I love the quaint, north side neighborhood of Andersonville in Chicago. There are charming houses and shops in what is known as this Swedish part of town. There are also great restaurants and bars such as Bar Ombra which I blogged about recently. However, one of the most unique and charming dining destinations here is Hopleaf.
Hopleaf is a bar with a Belgian-focused food and beer menu. It is located
about 5 blocks (a 5-8 minute walk) from the Berwyn ‘L’ stop along the CTA Red Line. The #22 Clark and #72 Foster buses will take you here as well.
I was turned on to Hopleaf, shortly after moving to Chicago 10 years ago. What a special place! The inside space evokes the cozy, ski lodge feel of Belgian bars. There is seating in the front and back of the small space with a vaulted ceiling and loft seating upstairs. As tiny as Hopleaf is, ample light filters through its windows.
Hopleaf is known for its extensive draft and bottle beer menu. While there are several domestic and local beers available, there are some wonderful Belgian and other European beers you should try. The bartenders will allow you to sample a few beers, until you find the right one for you. Adequate descriptions of the flavor profiles and alcohol content for each beer are listed on the menu. Nice!
My friend, Barb, and I headed up to this hot spot early on Saturday evening. I started off with the Rosa Hibiscus draft from Revolution Brewery here in Chicago. Barb chose the Vander Mill cider from Michigan.
We were lucky to snag a table underneath the charming apple tree in Hopleaf’s fabulous garden. There are not many tables in this outdoor space and wait times can be long in the summer. I recommend arriving on the early side of dinner service or the late side of lunch service, in order to increase your chances of being seated.
Almost every time I have been to Hopleaf, I sat in this garden. If there is a more transportive spot in Chicago, I have not found it yet. You really feel like you are in a European bar. As dusk descends, the servers light up the candles on each table making the garden glow.
Hopleaf’s menu features creative appetizers, hearty sandwiches, charcuterie and entrees all with a Belgian bent. While I have sampled one of their tasty sandwiches, it is the P.E.I. mussels which keeps me coming back. There is something about mussels and beer on a hot summer night which seems so right. Saturday was no exception.
We ordered one bucket of the traditional Belgian-style mussels with wine, shallots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Hopleaf always features an additional mussels preparation. On Saturday, the special was made with white wine, fennel (one of my favorite flavors), peas, basil butter and lemon. We decided to order a bucket of those as well. After all, this was our main meal 🙂 We loved this special even more than the traditional preparation.
Each bucket of mussels is accompanied by a cone of fries. Since Barb and I had two orders, we swapped out the fries for onion rings.
The mussels were nice and sweet. We managed to finish both buckets without a problem. The fries, onion rings and warm rolls were the perfect vehicles for sopping up all of the delicious broth.
It’s so easy to spend all night in Hopleaf’s garden, especially if you are with a group of friends. We were here a little over 2 1/2 hours and we finished catching up over our second beer orders. I chose my favorite draft porter, Edmund Fitzgerald from Great Lakes. I cannot recall which draft Barb chose. All I know is that we succeeded in finishing them, before we called it a night 😉
Hopleaf was recently honored with the Michelin Bib Gourmand award.
Another great thing about Hopleaf is that it operates under a bar license first and, therefore, you must be 21+ years old to gain entrance. Don’t forget your I.D. and leave your kids at home. Woohoo! I love this. I am all about a “kid-free zone” when I am dining out.
Hopleaf is located at 5148 N. Clark Street. It is open on every day for lunch and dinner starting at 12pm. Click here for more information.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Red Line, #22 Clark or #72 Foster buses to Hopleaf. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!