Last year, my wife took her mom to check out Artprize after the Top Ten was announced. At that time, it was kind of a time killer for them because they had tickets to a concert at the Deltaplex and wanted to eat at San Chez. Since they were downtown, they checked it out. This year, J’s mom made the trip up from Chicago just to see Artprize.
We parked in the Public Museum ramp then made a methodical journey around the City Center in order to see all of the Top Ten. It worked out well that we were leaving The B.O.B. parking lot about twenty minutes to noon. After a quick stop at Van Andel, we headed down Ionia Street for lunch.
The plan was to eat at the Hopcat, but they didn’t open until noon. It was about ten minutes to so we decided to wait. As we waited, more and more people started congregating on the sidewalk outside the business of the corner of Ionia Avenue and Weston Street SW just to the east of Van Andel Arena.
When the doors opened one minute before noon, we headed inside. There was a sign that said to wait for a hostess, but we were told to just find a seat. The hostess came around later and started filling in her seating chart because the bar was filling up quickly. Less than twenty minutes after we sat down, the place was full and a new line starting forming out on the sidewalk waiting for a table.
The space at the Hopcat is very cool. We chose a table near the large bar which boasts almost 50 beers on tap. They also hosted 18 artists for Artprize which added to the rough, industrial feel of the place.
We were seated at a pub table in which all four of the chairs were mismatched. Other seating options included benches that almost felt like a picnic table and u-shaped booths which were perfect for three people.
Our waitress came over with menus. She had kind of an Emo look going which fit in perfectly with the decor. The food menu is on one side and the large beer menu is on the back. She told us she’d give us a few minutes so we’d have time to fully digest their selection of beers.
Hopcat brews their own and that’s what I wanted to try. I got the Hoppopotamus IPA. It’s got a citrus-y, piney smell. The taste is a little bitter with a slight sweetness to it. I found it delicious and would have had another had we not still had a long day ahead of us.
My Mother-In-Law originally ordered the Red Sky from Frankenmuth Brewing, but they were out of it. She asked for a suggestion and the waitress came back with a Pilsner that we didn’t catch the name for.
J, not being able to enjoy beer right now, ordered a Sprite.
Our meal selections were going to be tough. Hopcat is a great bar first, but they also have an equally stellar menu.
I had picked out several options for dining downtown during Artprize but the reason I chose Hopcat was simple. The Bar Zee. This burger has a pretty impressive setup. It’s Applewood Smoked Bacon, jalapeno’s, and Michele’s beerbar cheese spread. This burger is amazing. The jalapeno’s give it a really good kick. The bacon had a perfect crunch to it and cheese spread was unique. It sounded odd at first because who puts spreadable cheese on a burger, but it actually worked really well at keeping the jalapeno’s on the bun. The sandwich came with a handful of Crack Fries which are thinly cut potatoes with a pretty heavy doe of salt and other spices. They were fried up crispy and good, but I wouldn’t quite call them “crack.” We all liked them, but a little too much salt.
J ordered the grilled cheese. Sound boring? Not really. Hopcat goes out of it’s way to remind you, it’s a bar. There are no kids menus. There are no crayons. Knowing that, you wouldn’t expect the typical housewife grilled cheese, would you? This grilled cheese starts with Italian bread stuffed with gruyere, cheddar and feta. They then add, although J asked to leave off, tomatoes and onion. She did opt for the Applewood smoked bacon which came for a dollar more. She loved the sandwich calling it one of the best sandwiches she’s ever had. Not just one of the best grilled cheese, one of the best sandwiches.
J’s mom went big. She ordered the Grandwich. Now, it’s not the sandwich that actually one the competition. That honor went to The B.O.B., but this is Hopcat’s entry. The sandwich is basically the Sloppy Joseph. It is what you think it is. A sloppy Joe with a proper name. On top of the meat, they had a handful of Crack Fries..yes, under the bun. Once the top of the brioche bun is in place, the cover the whole thing with a cheese sauce. Needless to say, it’s a knife and fork kind of sandwich. MIL was nice enough to share with us because there was too much there for just her. Everyone loved the cheese sauce which we all used to dip our fries in. The sandwich itself was delicious and everyone walked away saying they would order it again. It reminds me a lot of a horseshoe…but then again, anything covered in cheese is probably going to get rave reviews from me.
Our bill was right under $40. Not too bad considering we had $10 just in beer alone. J told me later that the Hopcat may have just become her new favorite Grand Rapids restaurant and it’s hard for me to argue considering the beer selection. The Hopcat has everything I want in a good restaurant. They have fantastic food and more beer than you could ever drink. I love that they not only make their own, but they feature some of the best craft brews in the world. Beer Advocate ranks Hopcat as the #3 bar in the world, but they’re so much more than that. Go for a beer, but make sure you get something to eat!