One of the things that our culture invariably appreciates is a story outlining a successful journey from humble roots. Everyone loves the stories of Henry Ford, Ray Croc, and Oprah Winfrey: people who started from nothing, and wound up conquering the world. Conversely, we tend to have disdain for the Paris Hiltons of the world: folks who had the good life handed to them, and just don’t seem to have any appreciation it.
It is in between those two models that our dream, the ‘American Dream,’ lays. It is a model that includes sundry middle variables, and two constants at its extremities: a paupers starting line, and a white picket finish line.
The cliché is present everywhere in our society: at the Oscars, in hip hop music, in some of our most celebrated films.
We have the same expectation for our restaurants. Whether it’s a big chain of restaurants, or a single well-established restaurant, we want to see a big picture in the lobby showing the dinky little first iteration of the chain, or the old unpolished building that the restaurant used to reside in. It’s a credibility thing.
Hop Valley Brewing is not that type of place; I hadn’t even heard of it the first time I went in. It is like aliens dropped the place off in the middle of the night, all shiny, with an extensive menu, giant selection of microbrews and four big ol’ fermenters.
I have to admit, it doesn’t seem right to me. It has no history, no background story detailing its ugly little shack where its college student owners brewed their first amber ale kit. No doubt the owners have their own little humble beginning story, but as far as I know, Phil Knight anonymously funded the restaurant. It lacks a feeling of authenticity.
Those of you who have been to HV, know exactly what I’m talking about. When you walk in to the main lobby, the place feels distinctly like a chain. There is no dusty decorations that are sitting around simply because they have been around for years and years. All the servers are in uniform, and the tables and chairs all look the same as the other tables and chairs: no chance this place is a small town start-up.
That said, I heard the restaurant had an awesome happy-hour burger, so I decided to check it out.
The entire happy hour menu at HV, which is available every weekday from 3 – 6, is actually pretty awesome, at least on paper. None of the food is more than four bucks, and all the HV brews are $3.25.
The happy hour burger is a 1/3 lb. burger with fries, and will cost you $3.95. The beef was the thing that really intrigued me about the burger; they claim it is a house beef, “seasoned with bacon, smoked, & grilled to order.”
Did I mention that the burger comes with fries, and doesn’t even cost 4 bucks? Did anyone hear the part about beef “seasoned with bacon”? What could go wrong?
Upon ordering the burger, the server asked me how I wanted it cooked, and I asked for medium-rare. At this point she
mentioned to me that because the burger was smoked, it typically comes out pink no matter how you order it. I thought little of the comment at the moment; first, I know smoked beef stays pink, and second… I didn’t order it well done, so how was the fact going to affect me? Well, when the burger came out, it became clear why she said something; my burger was well-done, and, of course still pink.
So, what happened? Does the server mention the whole smoked-stays-pink thing to everyone, because she is going to just order it well-done, or does she mention it because no matter how she orders it the kitchen is going to cook it well-done?
Either way, someone screwed up, but hey, did I mention the burger doesn’t even cost 4 bucks?
even well done, the beef was tasty, the taste of bacon was subtle, but definitely there, and the smoking process makes the burger unique enough that it isn’t just any other pub burger.
The burger comes out with a steamy plate of handcut looking fries, that are according to the server not made in house, but still very tasty: the type of fries that you dip in ranch. The bun is totally edible, but nothing special.
The bottom line is that for the cost this burger is amazing. At eight bucks, I might be disappointed, but for $3.95 who could be upset? I give Hop Valley my recommendation, even though there is no backstory. It is clear that they have worked very hard to make a vision come true, and can you really fault them for making it happen with enough money to do it all polished and shiny? Hop Valley still has an uphill battle to go to make its restaurant feel like a well oiled machine, but in the meantime they have cheap eats, decent beer and a pretty building.
Hop Valley Brewing
980 Kruse Lane
Springfield, OR 97477