The Hopleaf Bar is Brussels in Chicago

Posted on December 15, 2015


We studied abroad in London in 2003. From United Kingdom, we made many weekend getaways to other Western European countries. We took our first such trip to Brussels, Belgium. Honestly, we didn’t expect much. We had a free weekend and said, “Hey, Brussels is close.” And, it was close; it was also awesome. Travel is all about discovery. We made some brilliant discoveries that weekend in Brussels, namely mussels and great beer.

Hailing from the Great Plains, mussels never reached our dinner table. Beer had, of course. But craft beer hadn’t really emerged yet. We thought good beer was like Amstel Light or Peroni. One week in Brussels changed that. We figured that we had to eat mussels in Brussels, mostly because the two words rhymed and it’d be a funny story to share with friends, but we so thoroughly enjoyed them that we had mussels for every meal. We also learned an undeniable truth: Trappist monks make inspired beer.

Returning home, we didn’t lose the taste for these Belgian specialties but access proved difficult. We luckily found The Hopleaf Bar in Chicago. Before craft beer was everywhere, it was here but not many other places. Hopleaf had then and has now an amazing array of Belgian beers. But this is heaven for beer lovers, and they embrace delicious beer whatever its origins. And, mussels. They had and have the best mussels. Belgian-style with shallots, celery, thyme and bay leaf. We love the duck reuben as well. On your first visit, though, get the mussels. You have to get the mussels.


Hopleaf is located in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, which itself merits exploration. The 22 bus or a red line train will get you there easy.

We’re still in search of an American street vendor selling waffles drizzled in warm chocolate sauce. Street waffles are the best. Trust us, we’ve eaten many a waffle.

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