Over the past few years, Hapa Food Truck and chef/owner Chris Gonzalez have gained quite the following. I’m guilty of following up a few weightlifting sessions at Crunch Gym with a Hapa Burger or tacos when Gonzalez parked his trucked at the Priceline building. So, yes, I’m a fan just as much as all of you are. But every winter, Hapa goes into hibernation, leaving many of us yearning for warmer weather and his Filipino-Hawaiian inspired food.
Well, friends, you don’t have to wait for spring and tracking Hapa down just got a whole lot easier. Gonzalez now has a physical Hapa location in Mamaroneck’s new microbrewery, Decadent Ales inside of the popular craft beer store, Half Time.
We’ll get to the beer in a minute, but since Chris is a Stamford resident, and the majority of his following around here is in Connecticut, he deserves first props. And don’t worry, this isn’t Westchester Bites, but beer and damn fine food is a combo people will travel for, especially when it’s so close to our border.
At Hapa, fanboys and fangirls can expect some of the truck’s staples. “I started the menu here with zero stuff from the truck,” Gonzalez said. “This is some of the stuff I ate as a kid, so, I wanted to introduce it and represent my culture.”
So, the “truck stuff” is there; the ever-satisfying ube (purple yam) bun Hapa burger, the tacos, the furikake fries, and the Brussels sprouts, so if you’re currently having withdrawals, here you go!
At the brewery, Gonzalez is introducing the stuff he grew up eating, even if some of it is a riff on a classic or slightly fancier. The riff is evident in the Bulalo Burger, a version of the classic beef shank and bone marrow soup. The Hapa spin on it is a grass-fed beef burger with fish sauce, caramelized onions, and calamansi (a predominant citrus fruit in the Philippines) aioli that cuts through all that richness. The kicker is it’s served with roasted bone marrow that you scoop out onto the burger. That’s real brewery food right there.
Should the brewery buzz get the best of you, rock with the bulgogi fries, shoestrings topped with tender, marinated sesame-soy brisket that practically falls apart, and Manchego cheese. Or, slurp on a spicy coconut broth laska ramen with a yolky soft egg and grilled prawns. If you don’t eat it there, get it to-go for lunch the next day.
I’m still going back-and-forth on the sisig. It might’ve been my favorite thing at Hapa. I just can’t shake it from my brain. It was my first time having this traditional Filipino dish, typically made with meat from the pig’s head, chicken livers, onions, and peppers. In Gonzalez’s sisig the protein gets an upgrade in the form of Berkshire pork, some of it cooked to a char (I personally LOVE that), with a poached egg in the center, homemade chicharrónes, and a tableside deglazing with a Decadent Ales brew. It sizzles, it steams, it’ll make your mouth water before you take a forkful.
You’ll also see non-meaty (both vegetarian and vegan) and gluten-free options on Hapa’s menu, rice bowls, house-made sodas, a kid’s menu—because the brewery is child friendly—and a few sweets like ube flan and Hawaiian donuts that Gonzalez has been playing with.
According to Gonzalez, the project was a long time coming. It started when Hapa started slinging food from the truck at the Harbor Island Beer Festival, an event organized by Half Time’s owner Jason Daniels. When plans got announced for a microbrewery to go inside of Half Time’s space, that’s when it started to come together. That proposed brewery was Decadent Ales, owned by Paul Pignataro, who had eaten at Hapa many times and since they had a common friend, it was able to come to fruition.
To open a brewery in Mamaroneck took some doing, as in, amendments had to be made to the town’s zoning code to allow for beer production. It took a year and eight months, but ultimately it was for the good of the town and promoted Mamaroneck as a place to visit because breweries are definitely very cool places.
The idea behind Decadent Ales’ dessert-named beers is all because of Pignataro’s gripe with beers that say they taste like certain things, but then they don’t. A beer geek himself, he got tired of that, and wanted to make beer that tastes like what the label reads. Holiday French Toast tastes like battered, spiced, griddled, maple syrupy French toast. Pecan Pie IPA is definitely an IPA, but the toasted nuttiness of the pecan is present. Coconut Almond Macaron (also an IPA) reminds you of the namesake almond cookie treats but with coconut flake flavor. Double Whipped Strawberry Cream Pop is sweet, but not overly so, kind of like ice cream, beer float style. “We even had one called Blueberry Pancake Xtra Whip because my wife ordered blueberry pancakes with extra whipped cream, so I made a beer like that,” Pignataro said. I think you get the idea.
You never know what you’ll encounter on tap, but it’s wise to try a bunch of four-ounce tasters and decide on one (or more) to have a full pint of. Oh, and not everything is an IPA. Barleywine, stouts, and sours, like Strawberry Mimosa (mad I missed that one!) are some beer styles that show up in Decadent’s decadent lineup, but do try their non-desserty flagships, Opulence, a tropically juicy New England IPA, and Flora, a low-ABV session IPA, dry-hopped with Mosaic and a blend of south Pacific hops.
You can visit the brewery on Wednesday & Thursday from 4 – 9, Friday & Saturday from 11 – 10, and Sunday from 11 – 7. Brewery tip: Be on the lookout for updates on can releases, crowlers to take home, and special collaborations. Connecticut beer geeks might recall Decadent’s team-ups with Fat Orange Cat, Veracious, and Thimble Island, or from their Decadent Delight series with Evil Twin. So, watch for those announcements, they’re special.
Desserty beers and soul-satisfying grub from Hapa should be more than enough to get you across the state line. Name a more iconic duo.
Decadent Ales + Hapa
139 Hoyt Avenue; Mamaroneck