Do you ever pass a place and tell yourself that you just have to go there and check it out? I did this at least six times with Hop Jack’s in Bonney Lake, but I finally took the plunge.
Thank goodness it was in the shallow end.
Several things attracted me to Hop Jack’s: the allure of a fun and hip place, more modern architecture and outside bistro seating. It certainly has those, as well as a wide variety of menu choices. The staff is friendly and the music included some killer throwback tunes (Mötley Crüe’s "Dr. Feelgood"!). While the prices seemed right, unfortunately, the food did not leave me feeling good.
I was greeted immediately upon my entrance -- something I absolutely love --but, because it was a sunny day, the outdoor seating was filled to capacity with businessmen, friends and a quite entertaining construction crew playing dice. I headed to the bar, settled in and chose the lunch special: Hop Jack’s grilled cheese and a cup of homemade clam chowder for $7.95.
The lunch gets a thumbs up for visual appeal. The chowder was creamy with wisps of steam rising from the white ceramic cup. It was filled with chunky bits of clams, carrots, potatoes and celery. The grilled cheese, on thick Texas toast, was perfectly golden brown, and the cheese oozed onto the plate next to a tiny cup of cilantro-enhanced salsa for dipping.
Did I just say salsa for dipping?
I know, the culinary gods are crying right now.
But looks only go so far, and that’s was my lunch experience. It looked amazing -- and tasted anything but. As a clam-chowder lover, I really wanted this to be good, but it just disappointed me. The soup lacked flavor and zest but was miraculously better with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Hop Jack’s claims on its website that the “extra taste (in the clam chowder) is the beer we cook the clams in.”
I think the clams should have stayed at the bar, slowly sipping their cocktails, until they were silently scooted away.
The sandwich lacked major character -- and it is a hard task to not make a decent grilled cheese. I kept thinking that something was missing, and when I reviewed the menu halfway through my meal, I realized that the Santa Fe Grilled Cheese was supposed to have tomatoes and avocado ... I think they may have skipped school that day to enjoy the sun.
Not even two minutes after the sandwich was delivered, the cheeses had hardened like an old maid waiting for her next glimpse of life (in the form of mayonnaise, mustard, avocado and tomatoes, to be exact). I managed my way through the first half, tore off the crust and insides of the remaining half, probed the chowder for signs of life and quickly asked for my bill.
Perhaps it was just not a good day for the chef, or for me — who knows? I am willing to give Hop Jack’s another try because there are a couple of menu items that piqued my interest: flash-fried buttermilk scallops; potato-chip nachos with bacon and bleu cheese; and the ever-tantalizing Bakon Mary (a Bloody Mary made with bacon-flavored vodka).
Prices start at $7.95, making for a reasonable lunch or dinner. Hop Jack’s also serves breakfast on the weekends, which may be a nice change from Applebees down the street.
Overall, and in the spirit of "Dr. Feelgood," I must say, “I’ve got one thing that’s easily understood”: I want Hop Jack’s to be reeeal good.