In 1996, one man's dream of owning his own brewery almost materialized.
Kostas Daskalakis planned for his dream brewery to be called Hopsfrog, as a play on words referring to the key ingredient in beer. When at last he bought his own storefront, Daskalakis thought he was ready for business, until he realized that the storefront was way too small.
He continued with the business anyway, turning it instead into a family owned restaurant and bar. Today, Hopsfrog Grille is a distinguished place to dine and drink.
The restaurant is divided by a wall down the middle into two separate dining areas—the bar and the dining room.
On my visit I sat in the dining room, which had the air of a family diner, only slightly nicer.
I ordered the Mediterranean Flaming Cheese ($7.95) appetizer from a friendly waitress and waited excitedly.
She arrived with a hot plate of French bread and Greek cheese in one hand, and some brandy and a lighter in the other. She slowly poured the liqueur over the cheese before setting it ablaze. Flames leapt into the air. She allowed it to burn for a while and then squeezed fresh lemon juice over the cheese, extinguishing the fire. Then she set it before me.
I cut into the gooey, breaded Kaseri cheese with my knife and spread it on a piece of bread. The bread was good but unremarkable, so I soon resorted to eating the cheese on its own.
It had the consistency of mozzarella and the flavor of a very mild Swiss. There was a hint of char from the earlier flames, tanginess, presumably from the Brandy, and the fresh taste of lemon juice. I enjoyed it immensely.
Not long after, my garden salad arrived with blue cheese dressing and vinaigrette both on the side. The lettuce and other vegetables were crisp, but I was most concerned with the dressings because both were homemade.
The blue cheese dressing was creamy with small chunks of cheese throughout. It was potent enough to satisfy blue cheese lovers, but still mild enough for the average person to handle.
The vinaigrette was very impressive. Many house vinaigrettes taste more like oil than anything else, but this one was packed with flavor. It was sweet, herbal, and almost fruity, with a little bit of tanginess. It was fantastic.
Before long my Minute Steak Bistro ($18.95) arrived. Two marbleized filet medallions rested on a tall pile of mashed potatoes. Tender asparagus and sweet, large diced tomatoes surrounded them and a thin steak sauce had been poured on top.
My steak was cooked perfectly to medium rare. Most bites were tender, with a couple chewy ones here and there. The meat was juicy with a dynamic flavor. It initially tasted like its sauce, and then like stewed beef. A second or two later, brighter, more peppery notes took center stage before fading into a simple beef flavor.
The mashed potatoes were also very robust. They were so hearty that they tasted almost like fresh bread. With the sauce mixed in they gained even more depth.
As I concluded my meal I laughed at the thought that this extraordinary restaurant had originally been just a backup plan.
5765 Burke Centre Parkway
Burke, Virginia 22015