Grilled Cheese, Murals and Moonshine at the Latest Del Ray Hot Spot
By Mike Salmon
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Let’s face it, cooking a grilled cheese sandwich doesn’t require a lot, but throw in some steak or turkey, a bed of Tater Tots®, chase it with a local IPA, and it’s the formula that works at Hops N Shine, the new kid on the block in Del Ray. Throw in hand-painted murals, sports on the TV screens, a back-porch dining area, and prices that aren’t out of the park, and the beer crowd in Del Ray has a new place to walk to. Even when they’re dressed in flip flops and cut-off shorts.
“Our concept is to let people chill,” said Matt Rofougaran, the CEO at Hops N Shine on the north end of Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray. “The whole concept is more of a chilled, relaxed place,” he said.
The Shine part of it isn’t like the internet-hipster concept of “throwing some shine,” or real moonshine from a backyard still. Since real moonshine is illegal in Virginia, except on reality TV, theirs is “moonshine infusion,” said Rofougaran, and those spirited drinks are $8. “We try to put the modern twist to it,” he added.
There is a variety of sandwiches, hot dogs, appetizers, and Tater Tots with catchy, in-your-face names such as Let’s Shroom ($9.50), Gangsta Grilled Cheese ($8) and Holy Cheesus ($9.50). The Tater Tots are big sellers and have out sold French fries lately, according to sales stats. “Tots are the in-thing these days,” said C.J. Cross, the restaurant’s operations manager.
Both Cross and Rofougaran have known each other since they were teenagers and went to high school in Fairfax County. On April 20, aka “Weed Day” to a certain crowd, Hops N Shine had chef Casey Chapman in to cook “a rump-roasted pork butt,” said Cross. “Just a fun thing to do,” he added.
A lot of dishes at Hops N Shine follow the formula for the Keto Diet, which is short for Ketogenic diet, a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate regimen that started as a treatment for difficult-to-control epilepsy in children. The diet “forces the body to use fat as the primary energy source,” said Cross.
The “TBA” is on the Keto menu, which stands for turkey, bacon, and avocado ($10.50). Also the “Double Fried, Triple Layered Ham & Cheese” ($9.50). Each item on the keto menu has carbs, fats and sugar amounts listed.
Hop N Shine’s Brother Restaurant
Hops N Shine at Del Ray is an off-shoot of Cross and Rofougaran’s bigger restaurant, Tysons’ Biergarten, in Tysons Corner. The restaurants have some of the same faces behind the action, but they are very different. Tyson’s is a more upscale, with a bigger patio. “Tyson’s doesn’t sell custom grilled cheese sandwiches,” Rofougaran said.
The names are different, but both have signature murals. “We contract local artists all the time, we’re very big on art,” said Rofougaran. The murals change throughout the year.
Local artist Gary Whitt painted the Del Ray mural on the main wall inside. The murals on the back porch patio are by Amy Tubbs. The scene on the outside wall has rolling hills and Tudor houses “to give it that feel that you’re somewhere else,” Tubbs said. “This is representative of a little Bavarian village,” she said, which is in line with the beer selection.
Taps are Full of Featured Beers Hop N Shine has 55 varieties of beer ranging from Old Rasputin and Pêche Mel Scaldis Fruit Beer at $10 a glass to Port City Porter at $6. During happy hour, a three-beer taster flight of brews from either Fair Winds or Port City is just $7. “Our beers rotate frequently,” said Cross. For the wine drinkers, they offer an assortment of wines from Charlottesville varieties to France and Argentina.