Sunday, January 6, 2013
Eatery - Hopscotch Tavern (CA)
136 E Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832
Pricing - $/$$ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - American, Bar
I was pretty excited for Hopscotch to open after I had finished up an interview with them back in November. They were still in the planning/building phases then but opened a short few weeks thereafter. I loved the decor that was there already when I came inside for a quick preview of the space; the general plans for the atmosphere sounded like my kind of place to visit but it wasn't until late December that I was able to make it back out to the downtown Fullerton area.
First and foremost, they are called a tavern and are focused on providing the widest selection of whiskeys in Orange County (and other alcoholic libations - hence their name of Hop & Scotch). Therefore, the group of us ordered several drinks to put the mixology claims to the test. We sat impressed. I had their Merryweather, Duc had a shot of their High West Silver whiskey (a purveyor-only batch that Hopscotch got ahold of!), and Austin a White Manhattan and (later) a Bartender's Choice which ended up being an egg white sour. Robin stuck to Hefs for the afternoon and enjoyed from their extensive beer menu. My Merryweather (oatmeal honey scotch liqueur, port, damson plum gin, grapefruit, cinnamon syrup) was definitely sweet and strong on the cinnamon & grapefruit but still enjoyable. The High West Silver whiskey was definitely the smoothest whiskey I've had and others agreed! The White Manhattan (High West Silver whiskey, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, Noilly Prat dry vermouth, cherry bitters, Luxardo cherry) was pleasantly soft and smooth as well. The egg white sour? Not my thing but others enjoyed it.
Once we started looking at their menu, we got a little confused. While the styling was nice, it ended up creating a convoluted design that made figuring out the categories confusing. The listings were all over. We finally got our bearings straight and placed orders for four appetizers: their meatballs, sweet potato fritters, cracklin' rosemary bread, and mac 'n cheese. The meatballs were quite tender and we all enjoyed the juices that they were cooked in. The sweet potato fritters were very much deep-fried but the potential saltiness was offset by the spicy maple syrup drizzled on top. The cracklin' rosemary bread was deliciously crunchy and herbed (though arguably a bit on the greasy side). As for the mac n' cheese, saucy on the bottom and crisp on the top - unfortunately, someone was heavy-handed back in the kitchen with the rosemary.
Stuffed burgers! Their patties come stuffed with cheese so are definitely not for the faint of heart. Duc went ahead and ordered The Duke (American cheese-stuffed patty with slow-cooked, pulled pork, tomatoes, and housemade pickles between homemade buns), and Austin got the Blue Roan (bleu cheese-stuffed patty with horseradish sauce, red onion, tomatoes, and lettuce between homemade buns). For both, the meat was a letdown as it wasn't very juicy despite the cheese and needed more salt. Interesting concept but they definitely need more work. Their size also led to a fairly tall burger that was slightly difficult to bite into.
I opted for a sandwich but was told my initial choice was unavailable. Why weren't we told this ahead of time? While my first choice had roasted pork and pulled pork, my options afterward were just a pulled pork sandwich or pork belly sandwich. Of course I couldn't deny pork belly but I believe that the waitress should have told me ahead of time that it would cost more than my original choice! The pork belly itself was quite succulent and delicious but everything else on that plate was lackluster including the very dry Texas toast it came with.
Though we were all feeling stuffed, the waitress convinced us to give the desserts a try. Unfortunately, she also didn't tell us what was unavailable until we asked so we kept asking about different ones; ultimately, we ended with their supposed signature dessert of butterscotch cake. Sorry but it was unpleasantly chewy and much too sweet. It wasn't a good thing to end with but in the end, I have to give the stars to them for their excellent libations (that was what they created the restaurant for anyway!), appetizers, atmosphere, and service. I'd probably drop by for drinks in the future but not really the entrees.
Photography by Duc Duong.