A good meal: Hopleaf

originally posted on Metroblogging Chicago

On Sunday when we got back from Mississippi we were waiting for our luggage at Midway and Erica and I displayed the frightening trend we've had lately for thinking the same thing at the same time. "I was thinking we could drop my stuff off at my house and then go eat at..." "Hopleaf!" "Yeah!"

Hopleaf is right around the corner from Erica's house so we were eating there a lot in the fall and drinking a lot of lambics (Belgian fruit beers). For a long time the Hopleaf has been known for their wide selection of beers (a half-a-jillion on tap, all served in specialized glassware) but I was always put off from visiting because the bar was a tiny, loud smoke-filled room. But fairly recently they greatly expanded the bar and added an upstairs and a smoke-free dining area in the back.

On Sunday night the front room was, as always, tiny, loud and smoke-filled. But the back room was quiet, with plenty of open tables. We decided to take a detour from our usual lambics to try one of the drinks under the "warmers" section of the menu. We got a bottle of Quelque Chose, a cherry beer from Canada that's served warm. Tart and sweet and warming.

I usually get the ham-and-cheese sandwich, which comes with frites, but Sunday I decided to branch out on the menu and get the porkchop and Erica got the roast chicken. Neither came with frites, so we got them as a side. You have to have frites!

Erica's chicken wasn't perfect -- a great flavor and moist, but a little tough. My porkchop, though, was great. Super thick and seared on the outside, but tender and flavorful all the way through.

Our Quelque Chose ran out just as we were getting our entrees, so we decided to try the other item in the "warmers" section: gl�gg. Where the Quelque Chose (and most other items on the menu) had an extensive description, gl�gg was simply listed as "gl�gg -- served in a cup". But we've both been living near Andersonville for years we knew gl�gg was some kind of Scandinavian mulled wine and we figured it was time to try it.

We had a little surprise when the gl�gg came to the table -- most of the drinks at the Hopleaf are served in glassware from the brewery that is somehow precisely designed to exhance the characteristics of that drink. The gl�gg came in a wide and shallow punch glass, like you might get at a church function. The bigger surprise came we took our first sip and we discovered that gl�gg was rocketfuel. 19% alcohol and made with grain alcohol, it turns out.

I don't know if it had really warmed up while we were inside Hopleaf, or if it was the gl�gg, but I didn't wear my hat or gloves when we left the bar and I felt toasty.

Erica says, "Love the Hopleaf. Love the lambics. Nice back dining room with no smoke."