The Spicy Goat @ Hops Burger Bar

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hops_DSC001452419 Spring Garden St., Greensboro. 336.235.2178 or hopsburgerbar.com.

Rapper Meek Mill released a terrible song last year, right around the time that Hops opened, that succinctly summed up the point of this classy burger joint: “There’s levels to this….”

Indeed there are, and with three veggie burgers, superb truffle oil and Parmesan or sweet potato fries and several bun choices including a gluten-free option, Hops raised the bar. That, and obviously its pièce de résistance.

The prices and ambiance reflect the restaurant’s aims, and it quickly turned into the type of place that draws capacity crowds on Friday or Saturday nights.

The Hawaiian, with a chili sauce, bleu cheese and a large slice of grilled pineapple, is a strong option, but the best thing to go for during non-peak hours is the Spicy Goat.

The pairing of Goat Lady Dairy cheese and a sweet/spicy pepper jelly (that isn’t all that hot) is difficult to beat, and bacon and lettuce round out the dish.

The Spicy Goat may actually taste better with the mushroom cauliflower burger — multiple visits to the restaurant still didn’t turn up a definitive winner.

The best of Hops’ three vegan substitute patties, the mushroom cauliflower burger, is no stand in — it’s the real deal. Even meat eaters may rightly prefer it to the beef option based on the strength of its execution and taste rather than anything lacking in the more traditional approach. And its flavor pairs best with the Spicy Goat, which in truth is just as sweet and savory as it is spicy, making it accessible even to mild palettes.

The veggie patties are generous, sometimes spilling over the edges of the bun, meaning it might make sense to avoid putting the burger down. Chances are that won’t be a challenge.

-EG

[This article is part of the cover story “The Hamburger Renaissance” published on July 2, 2014.]