Last summer, C and I were casting around for something new to eat that was in the vicinity of Springfield's Triangle of Grease1 but wasn't, well, greasy. So we stopped in at Hop Valley, a brewery that seemed promising.
There are three things that keep us going back to Hop Valley: the vanilla porter, the smoked mozzarella cheesesticks, and the seared ahi sandwich. The first two are things I love; the last is C's favorite, and he gets it every time we go.
Our first outing here was actually our best. The place was still kind of new, so it wasn't terribly crowded, and they had a special featuring that same seared (rare) ahi on top of pasta that C still talks about longingly. The sandwich is a compromise, and there have now been a couple of times that the searing has stolen almost all of the precious pink from the tuna. Still, when it's good, that tuna is (apparently) very good, and at $11 it's not a bad value.
That price includes a side dish -- I actually think these are the strengths of the Hop Valley menu. You can get fries, seasonal veggies, or a baked potato, all of which are typical; garlic mashed potatoes, which come in a fragrant, Close Encounters-type pile; cream cheese sweet corn that is pretty much exactly like my mother's recipe, except it uses grilled fresh sweet corn; or the soup of the day, which is made in-house and has usually seemed to be pretty good. Last time we were there, it was something like Curried Carrot, and it was very smooth and tasty. Not enough to distract me from the corn, but still -- quite good.
The Happy Hour specials are the best part of Hop Valley's menu. They offer burgers for $3.95 (with fries!) from 3-6 on weekdays, along with smaller-sized nachos for about $2.95, fries and onion rings for $1.95, and -- my favorites -- the smoked mozzarella sticks for $3.95. Beers are also slightly cheaper.
There's one caveat I'd level, here, and it's kind of a big one: This isn't somewhere you go for atmosphere. In terms of decor and comfort, Applebee's even has this place beat. The ceiling is high and uncovered, the tables are close, and there are TVs everywhere. Since it's now busier every time we go in, I'd say this isn't a place to schedule for a quiet dinner, or for a dinner with anyone who has trouble hearing. It's also probably not the place you come if you're terribly worried about a) your diet or b) local, fresh ingredients or c) particularly creative culinary adventures. It may not even be a staple of fast service -- though we've always had friendly servers. Hop Valley has solidly American brewhouse type fare -- think burgers and barbecue, and rejoice, vegetarians, that there's macaroni and cheese on the menu.
Still, we keep going back. The call of the porter -- and the tuna, and the smoked mozz -- is strong.
Location: 980 Kruse Way, Springfield, OR (intersection of Beltline and Gateway Street)
Hours: Need to check!
1 The Triangle of Grease is the shape formed by drawing a line from the Springfield IHOP to Denny's to Shari's and back. All within this triangle face risk of death and tasty fried things, 24 hours a day. And yes, including Elmer's, this can be expanded to the Rhombus of Grease, but that's not so catchy.