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  • Post #61 - September 9th, 2006, 7:23 pm
    Post #61 - September 9th, 2006, 7:23 pm Post #61 - September 9th, 2006, 7:23 pm
    We were there last Saturday, got there around 8:30, maybe 9. The back had a wait of at least 45 mins, but we quickly got a booth up front (tables seemed to be turning over fairly frequently between then and when we left around 10:30). We got food (order at the bar) and it came very quickly. Friends joined us around 9:15 or so. Parking was not hard for them, and the Damen (#50) bus stops only 1 block away (too bad it stops running at 10 pm :( )

    The smoke in front was not bad. The windows and doors were open, and only a few people were smoking. I'm not sure if I'd feel the same way on a winter night when the place was all closed up, though.
    Leek

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  • Post #62 - February 18th, 2007, 10:27 am
    Post #62 - February 18th, 2007, 10:27 am Post #62 - February 18th, 2007, 10:27 am
    We visited Hopleaf last night for out Valentine's Day dinner. (I refuse to eat out on the holiday. I think it might be worse than Mother's Day)

    We got there at 5:30 and snagged the last open table in the dining room. We started with the "House Cured Duck Breast Prosciutto". It's served with mache, truffle oil, and a balsamic reduction. Holy cats, this was good. Salty, ducky, with a thin layer of fat on top that gave it an extra richness without being over the top. It came with a few chunks of fancy grilled mushrooms. These were a nice compliment, but I could have eaten the duck all night.

    We then shared mussels in Wittekerke (spot-on) and the Sea Bass. The fish was a generous portion, but the highlight was the lobster risotto cake served with it. Fried crisp, but smooth inside with a strong lobster flavor. They were also accompanied by some fried greens with a bright vinagrette. The dish just totally worked.

    All around, a great meal.
  • Post #63 - July 9th, 2007, 3:00 pm
    Post #63 - July 9th, 2007, 3:00 pm Post #63 - July 9th, 2007, 3:00 pm
    Last night I tried Hopleaf's Montreal-style brisket sandwich. Salty, fatty, spicy, peppery, smoky—really nice stuff. On good rye bread with half a house-made sweet-dill pickle and a pile of fries. I need to try this again to see if it's consistent but I'll go out on a limb and say it was the best sandwich I've had in Chicago in a while. A glass of Hop-It, sort of a Belgian IPA, stood up well against this onslaught of flavor.

    Has anyone tried the pork belly?
  • Post #64 - July 9th, 2007, 4:20 pm
    Post #64 - July 9th, 2007, 4:20 pm Post #64 - July 9th, 2007, 4:20 pm
    I second Rene G's assessment of the brisket sandwich. Really excellent pepper and smoke flavors, perfect texture, and served on a dark rye that could hold up to the astonishing pile of meat inside. This is not a sandwich to be missed.

    And for those worried about crowds, I've been to Hopleaf twice in the last week (6pm on both a Sunday and Wednesday) and while the place was relatively full, there wasn't a wait longer than 10 minutes for a table.
  • Post #65 - July 9th, 2007, 4:42 pm
    Post #65 - July 9th, 2007, 4:42 pm Post #65 - July 9th, 2007, 4:42 pm
    Has anyone tried the pork belly?


    Girlfriend and I were there about 3 weeks ago, and I had the pork belly for the first time (usually just a sandwich and a beer for me):

    Extremely disappointed. It came out cut into about 6 pieces, each was crispy to the point of very dry, extremely salty, and frankly, not flavorful. I really don't know if that's the way it was supposed to come out there, but i was expecting something a lot more succulent and juicy. I would have sent it back but we were in a bit of a rush and couldn't wait for anything else. If you go, do what I failed to and ask how they prepare it and whether it comes out like thick, dry piece of bacon.

    To remedy, I had the pork belly at Blackbird on Saturday, which, although twice as expensive, was three times as good. The preparation was very moist, but crisp on the outside and besides the market veggies it came with, it was presented in a slight broth that, while the consistency and color of good chicken stock, tasted like BBQ sauce. Amazing.

    cjk
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    ...Mmmmmm. Sacra-licious.
  • Post #66 - July 9th, 2007, 5:18 pm
    Post #66 - July 9th, 2007, 5:18 pm Post #66 - July 9th, 2007, 5:18 pm
    Last night I tried Hopleaf's Montreal-style brisket sandwich. Salty, fatty, spicy, peppery, smoky—really nice stuff. On good rye bread with half a house-made sweet-dill pickle and a pile of fries. I need to try this again to see if it's consistent but I'll go out on a limb and say it was the best sandwich I've had in Chicago in a while.


    What time were you there? Once again, a need for a LTH hand signal rears its head - or we all just need to wear a tshirt at all times. We got there at a little after 7, probably only had to wait ten minutes or so for our table - plenty of time for a couple Frambois for the ladies and a Lucifer for myself.

    I had the CB&J sandwich, which was good (the stilton macaroni and cheese that came with it was pretty awesome, tho); wife had the brisket which I thought was seasoned very closely to pastrami. But you're right - it's extremely peppery. It was good, but certainly not what I was expecting (last brisket I had was Smoque's which is completely different).

    Hopleaf was far less smoky than I remembered it to be, as well. Whether that reflects a change on their part, a change in patron habits, or just a function of my memory remains to be seen.
    Writing about craft beer at GuysDrinkingBeer.com
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  • Post #67 - July 10th, 2007, 2:47 pm
    Post #67 - July 10th, 2007, 2:47 pm Post #67 - July 10th, 2007, 2:47 pm
    cjkrautk wrote:
    Has anyone tried the pork belly?

    Extremely disappointed.

    That's too bad but thanks for the report. I'm glad I chose the brisket instead.

    whiskeybent wrote:What time were you there?

    It was about 9pm and still crowded, only one table open. I'm happy for them that they're doing so well but I don't go often anymore. I used to frequent the place in the pre-food days but now I find it hardly worth fighting the crowds just for a beer. I've been happy with nearly all their food though.

    whiskeybent wrote:. . . wife had the brisket which I thought was seasoned very closely to pastrami.

    Unfortunately I haven't been to Montreal so I'm not sure how it compares with the genuine article. The stuff at Hopleaf is very pastrami-like but more aggressively seasoned than most in Chicago. It reminds me a bit of the house-made pastrami at Braverman's Deli, the great old place formerly on Chicago near Ashland.
  • Post #68 - July 11th, 2007, 1:19 pm
    Post #68 - July 11th, 2007, 1:19 pm Post #68 - July 11th, 2007, 1:19 pm
    whiskeybent wrote:...wife had the brisket which I thought was seasoned very closely to pastrami.

    I found the brisket sandwich so fatty and tough I left most of it uneaten. Mixed sausages, mussels and frites were fine, though.
  • Post #69 - August 25th, 2007, 9:01 am
    Post #69 - August 25th, 2007, 9:01 am Post #69 - August 25th, 2007, 9:01 am
    Last night was the first time I tried the Montreal-style smoked brisket at Hopleaf and I absolutely loved it. A little crispy, a little fatty, rich, smoky, spicy and simply fantastic. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I visited Schwartz's in Montreal and left feeling underwhelmed (My visit to Montreal). My only suggestion would be to ask for the horseradish mustard on the side -- I thought there was just a little too much on my sandwich.
  • Post #70 - August 25th, 2007, 11:07 am
    Post #70 - August 25th, 2007, 11:07 am Post #70 - August 25th, 2007, 11:07 am
    Just wait until the pork belly comes back. The Hop Leaf's Pork Belly was the best thing I've eaten in 2007.

    If only I would've taken a picture of it. . .
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  • Post #71 - December 3rd, 2007, 10:47 pm
    Post #71 - December 3rd, 2007, 10:47 pm Post #71 - December 3rd, 2007, 10:47 pm
    Just walked past Hopleaf tonight, and saw a notice regarding an expansion permit in the window--anyone got the scoop on this?
  • Post #72 - December 4th, 2007, 12:00 am
    Post #72 - December 4th, 2007, 12:00 am Post #72 - December 4th, 2007, 12:00 am
    My darling Hopleaf,

    We need one of you in Oak Park. Also, please renew your contract for Sprecher Black Bavarian. Mondschein Schwarzbier doesn't quite cut it. And please, even when you're busy, do chuck those mussels that are unopened or gloppy, off-color, and horrid before serving with your aggressively delicious garlic aioli and crusty bread. Your broth deserves better. Ok I love you b-bye.

    [heart]

    Santander
  • Post #73 - December 7th, 2007, 9:21 pm
    Post #73 - December 7th, 2007, 9:21 pm Post #73 - December 7th, 2007, 9:21 pm
    If you are looking for the Belgian cuisine, I guess this doesn't help -- but we were pleasantly surprised with the tap selection at Poor Phils in OP. Two nights ago they had Alpha Klaus, Three Philosophers, Goose Island Matilda and Lagunitas Ugly Radio on tap (among 32 others). And Pride and Joy on handpull. Some good fresh oysters too...

    http://www.poorphils.com/
    (online beer list does not seem to be current)

    139 S Marion
    Oak Park, IL 60302
    708-848-0871
  • Post #74 - December 8th, 2007, 12:35 am
    Post #74 - December 8th, 2007, 12:35 am Post #74 - December 8th, 2007, 12:35 am
    Poor Phil's has indeed been improving steadily. Their summer seafood specials were particularly good this year, and they've carried over a few items including a nice muffaletta to the regular menu. They typically have at least a few Unibroues and Leffes available in bottles for reasonable prices, and a barleywine or two as well. It's a worthy backup for Hopleaf at least on the alcohol side, easier to get a table at, and less fuss overall. But some nights I just need the sausage plate.
  • Post #75 - January 20th, 2008, 5:19 pm
    Post #75 - January 20th, 2008, 5:19 pm Post #75 - January 20th, 2008, 5:19 pm
    My fiance and I have been back to Hopleaf twice since the smoking ban and now I have a newly rejuvenated and unabashed love for this place, a mere 2 blocks from my apartment. Last night we walked in around 10 and were seated immediately (a very rare occurence). Maybe it was the cold, maybe it is some residual effect from the smoking ban, but it was surprising and welcomed.

    I haven't seen much love for anything other than mussels here on the board but the last two times we have gone, I've ordered the Flemish beef stew. It is hearty and wonderful food for these cold times. The stew is on a bed of creamy buttery mashed potatoes. Fiance is obsessed with the CB & J (cashew butter and fig jam grilled sanwich), which comes with a side of chips and their stilton mac-and-cheese. I also ordered a side of their pancetta bourbon white beans, which are fantastic. They're slightly sweet (nothing like molasses baked beans), and salty from the pancetta. We also love the onion rings, which are thin and crispy and I can eat them by the handful (kind of like Hackney's, but not in a loaf form)

    For those of you who have complained about the smoke in the past (myself included), it may be time to revisit an old friend...

    Sharona
  • Post #76 - January 20th, 2008, 5:29 pm
    Post #76 - January 20th, 2008, 5:29 pm Post #76 - January 20th, 2008, 5:29 pm
    Sharona wrote:My fiance and I have been back to Hopleaf twice since the smoking ban and now I have a newly rejuvenated and unabashed love for this place, a mere 2 blocks from my apartment. Last night we walked in around 10 and were seated immediately (a very rare occurence). Maybe it was the cold, maybe it is some residual effect from the smoking ban, but it was surprising and welcomed.

    Fiance is obsessed with the CB & J (cashew butter and fig jam grilled sanwich), which comes with a side of chips and their stilton mac-and-cheese.


    I wonder if the smoking ban is really keeping smokers away. As it is citywide, do smokers conclude, "Gosh, no point in going out to bars anymore, because I can't smoke there." No doubt, some do, but I have to believe these die-hards are a small percentage. I could be wrong, but that's my gut guess.

    The cashew butter-fig jam is something I could make today (have those components on hand), and will. The stilton mac-and-cheese sounds excellent as well. Don't remember seeing those on menu; wonder if they're new.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #77 - January 20th, 2008, 5:34 pm
    Post #77 - January 20th, 2008, 5:34 pm Post #77 - January 20th, 2008, 5:34 pm
    Sharona wrote:

    Fiance is obsessed with the CB & J (cashew butter and fig jam grilled sanwich), which comes with a side of chips and their stilton mac-and-cheese.


    I'd like to second that nomination! That's what I ordered the last time and really enjoyed it.

    I hope the smoking ban isn't hurting businesses, but from a selfish point of view I'm pretty happy about it.
  • Post #78 - January 20th, 2008, 6:26 pm
    Post #78 - January 20th, 2008, 6:26 pm Post #78 - January 20th, 2008, 6:26 pm
    David Hammond wrote:I wonder if the smoking ban is really keeping smokers away. As it is citywide, do smokers conclude, "Gosh, no point in going out to bars anymore, because I can't smoke there." No doubt, some do, but I have to believe these die-hards are a small percentage. I could be wrong, but that's my gut guess.


    David,
    As we were walking up, we saw a small group of smokers huddled together to keep warm in the tiny alleyway/doorway just south of the Hopleaf entrance. We've also noticed now more people are eating dinner in the front, something I couldn't even consider in recent years. The last time I remember eating dinner in the front was circa 2002 on a Monday night.
    David Hammond wrote:The cashew butter-fig jam is something I could make today (have those components on hand), and will. The stilton mac-and-cheese sounds excellent as well. Don't remember seeing those on menu; wonder if they're new.


    The CB&J is a somewhat newish addition--I remember seeing it on the menu early this fall.

    Sharona
  • Post #79 - January 20th, 2008, 8:33 pm
    Post #79 - January 20th, 2008, 8:33 pm Post #79 - January 20th, 2008, 8:33 pm
    curry71 wrote:I know this place has lost its original atmosphere due to the trend crowd, but...After seeing the Hop Leaf (Clark/Foster) on Check Please, my wife and I went to revisit it on Wednesday.
    Much to the staff's annoyance, so had a lot of other people.

    And that pretty much spells out why going to Hop Leaf is a love/hate affair. Love the beer selection (one of the most respected bars in the country among beer aficionados) but hate the staff that acts like they're doing you a favor by being there. I was a lot more willing to put up with it when I lived in Andersonville. Now that I don't, it's just as easy to get to the Map Room, which is what I do.
  • Post #80 - January 21st, 2008, 1:04 pm
    Post #80 - January 21st, 2008, 1:04 pm Post #80 - January 21st, 2008, 1:04 pm
    We went to the Hop Leaf for the first time (at least, the first time in over ten years) last night and had a lovely time. Being a freezing-cold Sunday, it wasn't slammed, but definitely busy.

    It's funny, at dinner the 'spouse and I were talking about our dining preferences - I must admit an allergy to high-end service and accoutrements. We appreciated the rustic tables and chairs and the matter-of-fact service (which, that being said, never seemed anything but polite,) and were pleasantly surprised that there was no TV. We had the mussels and frites, of course, and devoured every last bit, getting a second helping of very good bread to sop up the juice. Not being a beer drinker, I had the Blackthorn Cider, which was a crisp foil to all the rich food. The Uberspouse opted for a Chocolate Stout, which he liked quite a bit. While the mussels were excellently prepared, they were not the mussels of my dreams: I prefer larger, meatier black mussels (I'm a PEI purist, but I didn't get a chance to ask their pedigree) However, these were cooked perfectly and had plenty of delicious sauce. The frites and aioli were sheer heaven - so much so that we ordered steak frites to share for dinner.

    I had the appetizer of fried quail to keep the steak frites company - it was quite good, with a sweetish creamy sauce with raisins, apples, panchetta and cubed sweet potatoes. We were a bit disappointed in the steak, which was cooked exactly as we asked but lacked flavor, even with the heaping glob of herb butter on top (it was also chewy, but that tends to be a plus for me) We were glad to get more frites, though, even better with some meat juices soaked in. As I eyballed dishes around me, I regret missing the duck reuben, the sausage plate, and the onion straws, which looked very good.

    It's hard to get out without Sparky, so I don't know if we'll be back soon, but we definitely enjoyed ourselves and will be back when we're able.
  • Post #81 - January 21st, 2008, 7:59 pm
    Post #81 - January 21st, 2008, 7:59 pm Post #81 - January 21st, 2008, 7:59 pm
    [(have those components on hand), )

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  • Post #82 - January 25th, 2008, 3:05 pm
    Post #82 - January 25th, 2008, 3:05 pm Post #82 - January 25th, 2008, 3:05 pm
    I went to Hopleaf for the first time last night, with my book group. At 6:45 on a Thursday, the ground floor was full, but the wait at the bar was pleasant and surprisingly short; we were seated upstairs after about 15 minutes. The mussels and frites were very satisfying and I probably should have stopped there. I ordered the butternut squash with mushroom risotto, which was also very good, just more food than I needed at that point. We all really enjoyed Hopleaf and we're looking forward to going back.
  • Post #83 - January 26th, 2008, 12:37 am
    Post #83 - January 26th, 2008, 12:37 am Post #83 - January 26th, 2008, 12:37 am
    Ever since I moved to Chicago back in 2003 and visited Hopleaf for the first time, it's been my favorite bar in the city. Call me sentimental, but nothing beats a quiet winter afternoon cozied up at their beautiful bar sipping a Belgian masterpiece as the snow falls outside. Hopleaf was also the first Chicago bar I knew to have a permanent Great Lakes tap (Dortmunder Gold). Being a native of the Cleveland area, this only furthered my endearment to the place. Oh, and the goregous vintage advertising abound seals the deal. If I started a bar of my own, I don't think I could do any better.
    Native Chicagolander Since 2003
  • Post #84 - January 28th, 2008, 4:02 pm
    Post #84 - January 28th, 2008, 4:02 pm Post #84 - January 28th, 2008, 4:02 pm
    For any Scotch egg fans out there, Hopleaf has it back on their menu. Theirs has immediately become one my favorites -- they soft-boil the egg, resulting in a deliciously soft and creamy egg. It does not get dried out at all. While the sausage could be a little more flavourful, it's still a fine, fine Scotch egg.

    They also serve it with a tini green salad -- as if to try and offset the inherrent unhealthiness of the egg. Why bother? ^_^
  • Post #85 - January 28th, 2008, 4:34 pm
    Post #85 - January 28th, 2008, 4:34 pm Post #85 - January 28th, 2008, 4:34 pm
    I was there last week and had the Scotch egg, and I agree the soft yolk and sausage combine for a delightful end result. I seem to recall though that Hopleaf's Scotch egg of a couple years ago was wrapped in bacon, although it’s entirely possible that my mind is glamorizing the past.
  • Post #86 - January 30th, 2008, 12:02 am
    Post #86 - January 30th, 2008, 12:02 am Post #86 - January 30th, 2008, 12:02 am
    carrienation wrote:Just walked past Hopleaf tonight, and saw a notice regarding an expansion permit in the window--anyone got the scoop on this?


    I was at Hopleaf right before Christmas, and had the good fortune to sit next to the owner. We asked about the sign, and he said they were adding an outdoor patio.
  • Post #87 - February 1st, 2008, 10:17 pm
    Post #87 - February 1st, 2008, 10:17 pm Post #87 - February 1st, 2008, 10:17 pm
    I just happened to stumble upon this LTHForum today for the first time. I've really enjoyed the postings that I've seen.

    Now to Hopleaf. I have to agree with a previous poster's comments about it being a love/hate affair. I live just down the block and have been there probably 12 times in the last year. One half of the hate equation was solved by the smoking ban. The other half of the hate equation is the service at the bar. I know these guys are busy. It's obvious, and good for the business, but how about a simple "Thank You" once in a while? Why do I have to feel like it is a privilege to have my beer order taken while sitting at the bar? (This criticism is leveled largely at the guys who work behind the bar, who show absolutely no joy in doing their jobs. There is one girl who often tends the bar and is quite amiable.)

    Now the love side of the equation. The beer list is pretty much unrivaled. I know there are others with more numbers, but few, if any, have the selection of Belgian's. The food, in my opinion, is excellent for the price point. I really like that they change up many of the items based on season and availability of ingredients. Although, I would love to have the Duck con Fit wraps back. I happen to also really like the Brisket. I don't know what makes a "Montreal" Brisket, but I enjoy tasting the contrast between the Hopleaf interpretation of Brisket, Smoque's interpretation of Brisket and the Brisket I've had in Austin Texas. I can't think of many bars that put that much thought and creativity into a $10-$12 dish.

    Thanks for letting me opine.
  • Post #88 - February 1st, 2008, 11:13 pm
    Post #88 - February 1st, 2008, 11:13 pm Post #88 - February 1st, 2008, 11:13 pm
    jcclark33,

    Welcome to LTHforum.

    We look forward to more thoughtful posts like this in the future.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #89 - February 2nd, 2008, 12:15 am
    Post #89 - February 2nd, 2008, 12:15 am Post #89 - February 2nd, 2008, 12:15 am
    jcclark33 wrote:I happen to also really like the Brisket. I don't know what makes a "Montreal" Brisket . . .
    My understanding is that the typical Montreal smoked meat sandwiches (i.e., brisket) originated in Eastern Europe among Jews who then brought the recipes to North America, and in particular, Montreal. Thus, the smoked meat sandwich is Montreal (think Italian beef and deep dish pizza in Chicago) and there are tons of places that sell it there (not all good). They're very similar to pastrami, and on my couple trips to Schwartz's -- many people's favorite in Montreal -- I had the sandwich and liked but did not love it. Some might slap me but I actually prefer Hopleaf's version. The brisket is cured, seasoned and then smoked, but the seasoning mixture is somewhat different than the one you might typically find used in American bbq, as you could probably tell from eating Hopleaf's sandwich. Schwartz's website provides some more info: http://www.schwartzsdeli.com/index2.html
  • Post #90 - February 2nd, 2008, 12:38 am
    Post #90 - February 2nd, 2008, 12:38 am Post #90 - February 2nd, 2008, 12:38 am
    Interesting. Thank you. As many of the previous posters noted, there is definitely a pastrami taste. I like pastrami, so it doesn't put me off one bit.

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