I’m Dining Out Here
by Andrew Sprague
I must admit, when Hopyard first opened in the former Lot 30 on Kent Street in Charlottetown I wondered how it was going to survive. Charlottetown is fairly saturated with restaurants to begin with. I had my doubts that its focus on craft beer and plates under $10 would cover the overhead costs in a large space downtown, even if it was full most nights. And who, exactly, was this new place going to attract? Sure they have big stacks of vinyl, but would that draw people in?
Mike Ross is no stranger to the Charlottetown restaurant scene. If I’m not mistaken he started his career in the city under the alias Hoss at Lone Star Café. That began a long tenure with the Murphy Group of Restaurants. For many years before he opened Hopyard he was the head of Sales and Customer service for the PEI Brewing Company. You may have seen his picture, naked to the waist, hanging near the ceiling in the event space at the brewery. There he met Hopyard co-owner Brett Hogan and hatched the idea for a spot of their own.
Mike is a popular guy, and for good reason. You’d be hard pressed to find a more sincere, charming and funny guy. His personality alone attracts people like flies to a UV light. I don’t know Brett very well, but he acts as a suitable foil to Mike. He’s younger, taller, and a little more understated. He’s a heck of a nice guy too. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Hopyard’s turned into a massive success.
The food is amazing. Chef Jane Crawford’s menu rotates with regularity and often has a running theme. On my last trip in mid March the theme was fan favourites; a collection of their most popular menu items to date. A couple highlights included Tostadas which consisted of crispy corn tortilla, three bean chili, pickled onions, sunny egg, jalapeno sour cream, green onion and carrot vinny; and Satay Fries that featured peanut satay butter, bang bang sauce, garlic mayo, soy chicken, sugary peanuts and scallion. My selection that day was the OG tacos, and oh gee were they delicious. The perfectly cooked braised pork belly was served with kimchi, basil mayo, bean sprouts, cilantro, sesame and what the chef calls sweet and sticky. For $8 you won’t find a better plate of tacos in town.
Hopyard’s current menu is Burger Love inspired. It features many sides you’d immediately associate with hamburgers including poutine, onion rings and Porkbelly Bao; a steamed bao bun, Sriracha pork belly, jalapeno slaw, teriyaki mayo, candied nuts and spicy plum. Okay, maybe the Bao doesn’t exactly scream burgers, but you can be sure it will be a delicious plate of food.
I’d be hard pressed not to mention the beer. Hopyard has ten taps; five for local brews and five for beer from across the Maritimes. They rotate constantly and it allows regulars to get the best possible sampling of the region’s offerings. The best beer I’ve ever had off a tap I had at Hopyard. It was the Exile on North Street IPA from Unfiltered Brewery in Halifax. It was so good I had five.
Hopyard has been so successful that, even in its infancy, the owners are expanding to Halifax. At last report they were at minimum six months away and the location was still being nailed down. That said, the owners are confident there will be a Hopyard in Halifax in the near future. Here’s hoping their success, and their rather massive selection of vinyl continues grow.