The Hop Shop

image from the Hop Shop

This spring, my mom, her two sisters, and her dad all hopped on a plane together to spend two weeks traveling through Germany and the surrounding areas.  As her father is originally from Germany, it was his dream come true to have all of his girls with him while touring his home country.  They visited castles, recreated multiple scenes from The Sound of Music, and, of course, drank a lot of great beer.  As a beer geek myself, I was thrilled to hear that my mom and my aunts took full advantage of the situation and imbibed in the local specialties.  The story I enjoyed most of all was that of their trip to the Hofbrauhaus in Munich.  Along with its historical significance, the Hofbrauhaus is renowned for its terrific beer garden.  Unbeknownst to me, the bierhaus has a policy of serving beer in containers no smaller than a liter after 5:00.  Oh my.  Undaunted, the intrepid quartet took the plunge, and, beers and pretzels in hand, had a lovely afternoon drinking beer and enjoying each others’ company in Munich.

DSCN2274Here in the states, the Hofbrauhaus in Las Vegas is probably about the closest you can get to the aforementioned experience.  Nonetheless, it’s still nice to enjoy a brew or two out on a patio on a summer afternoon.  Here in Spokane, one of the South Hill’s hidden treasures, the Hop Shop, is my favorite place to do so.  Situated just up the hill from the beautiful Manito Park and a few blocks away from the lively bustle of Manito Tap House, the Hop Shop’s vibe is low-key and relaxing.  The same two fellas are always manning the bar, comfy seating is plentiful, and the work of local artists is featured on each and every wall.  As its name implies, beer is the focus: the bar offers a great selection of limited release bottled beers, as well as nearly a dozen rotating taps, several of which feature local breweries like Iron Goat, Budge Brothers, and Orlinson.  For those who are not beer lovers, fear not: the Hop Shop also features a top-notch wine list including everything from Pinot Grigios to Malbecs and beyond.  If you’re in need of some sustenance, local food carts are known to appear on a regular basis in the parking lot, and a cheese plate can be ordered from the bar.  A little snack and a great beer- what more do you need?

While I do love (LOVE) having a whole food-and-drink pairing experience at a brewpub or sampling each and every offering at a new brewery’s tasting room, every once in a while, it’s nice to just take a breather and enjoy a pint of one of my favorite IPAs with good company.  It may not be quite the same as a trip to a German bierhaus (I’ve never seen anyone sporting liederhosen at the Hop Shop), but the idea and feel is the same, so, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a step in the right direction.

The Hop Shop is open 4pm-11pm Tuesday-Thursday and 4pm-12am on Friday-Saturday.

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Day Out: Casper Fry

DSCN2232Just about everyone has one of those T-shirts with a terrible pun or a slightly (or heavily) crass phrase that makes readers either giggle or cringe.  My mom certainly has one.  It was obtained during moonshine-tasting extravaganza in Tennessee and reads “put the south in your mouth.”  She wears it with surprising frequency and hilarious pride.  It was all I could think about whilst reviewing the cocktail menu at Spokane’s own taste of the South, Casper Fry.

Named after the owners’ great/great-great grandfather, Casper Fry’s classic, locally inclined values harken back to a time before supermarkets and convenience stores, when produce was only available when it was locally in season and chefs were able to pick out exactly which steer to use for dinner that night (gruesome, but great, too).  A large chalkboard mounted on one of the exposed brick walls lists each and every local purveyor and which products come from which source.  The well-stocked bar proudly displays all manner of whiskey, including several brands of bourbon and moonshine, and is made all the more tempting by the additional offering of absinthe and the occasional appearance of a few small Woodinville Whiskey “Age Your Own” whiskey barrels (my family has one, and it’s way fun).  Steampunk-style furniture and the lack of superfluous artwork lend a utilitarian air to the wide-open space and emphasizes the points that Casper Fry lets its food do the talking and speaks for the restaurant as a whole.

shrimp po'boy

shrimp po’boy

On this particular visit, I went with my Texas born-and-raised granddad.  I mentioned to him that prior to visiting Casper Fry, I’d never tried grits before.  He reacted with shock and proudly declared, “I’m from Texas.  We eat grits all the time.”  As I myself lived in Texas for a few months a couple of summers ago, I, too, was surprised that I’d not jumped on the grits bandwagon earlier.  Better late than never, I suppose.  That said, it’s almost mandated that a Southern-style restaurant offer their own version of shrimp and grits, and Casper Fry is not exception.  Served with a hefty handful of monstrous prawns; roasted okra, peppers, and asparagus; a bit of ham; and cheddar red mule grits, this kickin’ dish will fill your mouth with the most savory spices and your head with visions of the French Quarter in no time at all.  If you’re more of a hands-on diner, they’ve got just the thing: the shrimp po’boy is full to bursting with four crispy fried shrimp, as well as fresh red onions, tomatoes, and lettuce.  Drizzled with sweet chili aoili, this behemoth of a sandwich is sure to satisfy even the most voracious appetite.

Omaha sour

Omaha sour

No trip to Casper Fry is complete without a bourbon or absinthe-laden cocktail.  For those feeling both fancy and dangerous, the Corpse Reviver may be just what you need to shake your day up.  Served in a small coupe glass, this mysterious green libation is  sweet, tart, and old-timey as can be.  Made with gin, lemon juice, Dolin Blanc, Cointreau, and absinthe, you won’t be able to resist clinking glasses with your pals and adding a slight drawl to your speech.  For the whiskey-inclined and absinthe-curious, I recommend the Omaha Sour.  This little number involves both bourbon and absinthe, as well as a bit of syrup and lime juice.  As fun as cocktails are, nothing compares to the calming simplicity of a beer, and Casper Fry’s got you covered there, too: they have several taps, including local breweries such as No-Li and Iron Goat, ready to slake persnickety drinkers’ thirsts.

Last Saturday, Casper Fry celebrated its one year anniversary, and I can only imagine that there will be many more anniversary parties to come for this treasure of the Perry St. neighborhood.  Within the past several years, the neighborhood has really turned around and is now home to numerous flourishing businesses and restaurants and a weekly farmers market.  With the upcoming addition of the South Perry Brewing Company, the neighborhood is all but guaranteed to continue to thrive.  Without a doubt, Casper Fry’s arrival and success have had terrific influences on the neighborhood, not only in terms of economy, but in introducing a bit of southern flare to Inland Northwest.  You will, truly, want to put the south in your mouth.

Day Out: The Scoop

DSCN2034

Oh, hello, summer!  When did you get here?

Just last week, my morning routine consisted of sipping a hot cup of coffee while staring woefully at the thermometer, which, in late April, was still registering below 30 degrees most mornings.  However, in a matter of a few short days, spring weather finally (FINALLY) came to stay, and now, my morning routine includes slathering on sunscreen and sporting shorts so that I neither overheat nor sustain a sunburn on my walk around the neighborhood.  Times are changing!

DSCN2036Along with the shorts and sunscreen, this most recent heatwave has really got me jonesin’ for some ice cream.  A trip to the grocery store for a pint of Cherry Garcia seems to easy, and I’ve yet to replace the parts I broke on the ice cream maker last summer.  Therefore, a venture out to an ice cream parlor seems like the best solution.  As Saturday was a beautiful day and my scooter was doing little else but looking sad and alone in the garage, my (very tall) little brother and I suited up for a ride to The Scoop on Spokane’s South Hill.  From the Valley, my brother and I enjoyed a slow (because my scooter wasn’t very fast; as he was riding a very fast motorcycle, he expressed his frustration at my speed by repeatedly wheelie-ing past me), leisurely ride up Carnahan and across 29th until we made it to our destination.

The Scoop is located in the middle of a picturesque South Hill neighborhood, next to a school and in the same building as a couple other small businesses.  An idyllic neighborhood hangout, The Scoop features numerous local purveyors, including Brain Freeze Creamery and Roast House Coffee.  Besides ice cream, the parlor serves coffee, sandwiches, and pastries, allowing it to accommodate customers’ tastes throughout the day.

DSCN2037The interior of The Scoop is bright and comforting, painted with vivid colors and filled with ample seating.  My brother and I took our time surveying the day’s ice cream choices and taking in the cafe’s other offerings.  Being an unrelenting label shopper, I was immediately intrigued by an ice cream named “Muddy Cups, Dirty Dishes”, a brownie batter-flavored ice cream with miniature peanut butter cups sprinkled throughout.  Based mostly on the name, but also the chocolately flavor, I was sold.  Along with one of The Scoop’s house-made waffle cones, this icy treat was just what I’d been hoping for.  A bit more conventional, my brother opted for a bowl of cake batter ice cream.  Do you remember the last time you had a root beer?  I don’t.  Taking a cue from my brother, who couldn’t resist getting a “real” Coca-Cola along with his ice cream, I opted for a bottle of cold root beer with mine.  While ringing us up, our server handed us a small bottle opener- both handy and charming.  It was absolutely gorgeous outside, so we claimed a table on the open patio under the shade of a large, light-adorned tree.

I’d been looking forward to an ice cream cone for a while, so I took my sweet time finishing up my sweet treat.  It was wonderful to be able to enjoy a short day trip with my little brother, who’s now largely grown, so that we could catch up and spend a bit of time together.  We really don’t do it often enough.  I attended college on the other side of the state, so I missed a lot of his own high school years.  I’m still marveling at the changes that occurred during that time, and I am fascinated by the transformation.  I still think of him as a chubby-cheeked kid who loved playing with Tonka trucks, but in reality, he’s now a tall, slender young man who works on full-sized Tonka trucks.  It’s wild.

Finishing up our chilly treats, we made our way back down the hill.  The return was a lot faster than the trip there.  I’m delighted that we gave The Scoop a try and that I was able to enjoy such a fun day trip with my brother.  I have a feeling that the sweltering days to come will offer me many excuses to visit The Scoop for a scoop of ice cream with a small side of nostalgia.