Hop House Southern Eatery in O’Fallon is going for a culinary triple with its Texas barbecue, Louisiana Cajun and Southern fried food.
The latter is what attracts customers such as Kristy Riley and her son, Ben. They’ve stopped in several times since the restaurant opened in July.
“We’re from Mississippi, and this is the closet thing we’ve found to deep South comfort food,” said Ben, 29, of Mascoutah. “It’s authentic. The chicken is crisp, juicy and tasty, and they have sweet tea.”
Ben was finishing off a plate of Dynamite Fried Chicken with Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes ($12). Kristy had ordered her usual, crispy fried chicken salad ($9).
As for Texas barbecue, the restaurant recently came home from the Midwest WingFest in Fairview Heights with the Best Overall Wings prize.
In the Louisiana Cajun category, a customer favorite is shrimp and grits, with spicy sautéed shrimp and andouille sausage on smoked Gouda and jalapeño grits, drizzled with cilantro cream ($16).
“We do a fantastic chicken and waffles,” said managing partner Michael Durso, 42, of O’Fallon. “A lot of people around here have never had that. It’s a sweet-savory combination.”
Hop House is named partly for its large selection of traditional and craft beer, including 32 on draft. Stag is not only poured, it’s used in recipes for bread, barbecue sauce and bacon gravy.
Beyond Southern entrées, the restaurant also serves soups, salads, steaks, burgers and other sandwiches, plus “Beale Street tacos,” wood-fired pizza and wood-fired mac and cheese.
“Freshness is a big thing for us,” Michael said. “We make everything from scratch every day — every sauce, every dressing, every bread.”
The restaurant occupies a giant building on Central Park Drive, between Hartman Lane and Green Mount Road.
It has an urban loft feel, with 30-foot high ceilings, exposed wood beams, brick and corrugated metal walls, wainscoting accents, wooden barrels and pendulum tulip lights.
Black and white framed photos show historic brewery scenes. Three large stained glass windows hang in the main dining room.
“They’re over 100 years old,” Michael said. “The high top tables and the community table, that’s all reclaimed barn wood built by the Amish.”
The restaurant seats 250 people at booths, high top and regular tables, and the staff keeps fresh flowers on all of them. It’s one way to show customer appreciation.
Another way? Michael makes it a point to stop by tables and talk to customers, including many from Scott Air Force Base.
“I want to make sure they’re enjoying the experience and find out what I can do to make it better,” he said. “That’s critical; that’s key.”
Michael is one of four partners. He met Steve Edwards 20 years ago, when both worked at Porter’s Steakhouse in Collinsville. They talked about going into business together, but their plans fell through.
Michael ended up opening Manhattan’s in Edwardsville and worked at a couple of St. Louis restaurants before switching to the freight and trucking business.
Steve served as an Adam’s Mark chef in St. Louis. He now owns Ravanelli’s in Granite City and Collinsville, Fire-N-Smoke in Troy and Urban Farmhouse in Highland.
Steve runs the Hop House kitchen with the other two partners, Sammy Stratton and Andrew Papp. Jessica Chamberlain is a server.
“I’ve been a waitress for 13 years, and this is one of the best restaurants I’ve worked at,” she said. “The food, the management, the teamwork ... It’s a happy atmosphere.”
Jessica, 26, of Aviston, has her own Top 5 menu list: smoked wings, adobo-smoked pulled pork, wood-fired pizza, pepper-crusted smoked turkey and lobster mac ($6 to $14).
“Our pulled pork is fantastic,” she said. “We smoke all of our barbecue items for 12 hours. It’s juicy and tasty. It melts in your mouth.”
Customers on a recent weekday included Jim Prisco, 62, of St. Louis, a Scott employee having lunch with co-workers. He was back for a second time after enjoying Baja fish tacos.
Karen Nixon and her daughter, Charlene, raved about their Filet and Lobster Oscar ($22 with asparagus and two sides) and peppered-turkey barbecue sandwich with beer-battered twisted fries ($9)
“They have good food, and the sides are different,” said Karen, 53, of O’Fallon. “They have Gouda grits and candied-bacon Brussels sprouts, and a beer-braised mussels appetizer.”
“The homemade barbecue sauce is amazing,” added Charlene, 23, of O’Fallon. “It’s spicy hot, but not too bad. It’s different. It’s not like barbecue sauce from a bottle.”
At a glance
- What: Hop House Southern Eatery
- Where: 1214 Central Park Drive in O’Fallon
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays (closed Sundays)
- Seating: About 250
- Carryout: Yes
- Party rooms: Yes (capacity of 30 and 50)
- Handicap-accessible: Yes
- Information: Call 618-726-2740 or visit www.hheatery.com or the Hop House Southern Eatery Facebook page
On the menu
- Shrimp po’boy — Fresh baguette stuffed with spicy fried shrimp, red-cabbage slaw, fresh tomato, onion, lettuce and cilantro cream, $12 with beer-battered twisted fries or tater tots
- Texas brisket — Certified Hereford beef brisket, dry rubbed and smoked for 12 hours, served with house-made barbecue sauce, $12 with two sides
- Dynamite-Fried Chicken — Half a chicken, marinated for 24 hours, rolled in spiced breading and pressure-fried to create a crispy crust, $12 with two sides
- Shrimp and grits — Spicy sauteed shrimp and andouille sausage atop smoked-Gouda and jalapeño grits, drizzled with cilantro cream, $16 with two sides
- Peppered filet — USDA-choice, aged 10-ounce filet mignon, rolled in cracked pepper and served with house-made mustard sauce, $24 with two sides