There are plenty of people in the suburbs who would like to have a good place to eat in their backyard. Hopkins recently saw the opening of Pub 819 in the old Hopkins Tavern spot on Main Street, and it aspires to please those who want a better-than-average place to go for a bite in the ’burbs.
Owners Steve and David Benowitz, who also own the Rail Station Bar & Grill and Stanley’s, redesigned the old tavern interior and created a sleeker, more upscale pub that matches the bar’s extensive whiskey list. The pub has just begun offering whiskey classes on Sundays and Wednesdays, and one was taking place during our first visit. The instructor appeared to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable, working without notes and answering questions with confidence.
The food, however, hasn’t yet reached its potential. The server at our first visit recommended the Reuben sandwich ($12) with house-made corned beef. The corned beef was good — smoky and briny — but the sandwich arrived on bread that may have been waved in the general area of a griddle, but never actually touched it. The bread was on the soggy side, and there was a big lump of sauerkraut on one half and almost none on the other. Unlike the bread, the filling was quite dry and could have used a lot more of the house-made Thousand Island dressing. On another visit, the ingredients were more judiciously spread out, and the bread looked like it had connected with the griddle.
The tachos appetizer ($9) is a nice twist on nachos, with tater tots instead of tortilla chips. The tots were crisp and hot, but overall the dish could have used more of the nacho ingredients, like melted cheese and seasoned sour cream (which was zippy and flavorful). The dish came in a mountainous form, and the top layer had plenty of flavor. But underneath were a lot of un-nachoed tots.
The red wine burger ($13) was the best item we tried, although again, execution was hit-or-miss. The first time, the burger arrived with the Camembert hot and melted, but on our second visit, the cheese looked as if it had been slapped on the burger right before serving. The burger itself — and the generous amount of sauteed mushrooms and onions it came with — was hearty and tasty, and the accompanying fries were crispy and hot.
But here’s a head-scratcher: on the table was 78 Red Ketchup, which probably fits the trendy, upscale theme with its all-natural, non-GMO status. But it was sugary sweet, and we wished we had regular old vinegary Heinz. What’s more, it was served next to French’s yellow mustard. Better to upgrade the mustard than the ketchup. There’s a reason the National Mustard Museum has more than 5,600 varieties but the single ketchup museum has only one.
Pub 819 may just need time to work out some of the kinks. Part of the problem might be pent-up demand: during our first visit, on a Sunday afternoon, the place was packed, and there was a shortage of servers. The ones who were there were friendly, and in constant, frenzied motion, but they were barely able to keep up. The varied results from the kitchen can, and should, be addressed; if they are, this could be a solid, go-to pub in Hopkins.
Upscale pub in the western suburbs
819 Main St, Hopkins 55343
HOURS: Mon-Wed 11 a.m.-midnight
Thurs 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Fri-Sat 9 a.m.-2 a.m.
Sun 9 a.m.-midnight
BAR: Beer and whiskey
ENTREE RANGE: $10-$15
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No