Saturday, March 11, 2017

Episode LI: The Hoppy Monk (SAT)

I celebrated my 33rd birthday last week and the crew from work wanted to take me out to lunch to get a Reuben. I said thanks, but no thanks. I had a trip to the Hoppy Monk in San Antonio coming up that weekend and I couldn’t be distracted by another Reuben.  We had some great Mexican that day instead.

The Hoppy Monk in El Paso was featured on Episode XL and I often cite it as one of the best Reubens I’ve had. The location in San Antonio has a Reuben de Lengua, which had been on my radar. It was time to check it out and let the world know what happens when you put beef tongue and sauerkraut together.

“ten-day cured wagyu beef tongue + muenster + sauerkraut + russian sauce + marbled rye”

Appearance – (4.6/5.0)
Lovely stacking.  The marbled rye looks like a cut out cross section of a bullseye. The sauerkraut gives a great visual contrast and the bottom piece has the Russian dressing seeping out.  They may have forgotten the dressing on the top piece. You can also see the salt crystals on the lengua meat and the tiny bits of moisture it pulls out. The fries are generously seasoned with fresh herbs that put some green on the plate.  A flimsy sword/toothpick keeps it all together but overall, a great looking dish. 

Quality of Ingredients – (4.7/5.0)
This one was encroaching on RINO territory (Reuben in name only), by swapping out the corned beef and Swiss cheese, but still had the sauerkraut, marbled rye, and Russian dressing to restore credibility.

Great ingredients and an even better job of marketing them to the customer. The menu and website direct lots of attention to all of the local suppliers and I think that makes the food taste better.  They have the placebo effect working for them here.  When you take a bite, you say to yourself, “Oh yeah, this tastes like it came from that farm I drove by last week in the Hill Country.”  They also have an amazing house made ketchup. Remember, we are in Whataburger country here, so anything that can compete with Whataburger Ketchup and Whataburger Spicy Ketchup has got to be pretty amazing.

This place talks the talk and walks the walk. 

Price – (4.0/5.0)
$11. So this is not cheap, especially for South Texas, but I think the dish as a whole is a good value. For one thing, you know you are paying for the local ingredients.  Another is that they are not shy about bringing you more of the ketchup when you ask. You also know you are paying for the ambiance. There is an awesome beer tap fountain outside and the inside is a long room with community tables so it has the feel of a European beer hall.   

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.4/5.0)
Anything that has lengua is going to have a high JNSQ score. I just like this place. I came here a few months back for drinks with friends and that is when I discovered their special Reuben. That was a late night stop with the guys drinking beers and this time I was with my son and two nephews right when they opened early in the day. This place is versatile. The owners are from El Paso, so they have that going for them too. 

Taste – (8.0/10.0)
What happened?! It was too salty for my taste. This might be by design, a marketing trick as old as time.  What do you need with a salty snack? Something to wash it down. The drink menu here is 20 pages long.

I was a fat kid growing up and will be a fat kid for life. I have to watch what I eat (and drink).  I know I can only consume so many calories at a time and I prefer to eat my calories. I realize that this is a microbrew and their whole thing is the beer, I get it. I also grew up in a house where my mother was scared of only three things: scorpions, garlic, and salt. It’s weird. My mom uses very little salt when she cooks and no garlic. So my tolerance for salt is lower than others. What I wanted to do was order a nice local beer, rinse the lengua in the beer to remove the excess salt, then reconstruct the Reuben. I think that would have been awesome. The lengua itself was great and prepared really well. It is a tough cut of meat and usually requires a slow cooker or a pressure cooker to really break it down.  

Overall – (25.7/30.0)
Would I order it again? No.  I had some of my wife’s burger and it was amazing (Burger blogs are a dime a dozen, you can find a write up there); I am getting that next time.  Or maybe the next time I go I’ll drink my calories and get a flight of Texas beer. Either way, I can’t wait to go back.  


  1. I was at this place last week. This is such a joy as a place for food! I had a beautiful time here. It reminded me of other LA event venues. A beautiful, wonderful place that had excellent atmosphere.

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