HopCat opens Saturday with crack fries, 100 beers

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

This weekend the latest HopCat beer bar to open will join Ale Mary’s, Bastone and Jolly Pumpkin, Royal Oak Brewery, Roak Brewing and others to further solidify the Oakland County suburb’s standing as a craft beer hub.

The 500-capacity, three-level bar and restaurant will open Saturday with 100 different craft beers. Large crowds are expected, and the first 200 customers will get free crack fries each week for a year. The seasoned fries are the craft beer bar’s signature snack. It’s just one item on HopCat’s extensive, beer-friendly menu.

The Royal Oak location, at 208 W. Fifth, is the sixth HopCat in Michigan and the 13th nationwide.

HopCat founder Mark Sellers said he had a different design in mind for each floor. All levels were completely renovated from floor to ceiling.

“On the first floor, it’s more a pub. It’s somewhat reminiscent of HopCat Grand Rapids,” Sellers said. “There’s a lot of differences, too ... it’s very warm colors, which is what I think a pub should be. Wood tones and browns and no real bright colors.”

The first floor also is decorated with original portraits of American jazz greats, which Sellers commissioned from French artist Sebastian Di Natale. While he said he’s a big jazz fan, HopCat Royal Oak will have no live music, save for maybe some acoustic performers on the third-level patio.

The second floor is more elegant with red leather booths, table and bar seating, and large windows facing Fifth Avenue.

“We went for an art deco, speakeasy or cocktail lounge look,” said Sellers, who is opening his next HopCat in downtown Minneapolis in late July.

Location-wide, HopCat recently introduced a “Cat Tails” menu of specialty cocktails, like a twist on a screwdriver called Skip the Mimosa with vanilla vodka, hefeweizen beer and orange juice. The Breakfast All Day is made with caramel whiskey, pineapple juice and maple-bacon.

Those recall the bars that occupied the space before HopCat — Woody’s and Onyx restaurant — will likely remember Woody’s popular rooftop deck, one of the highest views of any restaurant in downtown Royal Oak. This area has been totally revamped and can seat 180 guests at the bar, at tables or in a lounge.

Sellers said he believes his newest HopCat will fit in well with Royal Oak nightlife.

“We’re not a total party bar, but we’re not a real high-end experience,” he said. “We’re more just for the regular person, but of course we focus only on craft beer, and that’s one thing that differentiates us from a lot of other pubs — no Bud, no Miller, no Coors.”

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Twitter: @melodybaetens

HopCat Royal Oak

208 W. Fifth, Royal Oak

Opening 11 a.m. Saturday

HopCat by the numbers

5: Years in a row the original HopCat in Grand Rapids was named “Best Brew Pub in the Nation” by

6: Number of HopCat beer bars in Michigan

Almost 10: It’s been nearly a decade since HopCat Grand Rapids opened

13: The Royal Oak restaurant is HopCat’s 13th nationwide

90: Percentage of waste the HopCat restaurants aim to recycle or compost

100: The number of beers on tap at the new location

190: Number of employees HopCat Royal Oak

200: The first 200 customers to arrive at Saturday’s opening get a free order “crack fries” each week for a year

500: Capacity at HopCat Royal Oak, which includes more than 100 seats in two private dining rooms