Everyone loves the Hopleaf. I love the Hopleaf. I remember in the old days, we would trek up Clark Street in the dead of winter, when the snow was more than a foot deep–and the Blizzard of ’99? Let’s talk two feet of snow with drifts of three to four–and we’d have a couple of Chimays at Hopleaf and then some glögg at Simon’s to warm ourselves up for the trek all the way home again after waiting in vain for the 22 bus. It was always so cold. So cold.
And the guy behind the bar at the Hopleaf? He was not a people person. We would bet on who could get him to be nicest to us. No one ever won that contest.
The Hopleaf had the best juke box. It only played 45s and it was old 45s at that. If it wasn’t Ella or Louis (Jordan), it didn’t get played. (Sadly, the old juke box has since been removed.)
When I used to go to the Hopleaf, it was just one tiny front room. Many many beers, but just one tiny room. Now it’s huge. Cavernous even. Last Friday night, we sat upstairs in the back, looking down at the main floor, wondering where the space had come from. Had all this space existed in the old days, but was used for some other purpose? Was this newly built space? Questions. Many questions.
Now the Hopleaf serves food, although I vaguely remember them introducing food not too long before I left for London so it’s not like this is a brand new thing. I remember people telling me about the mussels and the frites.
I didn’t have the mussels last Friday. I had a ham sandwich. With some fries.
And it was just a ham sandwich. Bar food. Bar food always has its place. I’m not saying it doesn’t. I like bar food. A lot. (Officially, the ham sandwich was toasted Nueske ham on pumpernickel, gruyere cheese and apple-tarragon coleslaw.) But a Bib Gourmand for a ham sandwich? Of that, I am not certain. (Actually, I am certain. That’s crap.)
The Verdict: Beer (many, many beers) and bar food.