With the volatile Colorado weather threatening our precious patio season, I’m scrambling to drink up my outdoor seating while it lasts. Creatively redesigned sidewalks, verges, streetways, parking lots: These have been the funky silver lining to the restaurant scene during the pandemic. The long-loved Hops & Pie in the Berkeley neighborhood has made brilliant use of a wide-open parking lot set with spaced-out tables that give it a quaint urban picnic feel, making its normally appetizing combo of pizza and craft beer all the more enticing.
In addition to offering one of the best spots on Tennyson Street for dining outdoors, Hops & Pie maintains its list of deals throughout the week and weekend. More than a happy hour, many of these run all evening after 5 p.m., or on weekends before 5 p.m. Last week, I happened to require my pizza fix on a Wednesday, and thus, incidentally, opted for the restaurant's craft-can night. In the last month or two, I’ve also been on board for the Tuesday deal that lands you a two-topping, eighteen-inch pie and two beers for $25.
If you’d like to sit in the fabulous parking lot picnic area, you might have to wait your turn. But Tennyson Street has enough to look at for this to be a planned part of your evening. Take those climbing shoes you swore you’d break in but never did over to Feral, or grab a pre-dinner ice cream over at High Point Creamery (we're adults, so we can do that). Then, once your number gets called, come in through the darling picket fence and let the git-’er-done servers escort your masked self over to a table.
From there, if you don’t know what you want, Hops & Pie can be a wild ride. Aside from the pie of the month or the slice of the day, there are a bazillion combinations to imagine. Still want more? Salads, sandwiches and sweets abound, as well. I’ve had good luck with the artisan pie of the month, even if they're sometimes over the top; just be sure you’re in the mood for the likes of cassoulet, elote or chicken piccata on a pizza. Otherwise, my recommendation is to keep it simple.
My frequent process is to get one of each pizza styles: the traditional crust (here made with IPA in the dough) and the Detroit, because leftover pizza never goes uneaten. This round my friends and I opted to put my favorite topping combo — sweet pineapple and spicy pepperoni (which I will argue to the death is superior to the standard Hawaiian) — on the Detroit-style, and stuck with the kitchen's conception of a Margherita on the traditional crust. For beers, be careful when perusing the $2 specials: You might also find your eye resting on a can that could ring in at $8. No matter which beer you select, though, most of the specials are about half off the normal price.
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Although we'd intended to enjoy the evening air and our pizza while sitting on tiny squares of AstroTurf, we discovered too late that dogs are not allowed inside the urban beer garden. So we opted to take our beers and pies to go, and ogled the newish Berkeley Donut (the restaurant's morning alter ego) offerings at the counter while we waited. Luckily, restaurant takeout booze requires government stickers over cans, or it would have been tempting to take a summer-evening sip on the way back to the car.
Once home, it was no time before three beers were poured and pizza distributed. While pizza comes in many forms, carbohydrates coated in cheese and sizzling in grease is almost always a good thing. A very good thing in the case of the Detroit-style — crispy, crunchy and salty, then soft and gooey. The Margherita was a little more like a New York-style jumbo slice — passable and lighter. We discussed whether a chiffonade of basil (as Hops & Pie serves it) upgrades the pie, saving you from a mouthful of leaves, or simply makes for desiccated basil strings. No matter, since it was all washed down with Call to Arms Janet Reno Dance Party IPA, Utica Club Pilsner and Dry Dock Vanilla Porter (all $2), running us through the gamut of flavors.
There are still many places to enjoy the last luster of summer, but with its community picnic atmosphere, fast and friendly service and reliable weekly deals, Hops & Pie remains one of my favorites.
Hops & Pie is located at 3920 Tennyson Street and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call 303-477-7000 or visit the restaurant's website for details and ordering.