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Submitted by Ann Thurlow

Mike Ross and Jane Crawford finish each other’s sentences like an old married couple. They’re both intense, opinionated and determined; it’s easy to see how, when they met, they decided to work together. She ran the kitchen at the Red Water Grill, he worked at the PEI Brewing Company. Both had left busy careers in restaurants in Canada and the US for what they hoped would be a calmer life in PEI. Together with partner Brett Hogan, they decided to open Hopyard, a spot that played records, served craft beer and food to go with it.

The beer and the music took right off; what surprised many was the food. Far from just bar snacks, Hopyard’s food must be considered as some of the most creative and delicious in town.

As we chat, Crawford stops to consult a cook, Ross scans the room for to make sure everything is okay. The casual vibe is carefully crafted, just like the menu. All items as eight dollars; there’s something for the vegan, something for the carnivore.  What’s good? The menu changes every couple of weeks so the great food we had (Tijuana Samosas, Brussel Sprout Tacos, Del Toro Burrito) might be replaced next time around. Chef chooses a cuisine she wants to feature—I was truly sorry to have missed the peanut crusted fried chicken from the Deep South menu.

The focus right now is on Mexican food and with good reason. This summer, the partners will open a Mexican style cantina in the spot where Sirenella used to be. The bar will be stocked with many varieties of good tequila, the menu will feature Chef Jane’s take on tacos.

It’s clear, as the partners talk over each other to explain their plans, the new place (called the Sugar Skull after a Mexican talisman) will benefit from the same enthusiasm and skill that has made Hopyard so successful. A margarita, a taco, a patio? What’s not to like?

In the meantime, if you want to try some stunning food but aren’t into the bar scene, go at lunch. Take some friends and order lots to share. You will be sorry if Pad Thai Cauliflower is not on the menu. But you can drown your sorrows in a nice beer and something else that will be surprising and imaginative and delicious.

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