Certified Angus beef, 3 types of veggie patties, a “wall of fries”, and gluten free, vegetarian AND vegan options. All that and more at Hops Burger Bar.
Kara and I met in college, and I lost track years ago of all the funitivites we’ve been through together. Let’s just say it’s a good thing there was no social media back then. One thing we’ve always been good at is making plans on the fly. Well, Kara makes most of the plans and I follow along. Last month I was in Maryland for vacation, so I drove down to Greensboro for a quick food tour. Kara moved to Greensboro in ’97, met her awesome husband Scott, and has a beautiful family. The last time I visited was right before I moved to Oklahoma in ’07. Kara had just had her son, so I made a 24-hour trip before I drove to Oklahoma.
It’s a very easy drive to Greensboro, as long as you avoid the traffic. On Monday morning I left my parents’ house at 5AM; that didn’t work, as I hit crazy rush hour traffic in parts of Maryland and Virigina. But once I got through that, it was smooth sailing.
We went to lunch at Hops Burger Bar, which is very close to her office. The flagship location is about 10 minutes away; Kara said it’s smaller, and often has a long wait. This location is in a non-descript strip mall, and you have to know where you’re going or you will likely miss it.
This Hops Burger Bar location has been open for about 6 months. There are large windows on the street side, providing a lot of natural light. That, and the very tall ceilings with exposed beams, make the space look larger than it probably is. There is a large bar in the back right corner that takes up about 1/3 of the restaurant space. Seating along the left wall is regular tables; all of the other seating is pub-height tables.
There are 3 huge chalkboards on the walls; one lists beer specials, one lists the weekly burger special, and the third lists both the burger and dessert specials.
Kara said there is sometimes a wait during the height of the lunch rush. We arrived at 11:45AM, and there were a few tables available. The restaurant soon filled up, and remained that way through our entire meal.
Burgers and craft beers are the hallmark of Hops Burger Bar. The beer and wine list is quite large, but Kara had to go back to work, and I had to drive to Albermarle, so we skipped cocktails.
Hops Burger Bar has been rated in the top 10 burgers in the country by several publications, on more than one occasion. The burgers are certified Angus beef, and Hops Burger Bar uses local produce and cheese. The menu includes starters, “wall of fries”, sandwiches, fresh salads, burgers, and make-your-own burgers. Angus beef, turkey burger, grilled chicken, and bison are the meat choices; they also offer 3 different house-made veggie patties. The beef burgers are available in 6oz and 8oz sizes; the others are all 8oz patties. For the make-your-own burgers there are complimentary basic condiments, and then additional toppings are available for an upcharge. You can even choose one of 4 types of buns for all of the burgers.
Kara got the BLT burger, the special of the week, with a gluten free bun and sweet potato fries
Kara and her husband follow the paleo diet, and she also often does gluten free. I’ve never followed either diet, and had this irrational fear that gluten free products taste different. I have to admit, I couldn’t tell any difference. The BLT burger is fabulous. I’m always hesitant with lemon in dishes, because a little goes a long way, and too much is overpowering. The lemon-basil spread on this burger was perfect, because it enhanced the flavor of the burger. The cinnamon-sprinkled sweet potato fries are excellent.
I got the North Carolinian burger. I’m not a huge fan of pimento cheese, so I got Vermont white cheddar. As soon as I said no pimento, Kara said “that’s what makes it Carolinian”. I also got the garlic and herb fries
My burger was outstanding as well. The burger is incredibly flavorful and juicy, and the over-medium egg still has that delicious runny yolk. I really enjoyed the fried green tomato. The breading is light, and the tomato has a tart bite.
We both made it through about half of our burgers before we gave up on the bread and finished with knife and fork. My reasoning was mainly because the bottom of the bun got quite soggy. The fries were not as hot as I would like, but they were delicious. The garlic and herb combination is such a wonderful flavor punch.
Will I go back to Hops Burger Bar? No question. As we waited for our check, the server walked by with a plate of onion rings that smelled amazing. Plus, I need to try some of the desserts.