German and Southern? The concept doesn’t exactly sound inspiring, but the minds behind Hoptinger make this unique blend work. Hoptinger is a welcome new addition to the St. Augustine food scene. The original beir garden and sausage house opened its doors in Jacksonville Beach. The St. Augustine location was second, with a Five Points location due to open in Jacksonville in December. The concept is modeled off of a German beir garden: large tables, a spacious patio with outdoor seating, and room for music and bar games. The menu has a familiar German foundation with Southern and American flourishes. And beer. Eighty-six different varieties on tap.
The St. Augustine Hoptinger is located a few blocks over the Bridge of Lions on Anastasia Island, making it very accessible if you are exploring the Historic District or discovering what St. Augustine Beach has to offer. Being on The Island also provides the perk of having parking and easy car access, a luxury that is hard to come by in the Historic District.
We visited Hoptinger for a Saturday lunch. The patio area is beautiful, with large tables that can seat many friends and the space adorned with plants and flowers. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with a refreshing breeze and the customers were enjoying the laid back environment. The inside of the restaurant is spacious, with a large bar that dominates the middle of the dining area. There is also a stage for live music, which is featured every Friday and Saturday. Several garage doors are incorporated into one side of the building, and these were completely open, letting in plenty of sunlight.
Our waiter was very friendly and helpful during our meal; 86 beers is a blessing, but it is also a little overwhelming. We did not even think about tackling the full bar and many mixed drinks featured. He was well-versed in the many options and easily guided us through the newspaper like menu. The beers at this restaurant are sourced from around the world, but there is a large selection of local brews. As you read through the menu, there are helpful suggestions and a featured flight (which I am currently planning a date night around).
Do not be intimidated by the German influence of this restaurant. There are many familiar items on the menu, and most of the traditional beir garden fare has been interestingly interpreted to please the Southern American palate. For example, my husband ordered The Southerner: a jalapeno cheddar wurst, topped with pulled pork, caramelized onions, and pickled mustard seeds. This sausage seemed a little too forced, but it works! As the pickled mustard seeds popped in my mouth, I was transported back into my German grandmother’s dining room. I think grandmother would approve.
I was intrigued by the Stuft Burger selection. No typical burgers here. Each ½ pound Angus burger is stuffed with an interesting combination of ingredients and no substitutions. I love a chef that stands by her creations. I chose the Bang-A-Rang because I love spicy food with my beer. My burger was stuffed with cream cheese filled jalapenos, topped with banana peppers, a sweet and spicy aioli, lettuce, and pepper jack cheese. The burger really was not that spicy. The cream cheese did an excellent job of cutting the heat, no need to fear.
Each entrée comes with a choice of side. There are the usual fries and seasonal veggies, but there are more creative interpretations as well. Chorizo Mac ‘n’ Cheese, beerkraut, creamed kale, horseradish smashed potatoes, and corn succotash all looked very tempting, but Hoptinger has German potato salad. What I have to say next is coming from a girl that, until she was about nine believed potato salad was served warm, enveloped in a tangy vinegar base, and garnished with crispy bacon curls. It was so good. German comfort food good. Hoptinger, you get me. I will have a very difficult time ordering anything other than the potato salad and I was thrilled to have our waiter point out that it was a must.
My children could not be convinced to try more adventurous fare and stuck with their favorites: corndogs, chicken fingers, and fries. The chicken fingers looked to be house made and not from a factory. My son was pleased to report that the corndog was excellent. The fries were also very good, crisp and fresh.
Hoptinger also has other sandwiches, bar snacks, salads, and larger entrées. I was surprised, and pleased, to find a vegetarian and vegan section on the menu. It is a little skimpy, but we are talking about a beir garden. The next time, deserts will be devoured. The blueberry bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce and torn apple cider fritter sound delicious. There is also a weekend brunch. I have found that there are only a few places in St. Augustine that do brunch well. Hoptinger approaches this meal with the same inventive creativity that is present during lunch and dinner. It was very difficult to not order The Chicken Donut, a fresh baked donut stick, beer-battered chicken breast, and maple hot sauce, however I had just eaten a giant burger. I cannot imagine how this dish is put together, but I really want to find out.
Before we got to our car, we had already planned another trip to Hoptinger. Actually a few: date night, brunch, and a visit to introduce our group of friends and family to the beir garden. It is a definite must visit if you are looking for a casual, fun atmosphere that delivers satisfying and interesting food. Oh, and they have beer. Do yourself a favor, drive over the bridge. I promise the drive is worth it.
Writer Cassie Oborne grew up in the beautiful Gulf Coast city of Naples, Florida. She graduated from Flagler College, where she studied English and Secondary Education. After graduation, she and her husband made St. Augustine their permanent home. She has spent the last 16 years exploring and eating her way around the ancient city.