No, they don’t serve the Maytag Blue Cheese Souffle.
That and many of the other upscale touches locals may remember from Bradley Ogden’s first, eponymous Las Vegas restaurant are missing from his decidedly downscale second one, Hops &Harvest.
But it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that.
It seems that Ogden and/or his partners have learned from the mistakes of others, with the Tre/Hannah’s/Seastone/Baja California/veterinary hospital, just down the street from Hops &Harvest’s Tivoli Village location, immediately coming to mind. So when I call Hops &Harvest “downscale,” that translates to “accessible,” more in line with a restaurant in the suburbs.
Which is not to say it isn’t good. In fact, it’s excellent.
Take your basic burger, for instance, in this case the Avocado Swiss Burger ($15.75). Yes, that isn’t exactly a bargain price for a burger, but what you’re getting here isn’t a bargain burger. Knowing of Ogden’s farm-to-table philosophy and penchant for details, I assumed it would be a blend of different cuts of beef and ordered it medium-rare, which gave our excellent server not a bit of pause. And there it was in all its glory, pink and juicy and with lots of deep, beefy flavor, layered with Swiss and what must have been a whole avocado shingled on the top. And — and this is one of those details that literally fall apart in a lot of other places — the bun was substantial enough to contain all of that juiciness without dissolving. With it was served a cone of hand-cut fries that were absolutely perfect, crispy-edged and with fluffy interiors.
We’d started with something a little more trendy, the pork belly bites ($8.50). The menu didn’t provide much insight into exactly what these would be, but they turned out to be chunks that had been fried until they were crisp on the outside, the outer surface shattering to give way to the juicy, bacony goodness within. With them were bits of blue cheese and a few chunks of celery to contrast all that richness, but the pork belly was by far the predominant element here, and their sublime juices coated the cheese and the celery and added flavor to both.
Continuing in the comfort-food vein we decided on the braised shortribs ($24), which were a pretty classic preparation, perfectly prepared with a maple-beer glaze. With them was a sort of pool of mashed potatoes and a heap of lightly dressed arugula, which again provided a contrasting touch of austerity.
Dessert? Why not; besides, we were intrigued by the butterscotch pudding ($9). It seems that everything today is salted caramel, and Ogden could have easily taken it in that direction. Instead he resisted the trend and went with classic butterscotch, rich with the flavors of butter and cream and caramelized sugar, with a cloud of whipped cream on top and snickerdoodle cookies for contrasting crunch.
Service? Well, the runners were pleasant and efficient, but our server was an absolute wonder, even bringing us samples of two of the vast variety of beers when we were torn between them. She was professional but extremely pleasant, with a warm, nurturing air that was classic Mom, if Mom is tatted and in her 20s.
Which fit right in with the decor of the place — comfortable but sort of sports-barry, without the noise and with a soundtrack that’s straight ’60s and ’70s classic rock, with Janis and the Stones and “Free Bird” without anybody yelling for it.
So, as you can see, if you’re looking for Ogden’s Caesars Palace restaurant, you won’t find it here. What you’ll find is a comfortable, friendly spot, with food, service and atmosphere (and prices) that make it perfect for the suburbs.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.