Tivoli Village is definitely creating a lot of buzz lately with all of its new restaurants; it’s just a pity that they haven’t brought any decent shopping to the table to bring in a few more bodies into the area. While I have mixed feelings about some of them, restaurants like Poppy Den, View, Cantina Laredo and many others have been gaining popularity with the locals. None of this was enough to keep Bottles & Burgers around, but that’s ok as we already have a replacement in the space with Bradley Ogden’s Hops & Harvest. Complete with a burger similar to what he formerly offered at Caesar’s, Ogden’s new restaurant hopes to add craft beers, farm to table comfort food and his famous burger to this growing food scene. I had to venture in there to sample this burger, as the last time I had it I was totally disappointed. Sadly, my recent experience will be just as controversial.
Located in the former Bottles & Burgers space, Hops utilized the same restaurant, bar and kitchen layout for its new venue, but added a few finishes to make it a tiny bit nicer than it was before. Unfortunately the hostesses still have some training to do, as they had a horrible time of trying to explain their seating options to us. Coming in on a Monday night at 6:30pm we didn’t bother making a reservation, but were greeted with a 10 minute wait for a booth, the option to sit outside on their side patio with misters, or to sit right away in their back lounge. Without thinking twice we chose the back lounge, only to be brought outside to a desolate back patio area with very minimal mister coverage and one employee sitting on a laptop. After well more than a 5 minute wait and a bit of sweat in the 95 degree weather two waiters came out at the same time to finally set our table and bring out menus. We promptly expressed our frustration with the location and were brought inside to an empty booth near the back… a booth that was located right by the loudest party of people ever assembled in a restaurant. So loud in fact, that we didn’t realize there was background music playing in the restaurant until after the group had left. I will note that our server Diana was very attentive, funny and super nice.
Seating woes and noise problems aside, we’re here to discuss food. Both the lunch and dinner menus offer a variety of clever sounding small plates and starters, sandwiches, salads and main courses. Being a lover of pork belly, we tried the Spicy BBQ Pork Belly before our burgers came out; they weren’t really spicy, but had a sweet, not so great bbq sauce on them. The pork itself was chewy and not cooked all that well, and the cheddar-ale dipping sauce didn’t have much flavor either. My friends had this same dish a few days earlier and thought their pork belly was crispy and delicious. Apparently the restaurant inconsistency never seems to work in my favor.
As for their ‘famous’ burger, the Grilled H&H burger, it is more or less served as just meat and bun. The bun is a house made bun; almost biscuit-like with a slight smell of brioche, while the meat is supposedly a house-ground chuck blend. The bun was good; a bit crispy on the inside, fresh but a tiny bit more dry than I would have liked. It was also a bit larger than my patty so the ratio is a little off. The patty was quite good; it had a great beefy flavor that did hold up on its own with just the bun, but was cooked a little more than the medium rare I had ordered. I added provolone cheese, and it seemed plentiful, but didn’t really represent at all in the few flavors. You are also given a small slice of onion, a couple pieces of lettuce, and oddly a ‘special sauce’ which is literally thousand island. Overall the burger is really good, but just not stand-out great. A few minimal, really good flavors don’t necessarily come together to make a fantastic burger, and this is a perfect example to me. This kind of reminds me of my first experience at Honey Salt; everything about the burger was good but it just didn’t stand out as having anything special going on. They regrouped, seasoned their patty, changed the bun, added some toppings and now offer something excellent. While I wasn’t totally impressed with Ogden’s burger at Caesar’s, I got what he was doing there; unfortunately I don’t think it works here anymore. I think it’s time to ditch this simplistic approach, add some creativity and come up with something truly special.
The hand cut fries were no good either; hot and very fresh, but seasoned with not quite enough salt on them, and too oily with that lovely flavor that the oil should have been changed yesterday. They instantly made me yearn for the fries I had at his hold location as they were far superior. Why can’t they replicate those? Given this experience, I’d rather go across the way to View to have their fan favorite burger and fries than this one. Also this burger jumps from $13.50 for lunch to $15 during dinner for presumably the same thing. Comparing the two menus, it appears that several other items make a similar jump as well. Plenty of restaurants throughout the city do this, I’m just not a fan. Also my cheese cost me an additional $3(insane!!!!) which isn’t mentioned on the menu, and not spoken of when offered by the waitress during ordering. Regardless of which price you’re going for, there are better and cheaper burger options very close by at Fleming’s, View or Honey Salt. I’m sure my opinion on this will be debated by the ass-kissers and hype-mongers in town, but that’s what they’re good for these days.