Hopcat – Kalamazoo
Every time a Hopcat would open, I would tweet at the main Hopcat account begging for one to be opened in Kalamazoo. They answered almost every time and the message was always the same. “Stay tuned.” Well, I don’t have to tweet at them anymore. Hopcat is open in Kalamazoo.
I threw our weekend schedule off by taking some extra work which kept me away from home all weekend. L was so confused. She knows I have Friday and Saturday off and when I dropped her off at school Friday morning, I told her I wouldn’t be there when she got home. By the time I got home Friday night, she was already in bed. I crawled in bed and snuggled with her for a few minutes, but she didn’t even notice. The same thing was going to happen on Saturday. I had a 12 hour day ahead of me, so daddy/L time was going to be short.
Sunday it was back to the regular job, so again, I didn’t get to spend anytime with the family. J had asked me on Saturday night if I wanted to get up and try to get to Hopcat before it got busy. I knew it was going to cut into my sleep, but I said yes. A lunch out would give me a little bit of time to spend with my family on a busy weekend.
Hopcat opened up this past Saturday at 300 E. Water Street in downtown Kalamazoo. The building, constructed in the 1920’s, was originally used by Grand Trunk Western Railroad as a freight office. Over the years, it’s been used for a variety of things including a home for Robinson Guitars. It was bought by Jon Stryker in 2007, but not much was done with it until Hopcat came in to the picture.
What they did with this building is pretty amazing. Hopcat takes up the north side of the building. There’s also a Maru Sushi that is going in on the south side and it looks like office space for Amerifirst Financial will be in between them.
When the building was restored, they kept as much of the original structure and materials as possible. Hopcat’s space is quite large with a huge bar area as you first walk in, a smaller dining room beyond that, and one of the best outdoor patio spaces in Kalamazoo.
There are two bars inside Hopcat and both of them are pretty special. The main bar is an arch shaped wooden bar made with reclaimed wood. The bar on the patio is an old Airstream trailer that has been converted. It was open briefly when we were there. There are about a half a dozen seats right at the bar and a number of taps…but not all 100 that they have inside, so you don’t necessarily have to go inside to get beer.
Our plan was to get to the restaurant before the 11:00 opening. That didn’t quite happen. We got there about 11:15 and found an already full parking lot on the second full day of business. We headed inside to the hostess station which is right inside the door and surprisingly, we were shown to a table in the back dining room immediately. The restaurant was already packed and we were a little worried there was going to be a wait. By the time we left closer to 1:00, there was a wait with people sitting in the entryway and right outside.
I still hadn’t quite woken up yet and a beer wasn’t really sounding good, so I skipped out on an amazing beer list of 100 Michigan craft beers and ordered a Pepsi instead. There were at least half a dozen beers on that list I wanted, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I was craving the sugar like I always do when I wake up in the morning.
J and her mom both went for the beer list. J found a B. Nektar Meadery on the menu liking. She chose the Prickly Pear Kill All The Golfers while J’s mom went with the Kumbaya from Silver Harbor Brewing Company (which we have not been too yet!)
When the drinks came back, we had all had enough time to look over the menus, so we asked the waitress if we could just put in our orders.
I went with what is my favorite Hopcat burger. The Bar Zee burger is a half pound charbroiled burger with hickory smoked bacon, jalapenos, and bar cheese. The sandwich is served on a toasted brioche bun with Crack Fries and pickle nuggs. I love this burger just because of all the different flavors you get in one bite. The heat from the jalapenos, the smokiness from the bacon, the bitterness from the bar cheese, and the saltiness from the seared burger. I’ve only eaten at Hopcat a few other times, but this is always the go-to burger for me. With one in Kalamazoo now, hopefully I will branch out, but it can be so hard to ignore what Hopcat calls their “signature burger.”
J and her mom both ordered the same thing. They got the Madtown Grilled Cheese. The Italian sourdough bread is grilled with three kinds of cheese. Wisconsin Dill Havarati, smoked Gouda, and Muenster make the gooeyness of this sandwich. They’re joined by apple slices, garlic, aioli, and honey. Both J and her mom also added on the hickory smoked bacon. The sandwich is served with a cup of apple-tomato soup that is topped with bleu cheese. It also comes with the famous Crack Fries. Both J and her mom really liked the sandwich. There’s so much going on between the two slices of sourdough, that it’s hard not to like and they said the addition of the tomato soup made the sandwich that much better.
I’ve mentioned it twice now, but not explained it. Crack Fries. This is what Hopcat is really famous for. As the name implies, some people find the fries addicting. They are incredibly delicious, crispy battered fries with a special seasoning blend on them. The restaurant has said in the past to imagine the best Salt and Pepper chips you’ve ever had….I have a feeling there’s some sugar in there as well and that’s what makes them so addicting as the seasoning blend is actually kind of sweet. Whatever’s in them, they are insanely delicious fries that come with all the sandwiches or you can get them Loaded (cherry smoked bacon, red onion, pickled jalapeno, and a warm cheese sauce) or Vladimir Poutine (potato and cheese pierogi, Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds, stout caramelized onions, hickory smoked bacon, and a spicy sausage gravy). I didn’t do it this time, but I like them with the house beer cheese. It’s delicious.
The first time we ate at a Hopcat was in 2010 when the Grand Rapids Hopcat was the only Hopcat. At that time, I noticed on their menu that they very specifically pointed out that they were a bar. Kids were welcome but they had no high chairs and no kids menus. Things have changed over the last six years with Hopcat becoming more of a chain with 11 locations now open throughout the Midwest. They’re still a bar, but I was wondering if they would be a little more kid friendly now.
They did have high chairs and we were offered one when we came in with B, but we were never offered a kid’s menu. The ABOUT section of their website says they have one though. I didn’t see any of the kids around us eating anything that looked like it was off a kid’s menu either, so that’s kind of up-in-the-air.
Luckily, L doesn’t need a kids menu when there is pizza on the menu. Hopcat Kalamazoo is the only of the 11 Hopcat restaurants to offer pizza and, of course, they do it amazingly well.
The pizza is a 6″ Detroit Style square. We got L a pizza with pepperoni…her favorite, but she wanted to be difficult and watch NaNa’s phone. More pizza for us, I guess.
The pizza is a perfect Detroit Style slice with a fat heavy, tender, buttery crust filled with a sweet, fresh tomato sauce. I only got one bite before L got mad and asked for the slice back because she wanted to eat it, but I was ok with that because she was eating. It’s too bad they don’t do full size pizzas for carry-out because this would become one of my favorite pizza places in town.
The only downside we experienced at Hopcat likely had more to do with it being the second day of operation. The service was pretty slow. It took us well over an hour if not an hour and a half to eat lunch. J actually went back the next day and said a meal took over two hours, so that’s never fun, but the restaurant did just open and they are crazy packed, so hopefully that will improve over the next several weeks as they get into a rhythm.
On the plus side, it gave me time to check out the patio area as I took both kids out there just to walk around so they weren’t getting restless at our table. They set up a really nice space right along the tracks with a fire pit, heaters, and a number of tables, stools and bars to enjoy these crisp fall evenings with friends outside.
Our bill for the four meals and two drinks came out to just under $65. It’s not a cheap place to eat by any means, but it is an incredibly delicious place to eat with a stellar beer list of 100 beers on tap. I’ve been hoping for a couple of years that Hopcat would take notice of some great spaces in Kalamazoo and they did just that. They turned a great space into an amazing restaurant space. Between all the great beer, the pizza, and the Crack Fries, Hopcat will surely find it’s place in the Kalamazoo nightlife scene.