This is the original review that appeared in the El Paso Times on June 14, 2013:
The Hoppy Monk first opened in December of 2010 as a bar specializing 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, burgers and the quintessential fish and chips. Vegetarian options were limited to salad and pizza, but that has dramatically changed.
You won’t find domestic classics Budweiser, Miller-Coors or even Lone Star products at Hoppy Monk. A dizzying array of crafts and imports are available, and knowledgeable staff can guide you to the right drink. Staff most likely will not be able to tell you which beers aren’t veg-friendly, as some may contain dairy, honey or animal-derived filtering agents like gelatin or isinglass (fish bladder). Usually cask beers and stouts contain isinglass, but Barnivore site can tell you for certain.
If staff recommendations aren’t enough, order a beer flight of five samples. Flights come in Hoppy, USA, Dark Malt, Belgian Style and Around the World. The Hoppy Flight has a good mix of pale ales, IPAs and an imperial IPA, although some of the beers weren’t available and had to be substituted.
Hoppy Monk has a fun, creative appetizer menu with options like tofu wings. Thinly sliced triangles of tofu are breaded in a Brewhouse Brown Ale batter (contains egg), deep-fried* and served with your choice of wing sauce and housemade ranch or blue cheese dressing. The breading is crisp and airy, and the tofu firm and toothsome. Deschutes Green Lakes Amber Buffalo is a traditional buttery vinegar-based sauce with subtle heat and maximum flavor. The sweet and sour sauce has a classic taste without the cloying sweetness, and gets its fruity flavor from Lindeman’s Framboise (a raspberry lambic).
Vegan empanadas with chimichurri sauce consist of two large deep-fried savory pastries filled with seasonal vegetables, reminiscent of a cross between a samosa and pot pie. They are currently filled with squash, corn, black beans and arugula.
Other veg appetizers include pomme frites (Belgian style fries) with a trio of aiolis, spiced sugar sweet potato fries and Trappist mushrooms (beer-battered shitaki, oyster and button mushrooms) also served with aiolis. Aioli choices include traditional, arugula, basil, citrus, spicy roasted red pepper and toasted walnut.
Salads options are enticing with two standout items. Organic Baby Spinach is accompanied by panko-crusted goat cheese balls, a blend of dried berries and golden raisins and toasted walnuts dressed in a Fruli (strawberry belgian beer) vinaigrette. Torn between the options, I chose the Avocado and Jicama. Scanty amounts of julienned jicama pieces, wedges of grapefruit and avocado slices were scattered atop a bed of mixed greens. Chef Daniel Chu Lopez excels at creating sauces and the dressing was no different- the ginger-IPA vinaigrette offered a zippy, hoppy brightness to the salad.
Pizzas made with dough that goes through a one day minimum cold fermentation are available, but the star of the menu is the Veggie Monk burger. A black bean-pumpkin mixture with corn, herbs and spices are bound together with a flax “egg.” I’m unsure of the spices, but cayenne pepper seemed to be the cause of the pleasant heat in the flavorsome patty. While the texture isn’t very firm, it melds perfectly with the provolone, tomatoes, red onions, greens and arugula aioli on the fresh baked Kaiser onion roll. The patty is vegan, but toppings and bread are not. Burgers are served with choice of side salad, pommes frites, sweet potato fries or macaroni and cheese.
For dessert, you can order a Milk Stout Float made with Left Hand Milk Stout (vegetarian friendly, but not vegan) and vanilla bean ice cream.
The Hoppy Monk is trailblazing the local food and drink scene in El Paso with no intention of resting. More restaurant equipment has been purchased with plans of adding brunch and other menu items, including a vegetarian soy ceviche. Visit their website to view menus, Hoppy Hour specials and promotions, like Tuesday’s Logo Pint Night, where you keep the logo glass if you buy the featured beer.
*Fried menu items are cooked in non-hydrogenated peanut oil
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