Remedy's Alaskan king crab and sourdough appetizer ($24) and the restaurant's famous (and delicious) riff on McDonald's Filet-o-Fish (Fish Filet, $15). You can even build-your-own bowl with healthy ingredients like cauliflower grits, just like at HG.
In classic 80/20 style, this is the kind of menu that enables both "clean-eating" and total indulgence. (Hero signed a contract to feed the Dallas Stars, as well as other local and visiting professional athletes.) On a first visit, we found both the Fish Filet and the Remedy burger tacos to be simple but delicious, the kind of dishes we've already found ourselves craving since. It's hard work catering to the ever-changing crowds that filter through the AAC. You want to be edgy but not unapproachable, homey but not boring. Hero is aiming squarely in the center of it all.
It's a massive American spectacle, all neon lights and technicolor cocktails, the futuristic glow of TVs and electronic billboards bouncing off every surface. It could exist anywhere in this country, but its little stamps of Dallas-approved flair — from the Bullzerk T-shirts to the crab Rangoon everyone loves to eat at Gung Ho's Lowest Greenville bar — give it a sense of place.
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It feels like the next generation of TGI Fridays, but better, with more thoughtful design and far, far better food. The neon-colored cocktails are way too sugary to justify me ever ordering another, but oh, how my mother would love them. And when you're trying to appeal to huge bursts of ever-changing crowds, all of whom are in a hurry but want a little taste of Dallas right this second, aiming squarely at my mom's fruity beach drink and grilled pork chop palate just makes sense. Yeah, she might splurge on a 24-ounce, $48 Player's Porterhouse with herb butter, but more than likely, she's gonna go to town on the Buffalo crispy chicken sandwich ($15) and love every last bite of it.
Hero is big, it's bright and it aims for the hip and the unapologetically not-hip at the same time. And in a neighborhood as specific and event-beholden as Victory Park, that's probably a smart move.
Hero by HG Sply Co., 3090 Olive St. (Victory Park). Open 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-late Friday and Saturday.