The problem with writing a rebuttal to Aleksandar Hemon’s ode to the Hopleaf is this: I kind of agree with him.
The Hopleaf's food is better than average, and it goes without saying that their beer selection, and the bartenders' extensive knowledge of it, is both refreshing and impressive. Their space is also cozy and unpretentious. But for me, that’s where the compliments end.
My wife and I used to live on the West Coast and, for many years, whenever we'd fly back to Chicago to visit family and friends the Hopleaf was our go-to spot for dinner and drinks. But those visits stopped when I learned of their strict “no kids” policy. In an effort to be 100-percent transparent, yes, I am the father of a one-year-old daughter. However, my opinion of the Hopleaf changed before she was born.
To be fair, there are restrictions I believe a restaurant has a right to enforce. No guns allowed? Of course guns aren't allowed. No shirt, no shoes, no service? Absolutely. I don’t want to see my waiter’s manboobs any more than I want to see my own manboobs, so we’re definitely on the same page there. No pets, including leashed ferrets? Totally understand.
But no kids? Like, no one under 21 at all, ever? For a restaurant that serves food? Why? I could understand the policy if the Hopleaf also had topless waitstaff (though that would be breaking the “no shirt” policy I support), or if they had televisions that featured an endless loop of Nic Cage movies (because no child should ever be subjected to that… though I have a love-hate relationship with the guy). But the Hopleaf is no more inherently kid-unfriendly than any other restaurant with a beer list.
What they're really saying is, “We don’t trust our customers to parent their children while they’re here.” And what’s crazy is, if their ban were against any other category of human being—be it a certain race or religion or sexual orientation or, for that matter, old people—everyone would be up in arms over it. But because it’s against kids, adults just shrug it off and say, “Well, yeah. Kids are annoying.” And sometimes, yeah, they are. But I’m pretty sure the ratio of annoying kids is equal to the ratio of annoying adults, and I know the Hopleaf isn’t about to put a “No Annoying Adults” sign up in their window.
And so now that we live here, even though it’s a quality spot and just ten minutes away from our home, my wife and I have decided that, even on childless "date nights," the Hopleaf will no longer be getting our business. Unless, of course, they start playing that endless Nic Cage movie marathon. I’m more than willing to get a sitter for our daughter for that.