#255: Hop House

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Yesterday for dinner I was joined by family to check out Hop House, a new restaurant located in the Stone Point center on Eureka.  They are in the large space that was previously occupied by Early Toast (which seems to have moved over near Sierra College and Douglas behind Taco Bell).  As far as I can tell, this is only their second location; the other is in El Dorado Hills.

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I arrived at 5PM ahead of the others to grab a table and take a few photos.  It was <50ºF out which left the patio looking rather lonely, even though they had their gas heaters running. There are also some fire pit tables (not burning at the time), which will make this a really nice space to sit out on once the weather is nicer.

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I stepped in and was greeted right away and taken to a table just past the bar.  I then took a moment to check out the interior and tap list before my family showed up.  The place feels a lot more open with the removal of all the booth seating that was here before.  It is separated into two distinct sides.  The bar side has tall pub style tables and the other has normal height tables.  There is still curiously one booth, built into a little alcove near the entrance to the kitchen.

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The place is very warmly lit with Edison bulbs throughout, some of them with very intricate looking filaments.  The bar is lined with 16 taps, with a large board of signs describing each beer.  These will change frequently, in fact two of them changed while we were having dinner.  There looked to be a nice balance of different styles, including a few different stouts.

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(click to enlarge beer list)

Once everyone had arrived we ordered drinks and looked over the menu.  There are a lot of delicious sounding options, although I had already picked out a burger on Friday, after seeing a Facebook post featuring it.  Our beers arrived within a few minutes.  I had the Fieldwork Coconut Imperial Stout (10oz, 8%, $8), my dad had the High Water Campfire Stout on Nitro (10oz, 6.5%, $7) and my mom and grandma both had the Allagash White (16oz, 5.1%, $7).  Everyone enjoyed their beers and we finalized our orders soon thereafter.

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In just under 10 minutes we had our appetizer arrive, the Homemade Potato Chips & Dip (Roasted Onion Dip)[$6.99].  The chips were just out of the frier but cooled pretty quickly. They were fantastically crispy and were excellent for dipping in the onion dip without breaking.  This is impressive because the dip was very thick and dense.  There were chunks of onion throughout, so it was not completely blended to a smooth consistency.  The amount provided of this wonderfully rich dip was way more than needed for all the chips (not to say that we didn’t have enough chips, just that there was a ton of dip).

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A short 8 minutes after the chips had been delivered, our entrees followed.  3 of the 4 of us had ordered burgers.  My mom tried to set a healthier example with the Balsamic Grilled Chicken Breast (served with roasted baby carrots and Brussels Sprouts)[$14.99].

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My grandma ordered the Western Burger (bacon cheeseburger with BBQ sauce & onion rings)[$13.99] and my dad got the Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger (bacon burger with blue cheese and mayo)[$13.99].  The bun on both of these were quite large and didn’t allow the burgers to show off much other than some thick bacon sticking out the sides.

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My order was called The Exception (8oz Hop House Beef Blend with Extremely Thick Cut Bacon, American Cheese, Mayo and topped with a Sunny Side Up Egg)[$14.99].  They are not joking around when they say “extremely thick cut bacon”.  It was a photo of this burger and the bacon that caught my eye on Facebook last Friday.  The bacon is ridiculous.  Ridiculous.  I think if you set the beef patty and the bacon on two side-by-side scales that the bacon may outweigh the beef.  It was almost as thick as the patty itself.  One of the slices was close to 2 inches wide!

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I flipped the top bun over onto the burger and carefully picked it up, but before I had even taken a bite the yolk was dripping down onto my plate.  I knew this would be a bit of a challenge immediately.  A bit of a challenge became a slight understatement moments later as I made my first bite into the burger and its insane bacon.  The bacon, while fatty and tender and incredible, did not want to be bitten through so easily.  I ended up nearly pulling the one slice almost completely out of the burger on the first try, and this was my experience on every other bite after that.  With all the struggle to hold onto the bacon through the bun, it started to fall apart and I eventually had to settle for using a fork and knife.

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Difficulty of eating aside, this was just wow….amazing.  It was like having a thick slab of BBQ pork on my burger.  The smokey flavor was quite rich and powerful, it was delicious! I don’t know that the egg did a whole lot other than cause the bun to break down faster, but an egg on a burger is always fun in my book.  The egg white added some different texture in contrast to meat, meat and more meat in every bite.  The american cheese was a bit muted by the bacon, but just apparent enough to enjoy.

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I loved this insane burger, and I loved my coconut stout, and I loved the menu and all the things that I want to come back and try.  I wish I had room for dessert!  I will be back, and I recommend you check it out too!

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#254: Tandoori Bite

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I type this feeling incredibly full and with a loosened belt (truthfully I removed it entirely, haha).  The telltale sign of a visit to an Indian buffet.  This is Tandoori Bite, located on Baseline at Foothills.  A somewhat recent addition to Roseville’s large and always growing collection of Indian restaurants, they opened sometime over Summer.  They are situated on the opposite end of the building where Crawfish Factory lives.

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I walked in just after noon.  The place is quite large and there is a lot of open space from the entryway all the way back to the buffet and register area.  To the right is a largish grid of tables.  I was the only customer at the moment, though a couple people had just left if take out right as I arrived.  At first there was no-one to be seen but, seconds after the door shut, a woman appeared from the back and greeted me.  I gestured to the buffet line and she told me to go ahead and get started.  Buffet is served every day for lunch, although it is a few bucks more on the weekends ($12.95).  Their menu doesn’t say anything about it being served at dinner but I think I’ve seen them post about it on Facebook once or twice.

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Before setting my camera down at a table I asked if I could get a mango lassi and she said it would be extra, which I expected and said that would be fine.  Once back to grab a plate she asked what I wanted to drink (which I didn’t think much of at the time, figured it was more a question if I also wanted water) and I told her water is good.  She also asked if I wanted plain or garlic naan and I chose the latter.  Eventually I realized that she must have misheard my response about the lassi being extra because it was never brought out.  No big deal I guess, and she was on top of the water refills since I was downing it quickly throughout the meal.

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I went down the line and tried a little bit of nearly everything.  My first plate consisted of Fish Pakora (fish cubes dipped in spiced batter & deep fried), Vegetable Pakora (assorted vegetable fritters dipped in chickpea batter and deep fried), Rajma (not shown on their menu but Wikipedia says it consists of red kidney beans in a thick gravy with many whole spices), an item that was unlabeled but I am  pretty sure was the Chana Masala (garbanzo beans cooked with onion and tomatoes in house special spices) Saag (spiced creamy spinach) and finally Butter Chicken (boneless chicken cooked in a special sauce with a blend of tomatoes, butter & cream).

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The fish and vegetable pakoras were good, although they were a bit steamed and soft from being in their closed serving container for a while.  A busier buffet usually doesn’t have that problem since it rotates a lot quicker.  I definitely prefer a nice crispy pakora.  The vegetables had a lot of flavor to them with lots of spices and a hint of heat.  The naan was fresh with a bit of a crisp on the bottom and plenty of flavorful garlic on it.

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I had the rest of the items on a bed of colorful rice.  The Rajma was pretty heavy on the kidney bean flavor while the Chana Masala was a much creamier blend of the masala flavor and garbanzos and had a bit of a kick after a few bites.  Both were tasty though.  The saag is usually one of my favorites but usually only when it has paneer in it, which this one did not, so it was a little bland and boring.  Easily my favorite item of everything I had today was the butter chicken (I know, classic white guy Indian food choice).  It was intensely rich and flavorful, smooth and creamy with tender chunks of dark chicken.  A touch on the salty side, it was still amazing and I ended up getting seconds on my next plate.

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For my second plate I tried the Chicken Curry (skinless & boneless chicken cooked in a spiced curry sauce), Goat Curry (goat cooked in a spiced curry sauce), Haleem (lentils, barley mixed meat slowly cooked with authentic spices) and a drumstick of Tandoori Chicken (chicken marinated in a blend of yogurt and Indian spices).

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The chicken curry was probably my 2nd favorite item.  It was as flavorful as the butter chicken but less creamy.  The goat had bones so I had to take care to separate those out first.  I often skip goat curry on buffets and probably would here in the future as well.  It wasn’t bad, but the meat itself was a bit tough and slightly gamey.  The Tandoori Chicken drum was really good.  It wasn’t as overly bright red with coloring as many but had the flavor marinated in nicely and was very tender and had a good amount of meat on it.  The Haleem was something I had never seen or tried before.  It was unfortunately my least favorite item.  It seemed to taste like bitter squash.  The little jalapeño slice I got in a bite had a huge kick to it.

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Finally I headed back one last time for dessert.  I was excited to see that they had Gulab Jamun (deep fried cheese balls dipped in sugar syrup, served warm) and hot Chai Tea.  In addition they had something labeled as Cart Keer.  I didn’t see this on their menu and googling comes up with Carrot Kheer, which I guess is what this might have been, although it tasted to me more like sweet potato rather than carrot.  It was quite good.

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The Gulab Jamun was great.  I don’t know exactly how this is made and what kind of cheese it is.  I’ve always thought it tasted more like a soggy surgery donut than any kind of cheese.  The tea was incredibly hot but absolutely delicious once at a more reasonable temperature.  Not many Indian buffets have Chai tea or even desserts on their buffets, so to have both (and 2 desserts at that!) was really nice!

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Overall I was quite happy with this buffet.  Not everything was a hit, but that’s par for the course at just about every buffet, and there was plenty to enjoy.  The woman handling the dining room was very friendly, and as I had mentioned earlier refilled my water constantly (a pleasant change from the numerous Indian buffets I’ve sampled in the Rancho/Folsom areas).  I would definitely return here again.

Website: http://tandoori-bite.com

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AM19: Cafeteria 15L (SMF)

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I’m off and up out, but got to the airport early so here’s a quick post about Cafeteria 15L inside Terminal B of the Sacramento International Airport!

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Flying out of Terminal B allows some great food selection, including Burgers & Brew and Jacks Urban Eats.  Today was the first time I ever tried Cafeteria 15L though.  This is a satellite location of their downtown restaurant.

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I seated myself on the “patio” for maximum people watching potential.  I was greeted within a minute or two and offered a coffee.  They only have seven items on the breakfast side of the menu which include a waffle, a couple omelets, a breakfast sandwich and a breakfast burrito, which is what I ordered (egg, chorizo, potatoes and pepper jack cheese, served with salsa and guacamole)[$12.99].

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Prices are typical for the airport, so about 75% higher than they should be.  My coffee was piping hot and delicious.  The burrito arrived about 7 minutes after ordering it.  It was also hot and steaming.  There was a small amount of a blended salsa and fresh guacamole on the side.  The guacamole reminded me a bit of Jimboy’s guac.  Fresh, but with an extra flavor that I’ve never been able to put my finger on.  It is good though.

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Although this is not a huge burrito, it was packed tight with loads of eggs and chorizo.  The potatoes were not in a huge abundance, which was fine with me (less filler!).  The pepper jack was not very visible but I did taste its slight kick in most bites.  The eggs were perfectly fluffy and the chorizo savory, tender and rich in flavor.  This was easily one of the best things I’ve ever had here in the airport, and I will definitely be checking out more in Cafeteria 15L on future trips.

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