Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Hopleaf
5148 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-9851

As far as Adam and I are concerned, Andersonville might as well consist solely of The Hopleaf, Simon's, and some theater that Andy used to go to. I know that there are other places that are deserving of a closer look (Tre Kronor [edit: not in Andersonville!], Marigold), but we're this far north so rarely that it's unlikely we would take the chance on an unknown quantity. I'd been to The Hopleaf several times before, but I hadn't eaten there in well over a year, so we steeled ourselves against the notorious wait times and made the trek on a Tuesday evening.

The Hopleaf is a Belgian beer bar in the front and a dim, cozy restaurant serving vaguely Belgian bar food in the back. You can order food in the bar, and you can order the beers in the restaurant, which is the better choice if you don't want to compete for service. The beer list is among the most impressive in the city (although, just for the record, I've got to give the edge to the Map Room when it comes to really interesting stuff, like oddball Cantillion guezes).

I feel compelled to apologize for this review, because I really have nothing very critical and/or funny to say about this place. The flipside of the long wait times is that the dining room isn't loud or crowded. Our waiter was efficient and appropriately friendly without being cloying. The bussers kept us supplied with crusty bread to soak up liquids---but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Hopleaf is known for their mussels, served steamed in either a white ale-and-herbs broth or what sounds like a Thai curry with coconut and ginger. I've only ever had the former, and I kind of doubt I'll ever make it to the latter, because the ale preparation is just ridiculously good. LTHers report some variability in the quality of the mussels, but I've never come across a bad one. (These smoke the version at Sweets and Savories, btw.) You really just have to order these if you come here. Adam and I split an order as an appetizer.

These are available as pictured, For One ($11), or For Two ($20) with a corresponding heap of frites.

Enlarge to show texture.

These are pretty good. The one thing they're not, though, is crisp---they're sort of limp and very tender inside, and they're also pretty absorbent, which is really what we were looking for. These fries plus the leftover mussel broth equals two-thirds of the best poutine man could ever hope to make. They are accompanied by an aoili that I'm pretty sure is just Hellman's and garlic, but it's nevertheless pretty much perfect.

These fries are also not served "in a cocktail shaker." I have no idea where TOC got that one.

We also tried the pork belly confit (it is 2008, after all), a maple syrup-rubbed hunk of crispy, fatty bacon. No complaints. Tasty for sure, but not transcendent, and your $10 is better spent on almost anything else served here.

If you're at all surprised that we both ordered the brisket plate with a side of stilton macaroni and cheese, you obviously haven't been reading this blog for very long.

This was really very good. It's hard to tell from the picture, but that brisket's about four 1/2" slices deep. A little smoky and a little fatty, it really hit the spot. The mac and cheese was also pretty good,with a definite bleu-cheese funk---I'm sure I could make it better myself, but seeing as how we'd already had plenty of fries, this side was very welcome.


Michael said...

Tre Kroner is a long way from Andersonville.

Other places to visit in Andersonville: Sunshine Cafe, Pasticceria Natalina.

R&B's Canoe Trip said...

The Maproom vs. Hopleaf... the Maproom is cheaper too.

Still, the Hopleaf is a great place to eat.

andshewas said...

next time you're at the hopleaf, i hope you'll consider ordering the ham sandwich. it is a work of art.

mbwright said...

Not that you guys get up here that much but two other A'ville spots for your burger project if you do come this way: 1) The Edgewater Lounge- It's consistently a juicy medium rare, I go with grilled mushrooms and swiss cheese. The fries are terrible, really very terrible...I don't know why they even serve them but the onions rings are out of this world!! No way will you be disappointed in those onion rings. 2) The La Tache burger at La Tache (duh!). Again, medium rare, I ask for the balsamic onion to be withheld only because they overwhelm the truffle aioli that comes on the brioche bun. Frites are good. These are both top contenders in my opinion.

Scott Kline said...

Love your site. I have posted a link on my burger blog to yours. Keep reviewing. Nice work.

Scott Kline
Hoosier Burger Boy

Esquire said...

I still say that the best Chicago burger is at Kuma's Corner. Hands Down.

me said...

Two suggestions for burger places. Mambo grill's Mambo Burger and The Green Door Tavern.

Great Blog. Thanks.

WTLE said...

Our website, Where The Locals, is putting together a new feature called, "Best Food Blogs in America" and we'd like to include Chicago Burger Project. Please email me and I'll send you details.


Kari said...

one of my new favorite spots in andersonville is "in fine spirits" - its a little shooshie (spendy) but a great spot for a drink or two and some interesting food/cheeses. i would highly recommend.

LaurenC said...

Rockit Bar and Grill is launching a Burger Bar concept soon.. I heard the burgers are going to taste great...
I saw this video

joyanto das said...

I love burger sooo much.

For food supply :

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