I know I said I would use this blog project to explore new things in the city I haven’t yet tried. But sometimes, you just want the old reliable. Sometimes you get a craving for something you know is good. I don’t just want to celebrate what’s new to me in the city. I want to celebrate what’s great to me in the city, too.
So when my husband and I are batting around dinner ideas, naming off restaurant after restaurant we could try for the first time, we both decided that what we really wanted was a big draft list and some crack fries. And for that, there’s really only one place to go.
HopCat is getting to be a household name across the country. They opened on Ionia Street downtown Grand Rapids in 2008, and in the last seven years, they’ve opened six more locations. What started off as a one-of-a-kind local bar is becoming a fast-growing franchise.
I may be a bit biased, but the Grand Rapids location is definitely the best one (I don’t have to see the others—I just know). It’s won accolades such as the #3 Beer Bar in the World and #1 Brewpub in America. It’s friggin’ awesome to be able to say that I can go to the #1 Brewpub in America pretty much whenever I want.
And we do go to HopCat whenever we want, which is often. Awards aside, it really is, hands down, my favorite place to eat in all of Grand Rapids. It’s the place I recommend to everyone who visits. I know that I can tell someone to go there and they will not disappointed.
It’s a rather tiny place, actually. It squeezed itself into an old already-existing building on the corner of historic, brick-paved Ionia Avenue. Tall tables are wedged in between support pillars, forming narrow aisle ways on each side. Round booths and long wooden tables fit snuggly up on the wall and the large bar adorns the other wall. On busy nights, it often requires a bit of patron-dodging before one can belly up to the bar.
And yet, it’s always a chill place, even when it’s busy. People are just calm when they hang out at HopCat. Perhaps people are just too busy savoring a delectable brew from the 49 rotating taps to cause much of a raucous.
People always mention the crack fries at HopCat for good reason. Crack fries are not just a gimmick. They are aptly named for their addictive deliciousness. They season the fries with a sprinkle of spices and a dash of heaven. They use the same spice combination on top of their Killer Mac & Cheese, which takes the ordinary dish to a transcendent level (I also like my Killer Mac & Cheese with bacon and tomatoes added). But tonight, I went with my favorite, the BarZee Burger, which has beer cheese slathered on it and is topped with bacon (sans jalapenos for me).
No matter how successful HopCat becomes or how many other locations it opens, the HopCat in downtown GR stays the same. It’s the same atmosphere, the same great food, the same awesome and diverse beer selection. It’s still just a hometown bar. Even if it wasn’t the #1 brewpub in America, it will always be the #1 brewpub to me.
For more information about HopCat, visit their website.