Hop’s Bar and Grill welcomed by community
LOUISIANA—When Sarah Heavin thinks about family meals, she remembers her childhood with the whole family sitting around the supper table. Food would be handed back and forth with everyone talking about what they did that day.
That warm family feeling is one Sarah and her husband, Dan, had when deciding to open a restaurant. It’s that vision they also want to share with the people of Louisiana. During the first week of July, they opened Hop’s Bar and Grill at 317 Georgia Street.
Sarah sat at one of the restaurant’s tables about an hour before the Saturday lunch rush to talk about what she and Dan have planned for their new endeavor. They also work full time at other jobs. Dan is a firefighter, and was off in Montana for that job.
“Normally, he handles the daily operations,” said Sarah, who is an RN and does nurse consulting. Once she’s done with her day job, she goes home, takes a short nap, changes clothes and comes into the restaurant and bar to help out where she can.
This is the first time since they opened on July 1 that she’s had to run the place without Dan there.
“It’s kind of a baptism by fire,” she said. “But he is available by phone. He’s regretting that he’s not here helping more. But he is doing a lot from Montana.”
The funny thing is, she noted, that when they first started dating, Dan always said: they should open a restaurant. Sarah was dead set against it.
“It is never going to happen,” she told him. “So, don’t even think about it.”
But last year a close friend contracted COVID. As a nurse, she was allowed to enter the hospital’s special unit in full protective gear.
“We were allowed to face time with his family,” she said, “so he could say his goodbyes.” It was right after that, she explained, that she decided she didn’t want to do that any more. She switched to consulting instead, and the idea of owning a restaurant took on a new life for the couple.
Her husband was friends with Tim Clark, who told the couple he had a building for sale in Louisiana.
“There’s days when I don’t know whether to thank him or cuss him,” she said, with a smile.
“The community has been so warm and welcoming,” she added. “It’s such a beautiful thing opening here. They are so patient and supportive of us.”
That opening day, they had really long wait times getting the food to the customers. Still, everyone was willing to wait and let the new staff get accustomed to operating a restaurant. Sarah said a lot of it was getting used to where everything was in the kitchen. She said she spent most of her time back then helping find where they had stored their supplies.
Once a routine was established, things started running a lot smoother. She credits the team she had working at Hop’s for making things work right.
“They are working such long hours,” Sarah said. When things started backing up, she added, the servers jumped in and helped out the kitchen staff where they could. It was a total team effort, she added.
Sara said she kept handing her staff chocolate-covered caramels as a small thanks for the extra effort they were putting in.
In any business, things unexpected happen. Sarah said during their second day the prep cooler went out. She frantically called all over looking for another one. A cousin, who owns a Steak and Shake, had finished a remodel and plugged in his new cooler and was scratching his head trying to figure out what to do with the used one, which still worked fine.
“He said, ‘Come pick it up, it’s yours,’” she said. Some of their firefighter friends went down to pick it up and bring it back.
“It’s been blessings like that the whole time,” she added.
The restaurant dream
Dan and Sarah really like to cook. Sarah said she’s the oldest of seven and remembers huge meals with everyone sitting around the table. She and Dan tend to try and outdo each other when cooking meals.
“I’ve gained 75 pounds since we’ve been together,” she said with a laugh. “It’s just good ol’ home cooking.”
They wanted their restaurant to be farm to table—bringing good food to the people of Louisiana.
The restaurant is named after Dan, she explained. During his first paid firefighting job, Dan was cooking the station chief an omelet. When he tried to flip it in the pan, the whole thing landed on the floor.
“All he heard was: ‘Good job Hop Sing,’” she said. That was the name of one of the characters on the old TV western “Bonanza.” The character, played by Victor Sen Yung, was the family’s cook. The name stuck. Over in Kansas City they don’t call him Dan, they call him Hop, she said.
They decided to expand on that name and called the new place Hop’s Bar and Grill. They could also play on the word hops, which is also used in making beer. But beer is not the only thing they sell in the bar. They have a fairly extensive bourbon collection behind the bar.
In fact, Sarah was looking for a new recipe to make a bourbon glaze for their signature burger the Hop’s Jam. Sarah said she knew enough not to touch the top shelf stuff behind the bar, even though the recipe called for Four Roses bourbon. Instead, she found some old dusty bottles in the back that didn’t look as though they were selling. Everyone loved the bourbon glaze on the burgers. When asked what bourbon she used, she said Eagle Rare.
“It cost over $100,” she said. “They should have let me use the $30 bottle.”
Now she uses something a little less expensive, but she noted, it still tastes great.
As they continue to evolve the restaurant, Sarah said they are looking at the patio area that sits between the restaurant and the newly opened Handmade Harvests store.
“Our liquor license covers the bar, the restaurant and the patio area,” Sarah said. They haven’t done anything with it just yet, because they were checking on a lien for that property. It’s clear, she noted, so hopefully by the end of the summer they could put down some gravel and open the area up to outdoor dining.
They don’t have a full menu yet. Right now they have salads, appetizers and sandwiches, including their burgers.
Having everyone who comes in enjoy the food and drink, to Sarah, is like having her own family come over for a big meal.
After 8 p.m. on the weekends, there is also live entertainment. Sarah said she wanted the bands to come in a play after dinner time so families could still come in and enjoy a meal. But after that, the atmosphere takes on an adult feel. She noted that the acoustics for the stage are pretty good.