Every once and a while I need to take a little break from Syracuse and do some exploring in CNY. I took an afternoon trip to the beautiful small Village of Sackets Harbor the other day. On a hunch we tried out a tiny gastropub called The Hops Spot, which is nestled among the historical buildings and quaint shops on West Main Street. Unfortunately it was rainy, which hindered our plans a bit. So we did the natural thing and tried a new restaurant for the first time. Here’s how it went.
The cleverly named Hops Spot is half bar, half restaurant with cookbooks lining the windows, comfortable seating, a ton of area beers, truly local and gourmet fare, and a trendy but warm, welcoming vibe. The entire concept, which is pretty clear from the name, is based around beer and the type of upscale food that goes with it. In this sense it’s very reasonable to call The Hops Spot a gastropub. On top of the 26-long draft beer list, various bottles both large and small, beer tasting classes, 12-course prix fixe beer dinners, and all kinds of specialty beer in the cellar, The Hops Spot is extremely convincing. Their phone number even has the word BEER in it. As soon as I took a look at the menu and website, I knew I had to try it.
Fans of Beer Belly Deli (BBD) on Westcott Street in Syracuse will be instant fans of The Hops Spot. While the menu at Hops Spot is much more diverse, I see parallels when it comes to the homemade preparation of menu items. Meat is locally sourced and 100% prepped from scratch in house–the latter of which is the same at Beer Belly. You’ll even find a local cheddar and ale soup akin to BBD’s Pabst Blue Ribbon and cheddar. But that’s where the comparison ends. The Hops Spot has an eclectic menu including made-to-order charcuterie and cheese plates, snacks like bacon-maple popcorn, poutine, gourmet sandwiches, a wide selection of burgers using Black River Cattle Co., and more. Even though the food features local and likely quite expensive ingredients and an extreme attention to detail, the prices don’t reflect it. Burgers are around $11, sandwiches around $9. You’re not going to spend more than around $20 per person on lunch (if that). And you can even get a version of chicken and waffles, moules frites, or a 10-day aged local steak–the cut and price of which varies. This is topped off with lots of beer, cocktails, and selected wines. I even saw Middle Ages Apricot on the big list! Anyway, enough of the hype.
I ordered a dirty martini, the poutine to split, and a sandwich called The Dirty Bird. It was pretty early when we arrived so the restaurant was empty save one waitress and cooking staff. Upon ordering the martini our waitress stepped out to grab the bartender, who asked me how I liked it before shaking one up. The Hops Spot actually uses Ketel One as its well vodka, but I went with classic Stolichnaya. Instead of standard vermouth this recipe called for Lillet and a dash of bitters, along with the olive juice I requested. Garnished with a large slice of orange this simply prepared, minimal martini hit the spot. Just a hint of olive saltiness with a big warming kick of vodka. Martinis are always about a balancing act and this one was really well done despite its simplicity.
Soon after the “Pot Bellied Poutine” arrived in a tall bowl layered with fries. This poutine isn’t what you might expect, but a gourmet and slightly edited version of the Canadian classic. Instead of curds you get a creamy and delicious New York State white cheddar. Instead of pre-made gravy this poutine has homemade bacon-stout gravy. The fries are hand cut as well. If you’re looking for so-called “healthy” restaurant food, you might look elsewhere but this is an awesome appetizer. I watched as the cook whipped up the gravy from scratch, fried the potatoes, and finally grated cheddar over it all. I could taste the difference. No matter what you might expect this dish wasn’t salty at all and really highlighted the intense, complex umami of the gravy and richness of the NYS cheddar. It’s a fork-worthy item unlike anything I’ve had in Syracuse. Poutine may be a simple item but The Hops Spot’s meticulous attention to details means that all the flavors shine and instead of some salty mess, you get junk (maybe comfort is a better word) food on a gourmet level. Delicious guilty pleasure for sure.
Next came The Dirty Bird. As described on the menu this thing isn’t the standard chicken sandwich. They start with crispy chicken strips breaded and fried in house and then top it with large slices of jalapeno, pickles, melted cheddar cheese, and a ranchero aioli all inside two large slices of thick cut bread. In other words, it’s not for the faint of heart. The menu promises big things and I was not let down when it arrived at the table. Despite being packed with ingredients it was easy to pick up without anything falling off. This ensures that all the awesome flavors and textures hit you with each bite. The first few bites were delightful. It was rich but not salty in the least bit. Shockingly there was also no grease. The heft of the fried chicken, aioli, and cheddar was broken up by an intense pickled taste and sour, spicy tartness of the jalapenos. It reminded me a little bit of a jalapeno popper of the homemade variety–very similar flavor. I remember looking at the sandwich in my hand suspiciously and saying out loud, “This is like… the best sandwich ever.” It might have been the Stoli fueled buzz and maybe it was another example of my love of hyperbole, but I gotta stand by the statement. This thing is no joke. I’m actually glad I don’t live closer to The Hops Spot because this could turn into a very unhealthy relationship indeed.
If you’re in Sackets Harbor or Watertown, you simply MUST check out The Hops Spot. There isn’t food like this in ‘Cuse. I went on a whim and was rewarded for my decision. Amazing gourmet and eclectic food situated in a beer-lovers paradise. 4.5/5 if I used that sort of rating system.
The Hops Spot: Guru Mobile Review
214.5 West Main Street, Sackets Harbor (Directions)
Monday – Thursday: 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (bar open later)
Saturday: 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. (bar open later)
Sunday Brunch: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Lunch: 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Disclaimer: All Guru Reviews reflect my OPINION based on a real experience at various Syracuse restaurants.
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