Met the currently in exile, but ever engaging, Harry V for beer, mussels and frites at the Hopleaf last evening. Conversation was, as one would expect, the highlight of the evening with the frites a close second, followed by the beer then mussels. Hopleaf's fries are hand-cut, thin, crisp, perfectly cooked and served with a garlicky aioli, one order came with our mussels and we almost immediately ordered another.
The mussels, we ordered the 'for two' ($19), were steamed in French ale w/shallots and fresh thyme, were good but both Harry and I thought the chef had gone a bit overboard with the thyme lending the broth a slightly bitter herbal aftertaste. I also thought the mussels were a tad on the small side, with one or two not being properly degritted [sic], but overall they were quite acceptable, if not without room for improvement.
I would venture to guess the individual breads served as fodder for broth dunking were Red Hen, but as it was 9pm on a hot humid August night the bread had become 'texturally challenged', though tasted quite good when swirled in the broth. Did I mention the fries with the garlic aioli were excellent, well they were outstanding.
We ate at the bar and service was very good, the bartender, I did not catch his name, was really on the ball. Unobtrusive, but spot-on both with beer and food suggestions. When he asked my beer preference I asked for something slightly bitter with a little effervescence, he gave me a taste of the Three Floyds Alpha King, which was exactly what I was in the mood for, Harry V went with Summit Pale Ale.
As Harry and I sat at the bar and chatted he switched to Maker's Mark Manhattans, which he said were quite good, but slightly heavy on the bitters. Harry V then mentioned that Calo, which is slightly North on Clark of the Hopleaf, mixed an excellent MMM, though he could not recommend any of the food, aside from the pizza, so, in true Chowhound fashion (exiled or not, Harry V is a true and honorable Chowhound) on to Calo we went.
Calo is an interesting restaurant, especially at midnight and I understand on the weekends they have live music and a very diverse late night clientele. Calo is one of the few places in the immediate neighborhood that serves food until 1am as well. Harry V's MMM was to his satisfaction. I took a small taste and decided that MMM was an acquired taste I was in no danger of acquiring.
We ordered a medium garlic and onion thin crust pizza, just for Chowscience sake of course, and I though it was quite acceptable, but then again I had switched to Jameson a couple of hours earlier, which may have skewed my taste perception. Harry V has a specific method of ordering pizza at Calo, he lives in the neighborhood, that helps insure an acceptable pie. Light cheese, Harry V says Calo has a tendency to overdo the cheese, and well done, which insures a crisp crust. Actually the crust texture was good, but the crust its self a bit bland, a little olive oil in the crust would do wonders for the flavor.
All in all a very enjoyable evening, with a 4-thumbs up for the Hopleaf frites w/aioli.
5148 N Clark
5343 N Clark