#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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AM18: Dad’s Kitchen

Today for Lunch I was joined by my brother, his wife, their son and my grandma at Dad’s Kitchen.  This popular Sacramento restaurant has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and fairly recently now has a second location on Sunset and Hazel in Fair Oaks (which is the one we went to).

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We arrived at about noon and were seated immediately despite it being somewhat busy.  They have a nice sized patio which had big shades drawn to keep out the blazing sun.  This early in the day it was probably very nice out there.  We were just inside in a medium-sized room with lots of seating.  They have a bar, though I did not get much of a look at it, or the rest of the place.  It is very casual dining.  Lots of neon beer signs and posters make up the decorations.

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Being the weekend we were given the brunch menu. It consisted of 1/3 breakfast options, 1/3 sandwiches and 1/3 burgers.  It all sounded pretty good.  I chose the Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs (topped with house-made gravy and served with home fries and a biscuit)[$14].  Between all of us we pretty much covered all the options which I’ll get to below.

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To drink I ordered the Chocolate Shake Porter from Boulder, which was served on nitro [$6].  They have an impressive whiskey list as well (Beer List / Whiskey List).  The beer followed waters and a soda by a minute or so and was velvety-smooth.  I’ve had this before in a bottle and it’s pretty tasty.  We ordered our food just after that and it came in a little under 15 minutes.

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My brother got the Cowboy Burger (8 oz patty with pepper jack cheese, bacon, house-made BBQ sauce, and crispy onions served on an artisan bun)[$13] and upgraded the fries to blue cheese habanero for $1.  It looked great, cooked medium rare.  He said the fries had great flavor and didn’t have excessive heat from the habanero.

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My sister-in-law ordered the Hot Blonde sandwich (Grilled organic chicken, Swiss cheese, spinach, avocado, cucumbers, tomato, roasted red onion, garlic spread, brown mustard, and Pepper Plant sauce, panini pressed on sliced sourdough and served with sea salted fries).  Since she was sharing this with my 2 year old nephew, our server offered to bring the pepper plant sauce on the side.  Good idea, because I took a whiff of the sauce and it was very peppery.

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My grandma ordered the Dad’s BLT (Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo, panini pressed on sliced sourdough and served with sea salted fries)[$9].  This looked fantastic.  It has an option for avocado.  I might return to check that out.

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My plate was pretty interesting visually.  The steak was kind of curled up in a weird way that I’ve never seen before.  The home fries, which I asked for done crisp, were perfect.  Some were very dark, which is A-OK to me, I really like them crispy.  There were bits of onion mixed in there as well.  The eggs came out more over-easy than the over-medium I requested.  That’s unfortunately very common anywhere and it’s something I’ve come to expect and live with.

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The biscuit was massive and very unique looking.  It had lots of craggy surface area which was great to scoop up egg, gravy, butter or the awesome (maybe house-made) strawberry jam.  I could have used a bit more though because the biscuit was huge.  As for the steak itself, it was pretty good.  The fried batter was extremely crisp and started coming apart in pieces as I cut.  It had a very peculiar flavor to it that was something I’ve not come across before with chicken fried steak. Thinking it might have been a bit of chili powder.  I was not super crazy about it, and I would prefer a more traditional batter.

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In the end I enjoyed my dish, but I was kind of jealous of everyone else’s orders.  I can say that I will be back, but I’ll stick to burgers and sandwiches next time.  The Dad’s Burger in particular is calling my name (8 oz patty encrusted with 2 oz of bleu cheese crumbles and 2 oz of chopped up bacon)!

AM17: Fatburger

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I have another quick chain visit for today.  I’ve been listening to a podcast about chain restaurants recently called Doughboys.  The most recent episode was about a burger chain called Fatburger.  I had never heard of it before and was surprised to find one in Lincoln.  Well, to my disappointment it actually turned out to be in Thunder Valley Casino rather than in Lincoln proper, but I couldn’t get this place out of my brain for a few days so I decided to check it out for lunch.

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The last time I had visited Thunder Valley was at least 10 years ago.  One major thing that I noticed as soon as I entered the first set of doors was that smoking was obviously permitted inside.  It was thick in the air.  I didn’t actually realize it was still allowed, even in Indian casinos.  This is a huge turnoff, and I can generally handle smokers in most situations (I smoke cigars myself).  Indoors or around food is where I draw the line.

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Obviously this is a food court environment, so the service and ambience were basically non-exsistant.  I decided to go nuts with this burger, especially considering the name, and went with the XXL, a 1lb monstrosity.  All fat burgers with “the works” include mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, relish and mustard.  Taking things further, I added nearly every premium option that is available: cheese, bacon, fried egg and onion rings (the only thing I didn’t add was chili).  My combo with fat fries (steak fries – they have skinny fries also) and a large soda came to a whopping $19.02 before tax.

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14 minutes later and I had a heavy, massive burger which towered over the already largish fries next to it.  As I picked it up from the counter I overheard at least 2 separate people point it out to the person they were with.  It was a spectacle.  It was also hard to get my hands around it, let alone eat the thing.

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The fries were meh.  They definitely needed some salt.  I barely touched them though due to the size of the burger.  That by the way was, actually, surprisingly amazing.  As I was leaving and getting a refill on my soda I briefly watched the person grilling patties.  They started with cubes of ground beef and smashed them down with a flat, metal stamp-looking tool.  That beef tasted amazing, it was nicely seasoned.  It was also really freaking hot.  I had to adjust my grip now and then because my thumb, on the bottom of the burger, was actually getting too hot a few times.  Anyway, what I really enjoyed was how all the crazy ingredients somehow came through and I could taste each individual, discrete flavor.

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If this was located anywhere other than Thunder Valley, I could see myself returning to experiment with different sized burgers and combinations of toppings.  It really was that good.  I just don’t feel any desire to step back into that smokey casino again to do it.  I’m deducting 1.5 from my score just for that.

Website: http://www.fatburger.com