Hopleaf only just started serving food, so my hope is that they will improve. I think this is the end of their 2nd week with a kitchen.
In case you haven't been there before, the front area, with tables and a bar, is very smoky, with several people smoking cigars when we left. There is a new non-smoking room in back that seemed pretty well ventilated - but you have to walk through the smoky area first. The semi-open kitchen is in the back, but wasn't noisy enough to be a distraction. As the place filled up it got noisy - there were several tables of larger groups and although the ceiling is high the walls and floor are hard and sound bounced around. Music was playing in the background but most of the time we couldn't hear it.
We arrived at 8 on a stormy Thursday night and there were plenty of tables available in the back, and only a few in front - though there were plenty of seats at the front bar. Our server seemed a bit over-worked, though she was definitely pleasant and compentant. I think they only had 2 servers for the whole place, front and back, and by the time we left both rooms were pretty full. We each had a beer - the selection of beer is very good with reasonable prices, and while the place doesn't specialize in wine the few on the menu were both good and good values. I saw a guy with a martini, so I am guessing they have a full bar as well.
The food listings include tax in the prices, which I'm not used to, but hey, whatever :) Choices were things like mussels (steamed in beer), interesting sandwiches, some vegetable side dishes, and the special on the day we were there was sea bass (most expensive item on the menu at $16).
I had mussels, my husband had a duck breast sandwich. The serving size was a bit skimpy, and there seemed to be a layer of salt crystals on the bottom of my mussel pot. The mussels and broth weren't too salty, but when I scooped up the onions from the bottom with some bread or a mussel or just a fork, it was amazingly salty (the bread itself was not salty).
My husband's sandwich came on a huge roll, and if it had been filled it would have been a good value. Alas, even removing one slice of the bread left too much bread for the sandwich, and his bread was weirdly sweet. Finally, the fries that came with each entree were definitely soggy - both not crisp enough and grease soaked - though they were tasty, and the garlic aioli was very good. We left a bit hungry.
Overall our food experience was not good, but we'll be back for the beer :)
5148 N. Clark St.