I'd been hearing about a new place over in the Iowa City/Coralville area that had an interesting selection of beers, eclectic shareable food, and a spacious second floor outdoor patio deck that was extremely popular in the summer months. While over in Iowa City for a brief shopping excursion, my wife and I stopped into 30hop to see what it was all about.
30hop is located in the Iowa River Landing development in Coralville that features shopping, restaurants, hotels, commercial and medical offices. (see map) It's owners feature a "who's-who" of Iowa City area restaurateurs including Eric Shewmaker from BlackStone restaurant and bar, Matthew Swift of Red's Ale House in North Liberty, Brian Flynn who also has a stake in BlackStone, as well as Vesta (also located within the Iowa River Landing area), Donnelly's Irish Pub and the venerable Joe's Place bar in downtown Iowa City, and Dan Blum who was the general manager of BlackStone during its formative years.
The group opened 30hop in the summer of 2014. The group hired Iowa City native Ryan Funk as the executive chef of 30hop. Funk is a graduate of the culinary school at the Art Institute of California-San Diego and has worked under celebrity chef Brian Malarkey. Funk's culinary background also included a stint under award-winning chef Anthony Sinsay whose Filipino-inspired shareable foods found their way to 30hop.
The interior of 30hop is a combination of rustic charm and contemporary industrial with barn board facades over the bar area, an open ceiling with exposed beams, large metal window frames that let a lot of natural light in, and number of wooden booths and sturdy tables with metal chairs. As an added "rural/urban" touch, the tables and booths near the bar area featured suspended lights with stainless steel buckets as shades. 30hop's interior and exterior was designed by the Chicago architectural firm Pappageorge Haymes giving the space an “trendy-yet-comfortable, urban-industrial" feel. A large American flag painted onto barn boards is the overwhelming feature in the dining area.
It was around 1:30 when we got into 30hop. The place was about half full of people and our hostess tried to sit us at a high-top semi-communal table. My short wife balked at this noting that there were booths open along the windows. The hostess quickly changed course and showed us to a booth. She dropped off a couple menus and not long after that our server Victoria came to greet us.
Victoria asked us what we'd like to drink. They have over 2 dozen beers on tap from microbreweries around the Midwest. The only problem was that we didn't have a beer menu on the table. Victoria reached for one on another table and we took a quick look through the beer menu while she did something else for a moment. When she came back, I ordered a 23 ounce glass of the 8-Bit American Pale Ale from the Tallgrass Brewing Co. in Manhattan, KS that was more hoppy than other APA's that I've had. My wife was looking for a true IPA and she settled upon the NZ IPA from the Zipline Brewing Co. in Lincoln, NE. The NZ IPA uses a series of hops grown on New Zealand and it was actually pretty smooth for a somewhat hoppy beer.
The menu is pretty concise featuring the aforementioned sharable plates that are more like tapas-style appetizers. Dishes such as the Sisig - pork belly, egg and rice; the Veggie Noodles - wok-stirred vegetables, noodles, sesame oil and garlic; and the Chicken Lollies - with chorizo, sweet piqullo peppers and chopped celery showed Ryan Funk's influence of Filipino food. The sharable plates also featured mac and cheese, calamari with apples and arugula, and crab cakes with arugula and drizzled with Tabasco and lemon juice.
Other than the shareable plates, they had a handful of burgers and sandwiches, as well as few entrees such as a duck breast, a New York strip or beef tenderloin filet, and seafood options such as salmon or a black cod filet that both had Pacific-rim flavors with them.
They had a few eclectic burgers such as a lamb or turkey burger, as well as a ground chicken burger or a grilled chicken filet. 30hop also featured a 50/50 burger - one half ground beef, one half ground bacon. I've seen similar burgers pop up at some other burger places, but as much as I like bacon I don't think that having half the burger made out of bacon would be a good combination. One never knows until they tried it, I guess.
I decided upon the 30hop burger - it came topped with white cheddar cheese, a bacon/mayo spread, and lettuce and tomato. I got their battered fries as a side. Cindy also got the 30hop burger, only she got the sweet potato fries for her side.
The burgers came out to the table with a nice presentation. The lettuce consisted of one small green leaf, but the tomato slice was a deep red in color. We were amazed that a tomato that red and ripe - and flavorful - would be available in Iowa in the dead of winter.
The burger was thick with a hint of pink in the middle - the way I like my burgers. The first bite told me that this was a very good burger. It was juicy and full of that great beef flavor from a grilled burger. The bun wasn't thick, but held together very well with the toppings and condiments. Bottom line - this was a exceptional burger.
Both the battered fries that I had and the sweet potato fries that Cindy had were just "meh!" The star of the plate was the burger and I wasn't at all put out by the underwhelming sides because the burger - on its own - was more than enough.
Our first visit to 30hop was good - a very pleasant experience with a very good burger. Victoria did a very good job of taking care of us. And the beer list was very good and very interesting. We made a plan to come back in the warmer months to dine, or at the very least, have a beer with some local friends on the upper outside deck. 30hop is a welcome addition to the ever growing list of eateries and beer pubs around the Iowa City area.