Before I begin, I owe a huge apology to Hoppy Monk owner Joseph and Chef Daniel. I was invited to taste test their Veggie Monk back in April, and here I am barely reviewing it. I’m reviewing the menu, so if you’d like to forgo reading through it, just go order the Veggie Monk NOW. Whether you’re a vegetarian or a staunch meat eater, you’re going to love it.
The Hoppy Monk first opened in December of 2010 as a bar that specializes in over 100 craft beers (tap, bottle, & can), scotch, and cigars. About a year later their much anticipated kitchen opened, incorporating beer into almost every menu item. Pub fare included appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, and the quintessential fish and chips. Vegetarian options were limited to salad and pizza, but that changed a few months later when they added the Veggie Monk and Tofu Wings.
Since this is a food review, I will just say that they have a ton of good beers* on draft. My favorite breweries on tap are Oskar Blues, Ska, and Real Ale. They do not serve any Budweiser or Miller Coors products, nor do they carry Lonestar or PBR. Drinking there can be expensive, so you may want to visit during hoppy hour or Monday pint night. Daily specials can be found on their website. If you collect glassware, you’ll want to stop in after 6 pm on a Tuesday during Logo Pint Night, where you get to drink a featured beer and keep the glass.
Triangles of tofu are breaded in a Brewhouse Brown Ale batter (contains egg), deep fried, and served with a Buffalo sauce made with Deschutes Green Lakes Amber and house made blue cheese dressing. Other veg appetizers include pomme frites (Belgian style fries) with a trio of aiolis (fancy mayo), sugar spiced sweet potato fries with toasted walnut aioli, and Trappist mushrooms (beer-battered shitaki, oyster, and button mushrooms) also served with a trio of aiolis. Aioli choices include traditional, arugula, basil, citrus, spicy roasted red pepper, and toasted walnut. While everything tastes good, I can’t get over their use of peanut oil to deep fry. I’ve never liked the heavy greasiness that peanut oil imparts. Peanuts are also one of the most common allergens, so it boggles my mind when restaurants use it, but I guess you could say the same for soy, wheat, dairy, etc.
I’m never keen on ordering salads at restaurants as a meal, but their Organic Baby Spinach is something I really want to try. The name doesn’t do it justice. Spinach is accompanied by panko-crusted goat cheese balls, a blend of dried berries and golden raisins, and toasted walnuts dressed in a house made Fruli (strawberry beer) vinaigrette. Wild Arugula, Pub, and Caprese are other salad options, but none are vegan unless ordered without cheese.
There are three pizzas to choose from and all are made with a handmade dough that goes through a one day minimum cold fermentation. Margherita is the only vegetarian option with fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil.
As fun as the Tofu Wings are, the veg star of the menu is the Veggie Monk burger. Chef Daniel worked hard to get this burger right and it paid off. The patty is a black bean-pumpkin mixture with corn, herbs, and spices bound together with a “flax egg.” I’m not sure what the spices are, but one might be cayenne pepper because there is a hint of heat in the patty. The texture isn’t very firm, but it is satisfying and melds with the other toppings on a fresh baked Kaiser onion roll. Toppings include provolone, tomatoes, red onions, greens, and arugula aioli. I hate mayo or any other egg based condiments, but I can’t say no to arugula and didn’t mind it. The patty is vegan, so vegans may want to try ordering it without the bun, cheese, & aioli. Burgers are served with your choice of a side salad, pommes frites, sweet potato fries, or macaroni and cheese.
The Hoppy Monk is one of a handful of restaurant bars that is trailblazing the local food and drink scene in El Paso. Joseph said as their kitchen continues to evolve, they would like to feature more vegetarian items from time to time. I really hope this is true, because they are already serving some of the most creative and tasty vegetarian options in town.*Vegans & vegetarians should be wary of beers that contain isinglass (fish bladder) or honey. Usually cask beers and stouts contain isinglass. To find out if your beer is veg, visit the Barnivore site. Somebody seriously needs to develop an app for them! This would be really handy at bars and restaurants.
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