As an eater who is not picky or squeamish, I’m not one to send food back to the kitchen. The three-second rule works for me (in my own kitchen) and I’ll generally eat anything. Years ago in Baja, I was eating a taco on the streets of Rosarito Beach with the love of my life and a panel truck pulled up. When the back doors of that non refrigerated van opened and there, laying on the floor (unwrapped) was a side of beef being delivered to the taquerìa we were eating at, I didn’t blink an eye or stop eating the great carne asada taco I had in my hand. However, the so-called “taco” I ate tonight at Hidden Valley’s new restaurant, Hop’s Pub was quite a different story.
Two weeks ago I was heading home from Bull’s Tavern in Ligonier after a great night of wings and as I passed the entrance of Hidden Valley Resort, I noticed the “pub” at the barn was once again open. This building has been home to a LONG string of restaurants over the years, some pretty good but most not so. I decided to stop to see what this latest iteration was offering. I walked into the bar and ordered the first premium beer I spied on the draft rail. I forget what it was since the bartender didn’t inform me they were out of the beer until AFTER I ordered it. I think my final selection was a Red Hook Ale, but frankly I didn’t keep notes as I hadn’t planned to do a review. I do remember the draft cost $4.50 which is pretty steep for the area, especially when it’s not ski season. The first thing I noticed was that the owners were spending money to improve the décor but were doing so in a very haphazard manner. For example, there was expensive new wood paneling, but the entrance door had peeling and chipped paint. Why wouldn’t a person take care of such a simple detail when it is one of the first things a patron would see? Another indication of the restaurant’s lack of attention to detail was that they had never taken down the sign on the building advertising the previous tenant. Having just eaten at Bull’s, I didn’t order food on this occasion but I did check out the sandwiches served to the two guys next to me. One gentlman had the Prime Rib Sub ($8.50) and the other the Chicken Bacon Ranch ($7.50). Both were served with “fresh-cut fries” and I immediately noticed the kitchen didn’t have a clue how to cook fries from fresh potatoes. I also noticed there was NOTHING on the plate besides the fries and sandwich. And, I mean NOTHING! No pickle, no lettuce, no tomato, NOTHING! It was the two most monochromatic plates of food I have ever seen in my life.
Thinking perhaps this experience was an anolomy due to opening jitters, I decided (against my better judgement) to give them another chance. The intervening two weeks did nothing to improve the appearance of the restaurant. The old sign was still on the building and the front door was still unpainted. On the plus side, they did hang several new posters, but this improvement was more than offset by the traffic cone in the hallway keeping be from putting my foot through the floor.
Often, when I’m trying to get a sense of a restaurant, I’ll graze on several appetizers to get a broad overview of what the kitchen is attempting to offer. This approach did not work tonight because every appetizer on the menu was deep fried. Let me repeat, EVERY appetizer on the menu was cooked in the deep fryer. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that in a restaurant. MAYBE in a cheap bar, but in a so-called restaurant where the entrees START at $16?
In attempting to choose the lesser of numerous anticipated evils, I ordered the Fish Tacos, described as “fresh fish filet, slaw, fresh guac, sprouts and onions combine[sic] in fan “taste” tic fashion”. Who writes this crap? The “dish” was offered with “fries” or “chips”. I had already seen the “fries” on the previous occasion, so I opted for the chips. Who in their right mind would offer “fries” or “chips” with a taco? The “taco” arrived in a reasonable amount of time and before I even ate a bite I could tell there were problems. What they called “chips” were undercooked crinkle cut slices of potatoes that were so limp I could bend them in half without breaking them. A layer of oil glistened off the “chips” and left drops of grease on the plate, the rim of which was already dirty from previous use. What they called a “taco” was even more disgusting. It was rolled like a burrito and cut on the bias as you would a sandwich wrap. What really got to me was that they put the veggies in the burrito BEFORE throwing on the grill to mark it off. The greens, whatever they may have been to start with, were nothing more than a wilted mass of garbage inside a barely warmed flour tortilla. Also, you would think a little pico de gallo might be in order for a Mexican dish. Heck, I would have settled for a bit of bottled taco sauce just for a bit of color if nothing else.The price for this “dish” was $8.50 which they removed from my bill after complaining about the quality.
I could go on and on about the lack of cleanliness, the disrepair of the building, etc., but I’ll spare you additional gory details. Suffice to say, this is by FAR the worst restaurant experience I have ever experienced in the Laurel Highlands, and this from owners who promised a new day after years of mismanagement at Hidden Valley Resort. I guess this is what happens when a real estate company gets involved in the hospitality business and I have no doubt George Parke is rolling over in his grave.
With the sale of Hidden Valley Resort, Hop’s Pub is now closed.