Jay Fox's Dining Guide
FOX: HOP, HOP, HOP OVER TO HOPS
“When you are dining with a demon, you got to have a long spoon.” — Navjot Singh Sidhu
HOPS GRILL AND BREWERY
WHAT USED TO BE A GOOD-SIZED CHAIN of restaurants is down to a handful of stores in three states: Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia. But the food and the service remain superior in every way. And the brewskies ain’t too bad either. I’m into the root beer, but do your own your thing.
G and I and our kids, when they were young (many moons ago), always enjoyed our local Hops. G and I had not been there for maybe a half dozen years, when I saw something in the media that reminded me of their great grub. Their maaavelous potato pancakes were again available during Oktoberfest. Oh, my. G makes the best from scratch, but its lots and lotsa work. To buy them freshly prepared on site, and almost as good, is worth the few bucks.
Last year I sent about 600 letters and e-mails asking for the spuds to be put on the regular, all-year-long menu, alas, to no avail. This year I stooped to begging. As of today, they are (tear, tear) no longer on the menu. But they do have lotsa other great grub.
This particular store has survived cuz, besides great food and service, it has something special: the most beautiful patio sitting on the 58.5 acre, 12 foot deep, Johnson Reservoir, that draws folks like flies. The “lake” is not recommended for fishing, but viewing and boating is good. Even in the winter, the patio is open, and as long as some nut job wants to sit on the patio amidst piles of snow, the servers will serve.
Known (food wise) for their popular Brewmaster steaks, they also offer a large variety of starters, sangies, soups and salads. And real “stuff” too. The starters include two of our favs, pot stickers and Walker’s wood shrimp: grilled shrimp served on toasted garlic panini bread with spicy Jamaican sauce. There’s over a dozen munchies. There are six salads and four house-made soups every day. G likes the Bleu Cheese Wedge. Y’all know that the only salad I eat is chicken salad or tuna salad or something with MEAT. ‘Ceptin ham salad; stuff makes me gag.
Sangies and burgers are the daytime mainstay. If asked, they’ll cook the burger on the flat top grill instead of the char broiler, soes you get more flavor. Perty darn good burgers. But for some strange reason, muh fav sangie here is the Blue Ribbon Grilled Chicken, a massive amount of chicken breast, bbq sauce, Monterey jack cheese, mayo, bacon, pickle and the standard lettuce and tomato. Really good. All the burgers and sangies come with pub chips or french fries or one of the other sides available. Don’t forget the really yummy house-brewed root beer. It’s a Coke house, but you can’t have everything. Not a coke house, but a Coke house, see the difference?
From the grill comes the famed variety of steaks. The brewmaster trademark steak is a 12 oz. top sirloin, not muh favorite cut, but they do a good job with it. All the grill items come with a choice of soup or side salad. They also offer muh favorite cut, a 16 oz. bone-in rib-eye steak as well as a filet, and some steak combos: steak and lobster tail, steak and shrimp, and steak and raw beets – just kidding about the beets. Who eats beets anyway? Nobody under 146 years old, right?
If you’re not into grill items, they also have Hops Favorites. Yeah, well, it’s all the other standard fare, done very well. There’s chicken, shrimp, salmon, a yummy meatloaf Marsala, and muh nephew Ole’s fav, baby back ribs. Yumadum doo. I’ll take two. That’s a rhyme. Not funny.
There’s also a good selection of desserts, with an outstanding deep dish apple pie in the lead followed by a very good banana rum croissant bread pudding and four others.
The reason the restaurant is named Hops, is cuz they brew beer. They have several signature beers, all beer being brewed right inside the restaurant. Or maybe it’s cuz the food is served inside the brewery?
They have seasonal beers as well as beers that are available all year long. One of their beers is their Golden Hammer/Golden Thoroughbred, a blend of two of their most popular beers. I even almost liked it, but then I don’t drink beer. Correction: I drink two beers a year, on a hot summer day when the humidity exceeds 50 percent. As all Coloradoans know, for Colorado that’s humid.
Whether you eat in the bar area, the main dining room, or out on the patio, service is fast, friendly and efficient. And that’s from at least 25 visits over the years.
Stop in and check out the patio, it’ll blow your mind. Tell ‘em The Fox sencha.
Restaurant critic Jay Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.