Visiting Hopscotch Tavern, Post Cody Storts
A Season for Change, Drama at Hopscotch Tavern
Two years ago, Hopscotch Tavern in Downtown Fullerton was one of the hottest restaurants in Orange County. Chef Cody Storts and his team called “Culinary Militia”, developed the menu and launched Hopscotch’s reputation as a foodie destination.
A little drama occurred this summer between the owners and Chef Cody Storts /Culinary Militia. Based upon a published interview in OC Weekly, Chef Cody Storts indicated there has been long running issues between the owners and the kitchen team. The visible result was the Head Chef and kitchen team quitting in short order. See the original interview with Anne Marie from OC Weekly here, and pay attention to the comments.
Details are a bit he shady, but it sounds like the owner had to start over with a new chef and kitchen crew. Some of the dishes that made Hopscotch famous are still on the menu, although there is definitely a shift on the menu and execution.
I recently visited Hopscotch to investigate if the food still good at Hopsscotch Tavern? A successful entrepreneur can bounce back from these issues and even improve. How did Hopscotch do? Let us find out together.
What we tasted at Hopscotch Tavern
The food is still modern American with a slight artsy rustic appeal. The menu is small and organized by clever titles like “From the Dirt”, “From the Farm.”
Cheese and Charcuterie Board
The Cheese and Charcuterie board was very impressive due to the quality of cheeses, meats and sides. There is nothing worse than ordering a cheese board to discover a micro slice of cheese and a teaspoon of jam. Hopscotch gave us enough cheese to share among four people.
We had a blue, goat and I think sharp cheddar. The board also came with slices of chorizo, bar nuts, raisined fruit, olives, pickled onions, pickled cauliflower, and of course toast. For a price of $14, this was a good deal.
Mac and Cheese
The Mac and Cheese was a favorite of the table. It is made with gruyere, white cheddar, and pancetta. I liked the creaminess of the mac and the pasta had the right firmness. The bread crumbs on top added a nice flavor and texture contrast. $14
Bleu Cheese Burger
The Bleu Cheese Burger is made with Danish bleu cheese, bacon onion jam, wild arugula, tomato confit, garlic aioli. The Bleu Cheese Burger was ordered by two or my table mates, because they had heard Hopscotch had good burgers.
The verdict, this burger was very good, but a missed opportunity. The flavor layering of the burger was perfect. The blue cheese played a key role in the flavor profile, although it did not take over the palate. The bacon onion jam was delicious and the arugula, tomato confit and garlic aioli all added something to the overall song.
The issue is that the chef overcooked both burgers. We requested both burgers at medium and medium rare, unfortunately they were cooked well-done. Fortunately the meat itself was very juicy, despite the over-cooking. The oils from the blue cheese saved the day. This burger was good, but it could have been great.
The burger also came with a large plate of hand cut fries. I loved the fries. The only major is that the fries were over salted and I tasted the salt more than the potato. I ended up wiping off the salt from the fries; this was a slightly annoying inconvenience. $13
Seared Duck Breast
The seared duck breast is prepared medium-rare and ir has a really nice flavor. The meat itself was a tad fatty, making it hard to trim off the excess fat with the tableware. Once I removed the excess fat, the duck was very impressive. I liked the sea sour cherry jus, which was sprinkled over the duck as it provided a deeper flavor to the meat.
The accompaniments to the duck were both phenomenal. The polenta mash is made with mascarpone, resulting in a wonderfully creamy and smooth texture. My friend Stacy said, “I can eat this stuff by the mug.” The Brussels sprouts were also impressive with their caramelized exterior and slightly crunchy texture. $24
A beautiful cut of tri tip was served with a very delicious roasted cauliflower, bourbon raisin romescu sauce and almond slivers. Although this dish looks great, the tri tip meat itself had issues.
My brother requested the tri trip be cooked medium. Although our waitress dutifully told us that the restaurant only cooks the steak medium-rare, so that it does not get tough. Whenever I hear this, either they nail it or they fail at it. In this case, it was the later.
Later during dinner, I noticed that hewas not eating much of the tri tip.I asked him, “what’s the deal, don’t you like it?” He responded, “It was too tough and too rare.” I tried a piece to verify that he was not being a dandy with his food. I literally looked like an ox, rotating my jaw to break down the meat. He had to cut his meat into toddler sized portions to make it chewable.
His first bite from the end piece was medium (pictured), although as he worked his way to the center, it got rarer and rarer. Consequently, the meat also became tougher and tougher. I will skip the tri tip next time.
Cocktails at Hopscotch Tavern
Overall, we enjoyed the cocktail program at Hopscotch Tavern. We tried three of their signature cocktails, two were great and one was too sweet and had to send it back. I like the impressive collection of brown liquor, especially their library of whiskeys. The craft beer selection was also impressive, with a focus on local breweries. I would definitely order their craft cocktails again.
The Hopscotch Tavern building is a historical building that has been reclaimed as a restaurant. The interior is very rustic with exposed wood beams, wood slat walls and upscale Appalachia décor. The wall behind the bar showcases their impressive collection of whiskeys and brown liquors. My favorite part of the décor are the stuffed animal heads.
My Final Thoughts about Hopscotch Tavern
Hopscotch Tavern was good, but not great. The issues that I highlighted with the meal definitely cast a shadow over the experience.
The day we visited, the restaurant was busy; the restaurant is popular as ever. The general public may not see the difference since the entire kitchen changeover, although I could.
I think the new kitchen crew is still getting their bearings straight. I’m planning to revisit Hopscotch and I am confident that they will be better on my next visit. I recommend Hopscotch Tavern to my readers. Despite the issues I noted, the food was very flavorful and I liked the concept. Let me know about your recent experience at Hopscotch. Good? Bad? issues? I want to hear from you.