Thursday, December 20, 2018


It was supposed to be a celebration of our 43rd wedding anniversary.  But, things did not turn out like I had planned.

Dinner was changed to lunch because Debbie had an important business party to attend that night.  Taste of Thai was changed to Hops Burger Bar on Lawndale in Greensboro because we were so impressed with the Hops on Spring Garden, and Lawndale is just a couple of blocks from Taste of Thai.

Of course we've been to Taste of Thai many times, but never together for their lunch buffet.  However, Debbie was afraid her breath would smell bad if she ate Thai food.  I love the aftertaste of Thai food.  It's as good an hour later as it was when I ate it.

We settled on Hops Burger Bar.  It was a mistake, a big mistake.

I know when you do a review of Hops Burger Bar, you're supposed to gush over how marvelous the food and service were.  Sorry, but it's not going to happen that way this time.

I was under the illusion that the Lawndale Hops was bigger than the cramped Spring Garden location.  I figured Hops would have learned from their Spring Garden experience and expanded when locating on Lawndale.

They did not learn.  Both restaurants are about the same size and both are always crowded as hell, regardless of whether you are eating lunch or dinner.  After eating at Spring Garden, I understood why it was crowded - the food was great and the atmosphere was agreeable despite the noise.

The Lawndale location had a different vibe.  The food was not particularly good and even bad when you consider a couple of items we ordered.  And, Lawndale was loud - very loud.

The Prime Rib Roast Burger was being featured this week.  Even the $16.50 price for the 12 oz. burger did not bother me.  But, the ASPARAGUS sauce was too scary, even though the waitress assured me it could be left out of the combination.  Somehow I doubted the cook would whip up a special sauce of merlot wine and mushrooms just for my burger.

This is list of the draft beers being offered.  There were also other wines and beer available.  Although I did not look at the alternative list, I'm sure Bud Light and Miller Lite were on it for those who prefer swill.

You can tell from these photos that the Lawndale Hops Burger Bar likes chalkboards.  The Spring Garden Hops likes them too.

This is the appetizer we shared - Fried Goat Cheese Balls.  I'm sorry the photo is a bit fuzzy.  I'll explain that later.

I think we got six balls.  These are just the last two.  They have been sprinkled with Asiago cheese.  In the little silver bowl is an unknown sauce for dipping your balls.  I guess that's lettuce under the balls.  I don't know for sure because I rarely eat green things.

I'm not sure what to say about the Fried Goat Cheese Balls.  They weren't bad tasting, but they had an unexpected gooey texture.  The Asiago cheese had no flavor.  They could have sprinkled sawdust on the balls and I wouldn't have known the difference.  The sauce was much too sweet for me.

Debbie liked the balls.

My suggestion is don't order the Fried Goat Cheese Balls.  I know they sound good, but they were adequate and nothing more.  Pick something else from the starter menu.  Maybe the Fried Cauliflower is good at Lawndale.  It was certainly good at Spring Garden.

This photo of Debbie after she learned I ordered the Fried Goat Cheese Balls while she was in the uni-sex, family bathroom.  Debbie loves goat cheese.

Funny thing - there were two uni-sex bathrooms, not a male and then a female bathroom.  I don't think this is even legal in North Carolina government bathrooms.  Somebody call Phil Berger to find out the legal status of bathrooms in North Carolina.

This is Carmen on the right.  I think she was our waitress.  A lot of people came to our table for one reason or another, so I'm not sure who to call our waitress.  Carmen was nice and did a good job.  Carmen did not seize up when she was flashed.

This is Debbie's entree.  She ordered the 6-oz. burger.  It was served under a fried egg with bacon, pimento cheese, fried green tomato, and lettuce.  It's the same thing she ordered and loved at Spring Garden.  That was not the case at Lawndale.

Debbie's burger was cooked perfectly, but the fried green tomato was overcooked, and the egg was overcooked with no runny yolk.  The runny yolk is important to the dish because it melds with the pimento cheese.  There was no melding.

Notice the fried Zucchini in the little wire basket.  Hops is into wire baskets, kinda like they're into chalkboards.  All sides are served in wire baskets.  They're cute, but they don't make the food taste better.

The fried Zucchini was doughy and greasy.  They could have been prepared in a Reidsville diner.

Debbie tries to get me to taste her fried Zucchini.  Notice the white dough where she has bitten into it - no green Zucchini, just white fried dough.  We were both unimpressed.

Here's my burger.  It's an 8-oz French Onion.  It was served with caramelized onion, Fontina cheese, garlic-thyme aioli and french onion gravy on the side.  I think that's the gravy in the silver bowl in the center.  I'm not sure what was in the bowl on the left.  It could have been the garlic-thyme aioli.  Of course the burger was topped with a long toothpick and a pepper.

I wasn't sure what to do with the sauce and gravy.  The burger would not fit in the bowls, so I dipped my onion rings (see below) in both sauces.  Neither the sauce nor the gravy did anything for me.  Both bowls were still nearly full when I pushed my plate away.

I asked for my burger to be prepared medium-rare.  That's now legal in North Carolina.  You may recall the Jack-In-The-Box fiasco when some customers got food poisoning from eating medium-rare burgers.  The panic caused medium-rare burgers to be outlawed for a time.  Someone in the state legislature came to their senses and got medium-rare legalized again.

Hops Burger Bar may have gone a little over the line with my medium-rare.  The burger was practically raw in the center.  I guess the texture of the near raw meat overwhelmed whatever flavors may been there.

I regret not ordering the Hibachi with shrimp and fried rice on a Sriracha bun.  I like the spicy stuff.

Here are my onion rings in a cute wire basket.  The rings were huge - too huge.  And, they were doughy and greasy just like the Zucchini.  Don't order the onion rings.

Turn about is fair play.  I tasted Debbie's fried Zucchini.  She had to try my Fried Onion Rings.  This is a photo of Debbie handing back my onion ring after taking a bite.  Notice the missing bite from the bottom of the ring.  That's all she could stand.  Too big,too doughy, too greasy.  No, thanks.

Our mouths were coated in grease when we left the restaurant.

Here is the kicker that really made our anniversary lunch.  This is when my mellow was harshed.

This fuzzy photo is The Whitney.  The Whitney is the General Manager of Hops Burger Bar.  The Whitney is smiling, but The Whitney is not a happy camper. 

The Whitney came to our table to tell me that I could not take flash photos because another customer had complained that the flash might cause someone with epilepsy to seize up.  The complaining customer did not have epilepsy and didn't know anyone with epilepsy, but they were very concerned that my photos of the chalkboards, the burgers and the bar might trip someone's trigger.

It must be hell to have an adverse reaction to a camera flash.  How do you dare go to a wedding or a family reunion?  I would be afraid to go out on the street.

The Whitney said I could take all the photos I wanted, but no flash.  The Whitney also said I could take her picture, but she would not poise.  It had be a photo of The Whitney in action.  So, here is The Whitney in action to please an unhappy and concerned customer.

I was very bothered by the loud noise in Hops and there was a table of kids taking photos with their cell phones.  I was afraid the chaos might give me a heart attack or a stroke, but I didn't complain.  I figured I just had to suck it up to keep The Action Whitney happy.

I took the flash off my camera and went au naturel, hence the fuzzy photo of The Whitney in action.

During one of her interrogations, Whitney had quizzed me about why I was taking photographs.  I said it was just a hobby.  Before we left, I gave Whitney one of my cards.  I could have sworn she turned a lighter shade of pale.

Note The Whitney is the first and only person to complain about my photographing in a restaurant.  Years ago Arigato complained about me videoing the cook, but with the invention of smart phones, they've gotten over that paranoia.

The cost for lunch was about $36.00.

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