The Aspen Times
Local gastropub HOPS Culture has provided a staple of elevated comfort food combined with some of the choicest seating in Aspen. Located in the center of the pedestrian mall, a combination of outdoor patio space and a windowed bar near the entrance provide two sets of attractive options for grabbing a seat, depending on your preference.
Inside, the reason for the name HOPS Culture becomes apparent. With a row of taps and a full wall of refrigerated bottles, the selections are nearly endless, and any drink lover is able to while away a weekend on the beer alone.
The food choices are equally as hard to decide. The menu offers recognizable comfort eats with added elevations and just enough change to keep things interesting. Pub standards are at the forefront, like their “Royale with cheese,” a classic burger which includes fresh Colorado beef, or mac n’ cheese, which general manager John Hebson points out has been a staple of HOPS Culture since its inception. They’ve spent years tweaking and perfecting the simple dish. The current iteration keeps it to only a few ingredients, with creamy noodles being paired with crunchy green pepper and caramelized onions for sweetness.
However, recent restaurant addition and longtime-local chef Robbie Kostrba has taken it upon himself to update other aspects of the menu, adding in twists with local ingredients and an onsite herb garden. A prime example is their chicken n’ waffles. A soul food classic, Kostrba includes simple ingredients and adds in hot sauce. The small twist results in a masterful flavor meld, as fluffy waffles gain heat and crispy chicken absorbs the Vermont maple syrup.
For those tending towards healthier options, HOPS hits the spot as well. Making sure to have a number of vegetarian dishes, they include a variety of salads and an unexpected highlight in the superfood bowl. A trove of all things healthy and delicious, diced cucumber, almonds and edamame add crunch to the typical salad greens while beets and a citrus-honey vinaigrette keep it sweet.
Through it all, Kostrba and HOPS Culture are looking to improve and tweak their menu. “We’re moving forward with a lot of new things,” Hebson said. “We’re really excited with where we’re headed.” With brighter things on the horizon, HOPS already delivers variety and quality, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon in the heart of Aspen.
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