Paul’s PBR Review: Hoop’s Bar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn late 2006, word got out that a new nightclub was going in at the former Elvis Presley’s location on Beale, just west of Second on the north side of the street. It was to be called EP Delta Kitchen. The owners were aiming high: They brought in renowned chef Michael Patrick to prepare food, and after-hours they planned to transform the place into a nightclub manned by some of the area’s top DJs. The club started off as a huge success, with posh patio seating and multiple bars on two levels. They also had nightly specials which were generally a smashing success.

SIDE NOTE: I say “generally” because there were exceptions. For Monday Night Football they put out a food buffet for patrons who were ordering drinks. That sounds like a good idea but those damn chili dogs kept me glued to the toilet all damn day Tuesday. It may not be apropos to refer to defecation so near the beginning of a post, and if it offended you I apologize, but I’m not exactly the first person in the history of blogging to do it.

The one thing the place didn’t have, however, was buy-in from the locals. I mean, I’d stop by from time to time because I knew people who worked there, and occasionally other Downtowners would as well. However, it was not a gathering place for those who lived nearby. We went there on occasion – I had a birthday party on the upper level which was expertly catered by the Chef  and which was one of the best birthdays of my life- but we weren’t there on a nightly basis. One veteran bartender, David Hooper, had plans to change that. He knew there was an entire separate bar on the second floor that was not being used. He worked with EP Delta Kitchen to renovate it into a neighborhood bar, something that I mentioned in an earlier post was something sorely needed in 2007. He decorated it with vintage record albums as part of the bar top and lamp posts as table decorations. Most importantly, Hoop decided to carry PBR in cans.

SIDE NOTE: Hoop’s Bar has been closed since Fall 2008. Some of my “detractors” will undoubtedly bash me for reviewing a bar that has been closed for five years, and I do understand their point. However, you know what they say. Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one. And while that may or may not be true, it’s my opinion that it’s perfectly fine to review Hoop’s Bar as a nod to the history of PBR in Downtown Memphis. Not everybody will agree but “it is what it is” I guess.

SIDE NOTE: Instead of worrying about “detractors,” I should be thanking those of you who have had positive things to say about this series. Things like “he’s trying as hard as he can” and “his writing really isn’t THAT bad.” Compliments like that make my day and are the reason I continue writing this blog.

The menu

The goal of Hoop’s was to give our Downtown neighbors a place to hang out near Beale Street. In fact, looking out the second-story windows, one could see directly into Blues City Cafe, one of Beale’s most popular destinations. Hoop wanted to offer a menu which was basic, yet in a nod to the gourmet fare served at EP’s, was a little more upscale than traditional bar food. He also wanted to serve menu items that paired well with PBR.

The hallmark of the menu was the “Badass Burger,” a large burger which was indeed badass. It was an 8-ounce burger cooked on the grill and served with the usual condiments. I cannot tell you how much a PBR set off the natural flavor of ingredients including mustard and tomato. I am normally not a fan of tomato on my burgers, but it is just such a natural fit with a 12 ounce can of PBR that I made an exception at Hoop’s Bar.

Another specialty was “Anna’s Egg Wolls,” a recipe created by Hoop’s wife. I took these home many a night as Paul’s Drunkass Food, and when I did I made sure to have a PBR in the fridge waiting for me, for the PBR greatly accentuated the Asian flavors found within the egg rolls.

The original PBRtini at Hoop's
The original PBRtini at Hoop’s

At the bottom of the menu (zoom in if you can’t see it in the pic above without the help of a microscope) was a classic cocktail that Hoop invented, and which I have since had at many other bars: The PBRtini. About four months after I started ascending the steps to the second floor to hang out at Hoop’s, I noticed it on the menu. I ordered one and Hoop popped a PBR and poured it into one of the bar’s special martini glasses. I have been addicted ever since.

Hoop’s Bar had a big-screen TV which was perfect for watching NFL football when it was on during the fall and winter. When there were no sports to watch, Hoop would put other shows on including South Park. Hoop had an assistant named Tony, and you didn’t want to miss a minute when the place was open because you never knew what the two of them might be up to. One day they had a new machine that would produce the foam in a freshly-opened Guinness can. They poked a hole in the top of a Bud bottle with a hammer and nail, and put it on the contraption. Budweiser sprayed all across the ceiling. (Of course, they would never do that with a PBR, which is too valuable to waste.) After Tony left, Hoop got two new assistants named Ross and Colin, who continued to keep the place fun.

SIDE NOTE: Colin is now one of the proprietors of Blind Bear, which serves PBR.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs 2008 rolled on, the owners of EP Delta Kitchen made some changes which proved to be unsuccessful. For one thing, they failed to emphasize the culinary expertise of their chef properly, and he left for greener pastures. They also changed the format of their nightclub music, causing the club to lose many patrons to the newly-opened Red Rooster down the street. Through it all, Hoop’s Bar continued to draw a solid crowd night in and night out. EP’s finally had to close its doors in Summer 2008. Hoop’s Bar lasted a couple of months longer, but the locals’ crowd in that upstairs bar simply wasn’t enough to pay the rent in such a massive space in a prime location. Hoop’s closed in the fall.

The space occupied by Hoop’s has not reopened since. The main EP space became Republic Nightclub in 2010. They did not serve PBR and charged $11 for a Captain and Coke. Not surprisingly, they were out of business in less than a year. The building has been vacant since.

Hoop went on to open a similar bar in the downstairs of a Cajun restaurant on South Front Street. When that business ran into problems similar to those at EP, Hoop accepted a manager job at Silky O’Sullivan’s, where he is to this day. When I go to Silky’s I drink Hurricanes, so I am not sure if they serve PBR. If they do, it is probably an ingredient in their Diver buckets.

Perhaps one day a commemorative plaque will be erected at Second and Beale denoting Hoop’s Bar as the place where the PBRtini was first served. Whether that happens or not, in less than a year it was open, Hoop’s Bar earned its reputation as one of the best places in Memphis to drink a PBR.