Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hopleaf Bar and Ron Howard!

Last Tuesday, we went to dinner with the So’s at Hopleaf. We met at 7pm and there was a nice crowd for a Tuesday evening already forming. The front bar area had the look (and smell) of your average neighborhood bar. There were several beers on tap and a short by-the-glass wine list. The next room back looked more like a restaurant with 2 and 4 top wooden tables. There was exposed brick on all of the walls and a lofted upstairs seating area. Out back was a lovely quiet patio for dining.

We were seated in the main eating area by the stairwell up to the loft and down to the rest rooms. The menu wasn’t very extensive, but we were mostly there for their mussels anyway! Onto the food…We ordered four dishes for all to share.

Mussels for Two: We had one of each variety – the Belgian Style (steamed in Wittekerke white ale with sliced shallots, celery, thyme & bayleaf) and the other (steamed in White Wine with Sweet & Spicy chorizo, carmelized onions & pepadew peppers). This was served with two orders of frites. The mussels were the highlight of the meal. They are served in wrought-iron buckets still soaking in the brothy marinade. I preferred the option with the chorizo though it tasted more like spicy sausage than the Mexican style chorizo that I’ve also come to love. They certainly don’t skimp on the portions and an order of “mussels for two” can actually feed two people, though probably who eat on the lighter side (like all those ladies out there). I love fries, and these were no exception. They’re thin cut, not quite as thin as shoestring, but thinner than McDonald’s fries lightly salted and served warm in those cone-shaped fries baskets.

Fish Stew: tomato-white wine fish browth, sweet corn, bell peppers, red onion, new potatoes, Lake Superior whitefish, Loch Duart salmon, Laughing Bird shrimp, Prince Edward Island mussels, smoked salmon rouille, grilled toast point. I didn’t get the chance to eat too much stew since I primarily went after the mussels. The broth was thin and not creamy based so it didn’t look too unhealthy. There was quite a mix of all kinds of seafood and plenty for a full meal. You’ll have to pass on the toast as usual if you’re a gluten-avoider, but otherwise, this is a great choice for dinner.

Organic Montreal Style Brisket Platter - just the meat, with dill pickle, cole slaw and Stilton mac & cheese. I’ll be honest and say that the brisket was too dry for my taste. The helping comes in four 1/3” to ¼” slices along with all those sides. The mac and cheese is obviously made with wheat so I didn’t have any of that though it looked pretty tasty when it was first warm. I’d go with the mussels.

The real excitement of the evening was when we were waiting for food Amy went off to the restroom. On her way back she exclaimed that she just saw Ron Howard who was being seated upstairs! We come to find out that he’s scoping the restaurant out as a location for his next movie. This was his third visit to Hopleaf but the Restaurant owner is hesitant. It can be challenging to shut down your business for a few days or even a month – especially for out of town guests that are only in for a short time and want their taste of mussels! Ron was dressed very casually, with a baseball hat and a button down shirt. If I saw him on the street, I wouldn’t have recognized him. Dining alongside was a thin blonde lady about the same age, maybe a few years younger. We outlasted them during dinner as they were only seated for an hour, so we were able to catch a glimpse as he came down the stairs.

Be sure to bring your ID, however, because a small man checks them at the door and won't let anyone under 21 years old in.

Hopleaf Bar
5148 N. Clark Street
Chicago IL 60640

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