Restaurant Review: Spicy Hop
Spicy Hop looks kinda iffy when you pull in. Sure, Bethel Road itself hosts a relatively cushy stretch of strip malls, but the Hop’s parking lot has seen better days. Its digs feature a deserted drive-through window and a basketball hoop in the back, the back door is propped open with a park bench stationed behind it.
And it took a couple trips to the eatery in order to make things work. On the first run, the apologetic server said something had gone amiss in the kitchen, so there was no food.
But the buzz surrounding the spot has been largely positive, and relentlessly so. People are evidently going, actually finding food, and enjoying that food. So a little persistence was in order.
Persistence pays off. The next trip was better. There is food — lots of it, all laid out on display. It’s not a buffet, and it’s not a Chipotle-style place either. It’s closest to a cafeteria-style, quick-service joint. You pick a rice, and then from a selection of various entrees. The list of entree options changes regularly, but the general themes are approachable. You can pick a couple entrees for $9.49, three for $12.99.
According to the counter team, the Spicy Hop Chicken and Pepper Beef are both perennial favorites, so they’re likely to be on the menu during your visit. In general, it’s cafeteria food, so that fast flash-fry and its delicate aspects are not part of the eating equation. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and some hearty eats await.
The Spicy Hop Chicken will feature long strands of dried pepper. That’ll do some damage, for those who like a face-filling flood of painful heat during the eating experience. Easily identified and separated, the rest of the chicken is still plenty and pleasantly spicy.
Meanwhile, in the beef department, it’s worth noticing that the beef has good texture. It’s not overly tenderized (which can be a characteristic of buffet foods). The beef texture comes with an occasional unchewable fatty bit, so vigilance is recommended. Whatever is involved seems to involve a healthy dose of sesame (or sesame oil) — it’s enough to infuse the whole dish with its toasty flavor.
You can score a Kung Pau Chicken here, too, long-stewed, with peanuts that have soaked up the sauce. It too features those dried peppers, now in slim bits that easily sneak onto the fork and provide powerful reminders of just how lethal Chinese pepper pods can be. In both the Kung Pau and the Spicy Hop Chicken, there’s something appealing about the poultry used. It’s unevenly chopped, not necessarily boring white meat (although, it can be hard to tell on long-stewed chicken). It feels homespun.
We’re going to want some vegetables in the mix. The beef and chicken dishes don’t really feature them (unless you count the punishing peppers). For that, the garlic broccoli is a good choice. It gets a lighter treatment than the meat offerings, not just by virtue of being a vegetable, but in design too; it’s not saucy like the other items. The broccoli holds up well for this reason. There’s also a tomato and egg combo on the menu, the combo, clotted with scrambled egg, has a defined comforting aspect.
Portions are generous, and the serving style is cute with little foil containers that fit like puzzle pieces into a customized pizza box. If you’re attached to the crispy appetizers (egg roll, crab rangoon), you’ll be out of luck here. There is a soup option, and fountain drinks. You can find it at 878 Bethel Rd.
For more information, visit their Facebook page.