Hop Social Tavern hopping with menu delights SanTan Sun News

Hop Social Tavern hopping with menu delights

January 13th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Hop Social Tavern hopping with menu delights
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By COLLEEN SPARKS, Staff

A new restaurant near Chandler Fashion Center is hopping with diners eager to dig into pot pies and other comfort food and dish with their friends over happy-hour specials.

A group of veteran Oregon restaurateurs opened Hop Social Tavern in November on West Chandler Boulevard just west of Loop 101 in the building where Elephant Bar had been located.

The restaurant offers homemade, Americana-influenced food and 52 brews on tap in an open setting with an industrial feel, eclectic decorations and bright green booths.

Two married couples, David and Christie Burnett and Bud and Kathy Gabriel, known collectively as Crossroads Restaurant Group, own the independent eatery. The four friends own three restaurants in Oregon.

“I would describe it as scratch-made, Americana comfort food,” David said. “Everything from my mom’s chicken pot pie, corn fritters. I was born in Chicago; everyone’s a dipper. Everything is fresh. Nothing is frozen.”

“It’s been great,” he added. “Happy hours are packed. Every day the lunches are growing. There’s families, Gen X, millennials, baby boomers. We have something for everybody.”

One specialty at Hop Social Tavern is the housemade pot pie with grilled chicken breast, vegetables and homemade crust served with baked French bread ideal for dipping in the pie’s creamy filling.

The menu also features buttermilk-battered crispy fried chicken, a PB&J burger with peanut butter, jalapeño grape jelly, cheddar and crispy fried onions and orange chicken with Szechuan chili peppers, onions, garlic, orange sauce and white rice.

Made-from-scratch meatloaf with veal, pork, ground chuck, bacon, coffee stout gravy and buttermilk mashed potatoes, as well as glazed carrots, is another house specialty.

Steak tacos, cabernet tenderloin tips and spicy mac & cheese are also some of the featured meals. A grass-fed bison burger and a variety of brick-oven pizzas add to the American appeal.

A popular appetizer at the new Chandler hotspot is deep-fried donuts with ricotta, vanilla and cinnamon. The donuts, round like donut holes, come with a housemade caramel sauce for dipping. Other appetizers that stir up nostalgic taste buds are soft-baked pretzels with beer cheese fondue, sautéed Brussels sprouts and shishito peppers.

Christie expressed enthusiasm for the customers and employees.

“People in Chandler have been above and beyond amazing, so welcoming,” she said. “People say it’s hard to find good staff. We have just an amazing staff.”

Customers can wash down the appetizers, lunches and dinners with 52 diverse beers on tap, more than half of which are made in Arizona. More than 100 beer tap handles hang on a wall, including one from the brewery Yuengling, founded in 1829. Behind the beer tap handles is a bar with 62 seats.

Happy hour is every day from 3 to 6 p.m. and from 9:30 p.m. until closing time. Most of the happy hour food costs from $3.95 to $5.95. Beers include lagers, pilsners, pale ales, ambers, ciders and IPAs, as well as wheat beers, stouts, porters and red and brown ales.

A SanTan Epicenter with a copper amber hue and toasted malt, as well as a Four Peaks Brewing Company 8th Street Pale Ale and Sleepy Dog Brewing Peanut Butter Milk Stout are among some of the local brews.

Craft beers are “so popular,” David said. “They’re unique. They use local product. To have a beer that tastes like peanut butter, everyone loves it. A lot of these smaller brewers, they take some creative liberties.”

The smaller beer manufacturers have fun with their creations and David said he and the other Hop Social owners enjoy coming up with new menu items and planning their restaurant concepts. The four Hop Social owners have 56 years combined experience as business owners and operators in the restaurant industry.

“We’re just a couple people chasing our dream,” David said.

David’s zest for restaurants was inspired by his mentor and former boss, the late Bob Farrell, who founded the Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour chains. Also a motivational speaker, Farrell wrote the book “Give ‘Em the Pickle.”

David worked for Farrell for 24 years and was a district manager of restaurants most recently. Farrell sold Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour to Marriott Corp. in 1973 and  then started Pacific Coast Restaurants (a restaurant group that owned and operated 27 restaurants) and David then worked for Farrell at Pacific Coast Restaurants. When Farrell sold that company to a private investment firm 11 years ago, David decided to leave and open a restaurant.​

“My wife and I cashed in our 401(k)s and put our money where our hearts were and joined forces with our partners, Bud and Kathy Gabriel,” David said.

In March 2009, the two couples opened Oswego Grill, an upscale steakhouse in Lake Oswego, Oregon. David, Christie, Bud and Kathy opened their second Oswego Grill in 2011 in Wilsonville, Oregon.

In 2015, the four entrepreneurs opened their third restaurant, Copper River Restaurant & Bar in Hillsboro, Oregon. Copper River is similar to Hop Social with American comfort food, David said. David and Bud met when they were on their church’s council and their children went to school together.

David and Christie’s son, Daniel, and Daniel’s 4-year-old daughter, Malia, live in Glendale. The couple also has two friends in the Valley restaurant business.

“The community has been so supportive,” David said. “We fell in love with not only the East Valley and its development but with the evolution of the Arizona food scene. We love the Lord; He blessed us. We want to just serve.”

David and Christie are renting a home in Gilbert and plan to spend much time there, as well as in Canby, Oregon, where they have a home. The couple also has six grandchildren in Oregon in addition to their granddaughter in Glendale. Of their four adult children, two live in Oregon and one is in Los Angeles.

Kristi Ludenia of Chandler is already enjoying Hop Social. She recently went there for a business lunch and said “it was just phenomenal.”

“I thought the ambiance in the restaurant was great,” Ludenia said. “Our server was very educated. The food was fantastic. I had the crispy buttermilk chicken tenderloin salad. It was so flavorful.”

She predicted the restaurant will be very successful, citing its huge outdoor area, something not easy to find at Chandler restaurants. Hop Social has two patios that have couches and fire pits to keep diners warm.

Ryan Adamson, 37, of Tempe is also a big fan.

“I like the food, the environment, just the whole experience,” Adamson said. “To me it’s like a higher end restaurant with a casual feel. I feel like you can have this food in a really nice upscale restaurant but it’s more a place you can go on a normal night. I love that they have local beers.”

He said he had been to Oswego Grill in Lake Oswego, Oregon, while visiting his cousin and loved it.

The interior of Hop Social, which is over about 7,600 square feet, houses reclaimed wood in golden hues on its tables and floors. A chef’s table that seats eight people is adjacent to the exposition kitchen in an area with a custom chandelier and 20-foot ceiling.

A 40-foot mural along one wall shows the look of wallpaper peeled away to reveal two original Schlitz beer billboards that hung in the 1950s. Garage doors with windows in the bar and dining area provide an open-air feel, leading to the two patios.

David said he and the other owners would love to eventually have several more Hop Social restaurants in the Valley – when the time is right.

“We’re not trying to grow crazy fast,” he said. “We’re taking our time. We have of leaders that want to grow. The bottom line is we’re very thankful for what we’ve been given.”

Hop Social Tavern is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. It’s located at 3405 W. Chandler Boulevard. Information: hopsocialtavern.com.

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