The vegan fare at Hops & Pie makes us jump for joy

Hops & Pie is an ideal neighborhood establishment: simply furnished, small enough to have a strong sense of intimacy -- but with a big beer list. As a bonus, the kitchen offers not just several vegetarian options, but also vegan dishes. One look at the menu, and moving to the Berkeley neighborhood just so we could be Hops & Pie's regulars started to look like a fantastic idea.

There were plenty of people grabbing an early dinner this past Sunday afternoon, lots of friends and lovers having loud conversations around the bar (and slightly softer conversations in the dining room). The sun was slanting through the windows facing Tennyson Street, where a line of seats lets patrons watch the passing traffic while waiting on the bar to deliver brews or the kitchen to deliver pies.

Pictured above is a small (fourteen-inch) pizza with vegan cheese, blackberry barbecue sauce, smoked tofu and caramelized onions; this take on a barbecued chicken pizza was delicious. Hops & Pie smokes its own tofu, which gives it a delightfully authentic flavor (without any animals actually being involved), and the blackberry sauce, though sweet, was also tangy and only mildly fruity.

This vegetarian pie featured jalapenos, smoked tofu and dollops of mashed potatoes; other veggie topping possibilities include cherry tomatoes, broccoli, artichoke hearts, spinach and arugula, as well as such usual suspects as mushrooms, onions and bell peppers. The vegan mac and cheese (offered on the appetizer menu) came with crispy breadcrumbs on top; underneath, peas and mushrooms nestled amid the shells in a good, creamy sauce. If you eat cheese, go for the garlicky cheese bread: The serving is ample, so plan to take some home or split an order.

Hops & Pie is open daily (except Mondays) for lunch and dinner; call 303-477-7000 or visit www.hopsandpie.com.

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