by Damon Noisette // photo by Agnes Lopez
A short walk from Seawalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach, Hoptinger Bier Garden & Sausage House isn’t likely to be mistaken for a traditional Bavarian biergärten. For one, most of the restaurant’s seating is indoors and the interior is dominated by a large bar that surrounds the smallish kitchen in the center of the restaurant. That being said, its selection of locally sourced bratwurst and sausages is front and center on a very budget-friendly menu and the restaurant boasts an impressive selection of beers on draught.
We were introduced to the term “Baverican,” a portmanteau of Bavarian and American that actually summed up the cheeky Bavarian-inspired pub menu and setting pretty well. Our long wood table was next to a mural featuring the likeness of one of the owners confidently riding a pig with wings while holding a beer. Other walls were exposed brick or adorned with slick beer or sausage-themed propaganda style art, one of which declares the restaurant “the wurst.” Clever.
A shuffleboard table was conveniently nearby and we managed to get in a quick game while we waited for our appetizers, the cheeseheads ($5), hopsliders ($7) and poutine ($6). The cheeseheads, a delightfully gooey mound of beer battered and fried Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds, are served with a lager yellow mustard for dipping. Dressed in a horseradish gravy, the poutine was so punchy it made one in our group cough a bit.
After our server assured me that it was one of her favorite menu items, I took her word and ordered the Elvis Presley ($11), a half-pound Angus beef burger topped with maple glazed bacon, sweet pepper relish, fried shallots and peanut butter. Despite the burger itself being cooked well, the peanut butter overpowered every bite. I had better luck with the mezcal michelada ($9), one of Hoptinger’s “Bier Cocktails.” Served in a tall glass with salt and pepper lining the rim, the combination of mezcal, house made sangrita and Tecate lager ended up tasting like a light and smoky version of a bloody Mary.
My dining companions gave the thumbs up on Hoptinger’s sausages, particularly the bacon mac & cheese dawg ($9) and the Rise and Shiner ($10), a juicy bratwurst topped with a maple glazed bacon strip, caramelized onions, Jon Boat bacon mustard and a fried egg that soaked the potato roll bun. We all made sure to ask for extra napkins before moving onto dessert.
While the apple cider donut ($5) was definitely in need of ice cream ($2) to add some moisture, our server did redeem herself with her recommendation, the blueberry bread pudding ($5), a square of macerated blueberries, custard bread and bourbon caramel sauce, all topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($2).
Hoptinger Bier Garden & Sausage House
333 1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach; 222-0796 hoptinger.com Hours: 11 AM-2 AM, daily
Prices: Appetizers $3-$6; Sausages $9-$10; Burgers and Sandwiches $8-$11
Craft brews at the beach: Lager lovers can sample from a rotating list of 62 beers on tap.
Hoppy times: Drink specials offered on weekdays, 4-7 PM and a late night happy hour, 10 PM-2 AM (Monday-Thursday) with food specials. There is also a full liquor bar.
Vegetarian sausage: Vegans and vegetarians can get in on the sausage action and order the Veggie Might Dawg ($8), a tofu bratwurst served with avocado and Bavarian sweet mustard.
Coming soon: A second location is currently under construction in St. Augustine in what used to be The Standard.