“People will walk a mile or 2 miles ... and across the tracks” for the sandwich bread at Hop’s Kitchen in Gainesville, Rosemary Dodd said recently.
In fact, the well-known local artist is a regular customer at the full-service restaurant with catering options found inside Featherbone Communiversity off Chestnut Street. Dodd is usually accompanied during her trip to Hop’s Kitchen.
“One of the things I try to do at least once a week when I am in town is to bring somebody new,” she said.
Her favorite item on the menu is the “Momo” bread.
“It is real bread, real homemade bread,” Dodd said slowly for emphasis.
Momo bread is one of the signatures at Hop’s Kitchen, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary in Gainesville. The small business opened in the final week of June 2016, owner and operator Mark Hopkins said.
He explained the Momo bread — the name his nephew gave Hopkins’ mother — is actually his mother’s recipe that took him quite a few tries to master.
“It took me about eight tries to get it right,” he said, pointing out his mother showed him how to do it over and over again. “And she would do three loaves at a time.”
His mother’s homemade bread is not the only contribution from his family to his fledgling business. His parents encouraged him to attend the business incubator at Lanier Technical College. He eventually opened a restaurant in the Featherbone Communiversity lunchroom.
“It took a little convincing,” said Hopkins, who attended a culinary school in Los Angeles and planned to return there after his 2« month stent working in a vineyard and on a goat farm in Italy through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. “I moved (back to Gainesville) to save up some money and go to Italy ... and then planned to go back to L.A.”
Instead, his parents talked him out of it and “talked (him) into this,” Hopkins said, waving to his restaurant. Then his parents jumped into action, helping their youngest son start his business. His mother, Joan, taught him how to make her homemade bread. His father Ralph, as well as a carpenter and electrician who were friends, spent six months gutting Featherbone’s former lunchroom and transforming it into a full kitchen.
However, Hopkins still was uncertain about his decision to open Hop’s Kitchen. But a few months after the grand opening, he realized he was where he should be.
“(It was) maybe when I created the BLT,” he said. “I do a little dance every time I eat one ... because it is so good.”
The BLT features a fried pickled green tomato, housemade bacon and lettuce served on Momo bread.
“The first time I made one I couldn’t believe how good it was,” he said.
Since then, Hopkins has seen his small business thrive.
“I think it’s better and better each month as far as sales,” he said. “We still have fun coming up with new creations.”
He especially enjoys the ability to change his menu.
“You don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over,” he said. “If I don’t like something, then I can change it and take it off the menu.”
But he does have other signature sandwiches, including the “Pork-etta” sandwich. It is an herb-roasted pork shoulder with sauteed greens and Momo sauce (similar to horseradish) and ciabatta, according to the menu.
“It’s just one of those sandwiches that comes together and just makes sense,” Hopkins said.
And Hop’s Kitchen customers seem to agree. Many come from Featherbone Communiversity, which is home to the Brenau University Department of Nursing, the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, Lanier Technical College Manufacturing Development Center and the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute.
Dodd said the food keeps them returning again and again.
“I love it because it’s fun to come,” she said. “And it always smells good.”