Getting to Hopkins wasn't a problem. Getting to Pub 819 on Main Street proved to be a bit of a challenge, however. For two blocks, the main drag is torn up all the way to the front doors of the local businesses. Not only is there no street, there aren't even any sidewalks, although some businesses have laid out floor mats in hopes of making the walking a bit easier.
As we traversed the muddy, spongy, stinky street that threatened to suck the shoes right off our feet, we were sure that on a Tuesday night with all the construction mayhem, we'd have the place pretty much to ourselves. Wrong. We snagged the last available table, though there was still room at the massive bar, so folks who came in after us didn't have to go back out into the sunset — and the muck — without food or drink.
And that would have been a shame, because Pub 819 dishes up solid versions of pub standards with many of the components made in-house. And there's whiskey. Did we mention the whiskey? The restaurant's facade entices passersby with "Whiskey, Beer, Burgers," and that pretty much sums it up. There's Bourbon, Rye, Irish, Scotch, Canadian, blended, single malt, single grain, single pot still, even two trendy Japanese whiskeys, for a grand total of 80. If you can't make up your mind, go for one of the seven whiskey flights, a great way to try a variety without over-indulging.
If beer is more your speed, they've got you covered as well, with a rotating selection of 32 tap beers, from local breweries including Surly, Summit, Finnegan's, and Fulton. The bulk of the rest of the beer list is billed as "from our neighbors," and includes breweries like Bells, Deschutes, Lagunitas, and New Belgium. If you're a beer geek, you probably won't find anything you haven't tried before, but it is a respectable list for washing down a pub burger.
Similarly, you won't find anything too fancy on the menu. But the whole point here is familiar and filling pub food, with enough variety to please the diverse bunch of regulars — from families to work groups out for happy hour to couples old and young. If you're looking for some greasy goodness, the Reuben sings with house-brined corned beef, tender and piled high. It's elevated by house-made sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. Fries sported a seasoned coating that added crunch and flavor. Onion rings had a crispy exterior with juicy slices of onion nestled inside. The attendant cup of spicy ketchup packed a pleasing punch.
But it's burgers that make up a large portion of the menu. If you're a purist you can get a straight-up cheeseburger. Live a little and you can work your way through their specialty burgers (go on a Monday, when they're all half off all day long). We opted for the Bourbon BBQ Burger, topped with brisket, fried onions, and a zippy barbecue sauce that rescued the under-seasoned hamburger. The burger was cooked nicely, still pink in the middle, as we requested, and meat-on-meat action is perfect for the lusty carnivores among you.
If you like it hot, the Angry Burger delivers and then some,
If you just want a nibble with your drink, there are plenty of appetizer options. And if you're avoiding gut-busting pub grub, you'll find flatbreads, salads, and entrees like cedar-planked salmon and barbecue rib tips round out the menu.
Much of the space is devoted to the bar. Comfy booths line the walls, and tables flank the expansive windows at the front of the pub. There are televisions everywhere, visible from any seat in the house, but blessedly with the volume turned off. We counted no fewer than five different sporting events playing at once. The interior comes across as modern farmhouse, with lots of wood on the floor and walls, exposed light bulb fixtures hanging over the booths, and a contrasting wall of white subway tile in back by the kitchen. There is no outdoor seating during construction, which our friendly server told us was scheduled to last another couple of weeks. But once that's over, you'll be able to sit and sip al fresco in the waning days of summer.
819 Main Street, Hopkins