Restaurant Review: Hal & Al's

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If it's edible, there's a booth at the state fair that fries it. Pop Tarts, macaroni, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - it's all there, almost. There's one thing missing: avocado.

Perhaps the vendors think it's a little too classy to munch on while visiting the hog barn and counting mullets in the crowd. Or maybe they just know how hard it is to find perfectly ripe avocados. (Side note: Did you know that avocado is a fruit?)

No loss: Fried avocado tastes better with beer, which the fair is sorely lacking. At Hal & Al's, you can try this fried green rarity by itself or go all out and order the Fried Sampler ($6), which also includes the more commonly fried mushrooms and pickles. Either way, pair your beer-battered cuisine with a new spring brew or one of the other craft beers on Hal & Al's extensive drink menu.

When I tried the Fried Sampler, I was surprised to find that flash-frying slices of ripe avocado makes them a bit mushier - creating a pleasing, guacamole-like texture. The batter encasing the fruit was soft rather than crunchy, complementing the avocado's consistency.

The remarkably fresh mushrooms were some of the best I've tried, but the fried pickles were the real winner here. The fried coating seemed to enhance their crispness and distinct dill flavor.

Because avocados and mushrooms don't have a strong taste, I enjoyed dunking the pieces into the two housemade, vegan dipping sauces that come with the platter: a mild cilantro lime sauce and a not-spicy "spicy mustard," both equally creamy.

If you're not using the grease as a bulwark against an impending hangover, I'd recommend sharing the hefty sampler with a friend or two.

Hal & Al's

1297 Parsons Ave., South Side