Service in Short Supply at Hopmonk

Sonoma's newest hot-spot has more than enough buzz, but does the experience measure up to the rave reviews?

In theory, everything about Hopmonk Tavern makes sense.  The patio layout is the best in town, perfect for enjoying sunshine and music, and the beer selection is perfect - packed with Sonoma county favorites and their own micro-brews (I loved my Hopmonk Tavern Ale).  But as time passed during my first visit, none of this seemed to make a difference.

Since the thorough conversion from Emmy’s Pizza Shack to Hopmonk Tavern by the Gordon Biersch people last year, I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz praising Sonoma’s newest Tavern - which offers traditional and innovative pairings of beer and food, with an emphasis on local suppliers.  Last Sunday had the makings of a perfect Hopmonk evening: the weather was absolutely beautiful, and great local band, The Easy Leaves, were playing on the patio. I was excited to check it all out.

Upon arrival, Hopmonk seemed like an ideal venue for hanging out in Sonoma, the place I’ve been waiting for - long picnic tables packed with all walks of life. I was feeling great about this place. 

But as time passed, a dismal mess unfolded...and in true Sonoma fashion no one got mad, we just sat back and watched the train wreck. 

The issue at Hopmonk is clearly an organizational problem; I have never seen communication at a restaurant so poor, especially coming from such a successful corporation.

The young staff of frowning faces was very busy walking around in circles and was rarely doing anything productive.  Most of us were ignored.  All the patrons on the back patio seemed to stare and ponder the display: it took a minimum of twenty minutes for a drink and an eternity for food - and if it arrived, it was likely to be the wrong dish.

Well, at least I’ve heard the food is good, but I wouldn’t know.  After sitting at Hopmonk for almost two hours no one ever asked if I wanted some.

Somehow I enjoyed my time at Hopmonk, thanks to the sun and music.  It’s too bad all the unacknowledged people who walked out missed The Easy Leaves - hopefully Hopmonk’s booking agent keeps doing a good job and the waitstaff irons out the kinks. It'd be a shame to waste such a perfect spot.

Hopmonk, 691 Broadway  (707) 935-9100

laurie sterner April 08, 2011 at 12:17 AM
The first time I tried Hopmonk, I was very, very disappointed. Extremely sweet server, but the service was horrible. Food was not any better. Can't screw up a beer, so they had that going for them! Thanks to Jen - one of their wonderful Bartenders, I tried the place again. Service was much better, the food was still OK and the beer was just as good! Time after that, they had a "water back-up problem" (as we were told by our waitress) and the whole place smelled like the sewer. Believe it or not, been back quite a few times since- sometimes the service is awesome and other time's not. The food is still good if you order a cheese sandwich or fish and chips, but other than that, pretty much glorified Denny's if you ask me. I do however, LOVE the atmosphere- with or without a band playing, LOVE their beer selection and I guess for being a "bar-Like" atmosphere, who would expect the food to be awesome. I'll keep continuing to go back and hopefully in time- things will run much smoother and consistently.
Perri Ellis Paniagua April 08, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Right after Christmas since all my three kids were in town we decided to go to the much talked about restaurant Hopmonk for lunch. There were plenty of wait people all around and very few patrons, but the 7 of us had to sit ourselves, Then we waited and waited for anyone to even ask for our order of food or drink! My husband finally had to flag someone over. The waiter rudely asked what we wanted!! How about someone to take our order! The service was the worst I ever experienced and I'm 60+ years old. We waited and waited and waited. Beers finally come, but no food. When the food came it was a total disappointment..fries still frozen in the middle, etc. Wanted to know how Kathleen Hill could have written praises about this place because my family and I did not see anything remotely okay about this place. And there were no apologies whatsoever about the poor service or food. Why we didn't walk out and just go up to the Red Grape I don't know.
Alexis Fitts April 08, 2011 at 08:23 PM
I've definitely heard of people having similar experiences to David's at Hopmonk, thanks everyone for sharing. The one time I've been the service was fine - but it was also about 3 p.m. on a Wednesday - so not exactly peak hours. Opening a restaurant is hard business, and obviously service standards usually improve drastically after the first few months. Hopefully Laurie, you're right, and they're just working out some kinks.
Lillian Sanchez April 10, 2011 at 12:01 AM
My husband told me a story about being there one night with a friend of ours and they waited a very looooooooooooooooooooonggggggggggg time to get a Beer. After finally being served, they then waited for the bartender to tell them how much for the beer....well the bartender never came back, so they drank their beer and left. Thanks for the free beer Hopmonk! A few other times i've been either my experience has been the same, everyone just ignores you. Maybe one day they'll get it together on the service.


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