Getting ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary in December, HK on the Bay is nothing new to Hampton Roads and Chic's Beach residents. Popular among Virginia Beach locals and garnering the attention of the thousands of tourists that flock down annually, HK on the Bay is one of the few great places in the area where you can stroll in off the beach in your bathing suit and sit down to enjoy a high-quality meal and cocktail using local, fresh ingredients.
We took a trip down to Chic's Beach off Shore Drive to find out more about why HK on the Bay has become such a popular stalwart among locals. When we arrived, Tyler Hoppel, General Manager at HK on the Bay, treated us to an abundance of knowledge and one extremely refreshing cocktail.
Tell us about yourself…
I am the General Manager at HK on the Bay, located on Chic's Beach in Virginia Beach. This will come as a shock to most people, but I actually don’t have any bartending experience! I began my restaurant career as a server right here over 8 years ago. Over the years, I just learned by doing. I worked my tail off to learn my new craft.
What do you do when you’re not managing? Any hobbies/side jobs/secret identities?
Side job while being a restaurant manager? That’s just crazy! But hobbies, definitely anything outdoors. Camping with my fiancé and step-daughter is something I love. I also homebrew and am a huge Baltimore Orioles Fan.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
I used to own a clothing company called Redemption Brand and tour with a band from Richmond called Conditions. I lived in Church Hill for a year while touring.
What’s your favorite thing to drink? Favorite classic cocktail?
Favorite thing to drink when no one’s looking? My go-to is a Session IPA. My favorite classic cocktail is a Manhattan. And no shame here, I’ll never turn down a Mojito or a jumbo Margarita.
Tell us about your bar…
The vibe at HK on the Bay is casual, but refined. Our bar guests consist of mainly regulars. HK on the Bay is cozy, timeless, and almost cottage-like. When you walk in you’ll see old school pictures on the wall of a time in 1977 of when the Chesapeake Bay froze over, or the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on April 15, 1964. We want to show the history of our storied neighborhood and building.
What’s the neighborhood like?
Our neighborhood is filled with a large mix of people. This place is our home. We like to say that we are just stewards of this building, as it was built in the 1930s. Our guests expect a casual setting but know they can get a $28 hand-cut all natural ribeye while they sit at the bar in their bathing suit.
What makes your bar unique?
We want you to drink better and, if possible, drink local. I wrote an article last September called “Rethink Your Drink”. The studies show that when you drink liquors with fewer impurities, you are more likely to not feel as bad the next day; compared with drinking the same amount of “bottom shelf” liquor. We recommend you have one or two nicely prepared cocktails and enjoy the depth of flavors we create. We know you’ll pay a little more for the “higher end” spirits but you’ll thank me when you’re not as hungover the next day. We carry the same concept through to our menu as well by serving all natural, steroid free, humanely treated beef, poultry, and pork. We know when you eat and drink better, you will feel better.
What’s your favorite part about working there?
Our guests and our employees. Our guests are truly the best. I know it’s cliché, but our staff and our guests are our family. Our Service Manager Matthew Pere and our Chef Danny Hughes work really hard to provide a truly unique experience every day, not only to our guests, but to our team as well. I love walking in the door and knowing that it is going to be different than yesterday. There are thousands of restaurants in Virginia Beach and our guests chose HK on the Bay? They pass easily 20 to 30 others on their way here. Literally, I’m humbled every single day.
What’s a good night look like for you? What are people ordering?
We sell a lot of craft beer. I wouldn’t call us a craft beer destination, but we do have over 30 craft beers and over half of them are local. On the spirit side, we sell a good amount of whiskey and vodka. I personally love visiting with tables and learning about who are guests are! Guests could have had a crappy day at work and when they come into our restaurant, we want to turn their day around before heading home.
What’s your favorite menu item / cocktail pairing?
My personal favorite foods include pizza and burgers. Our sister restaurant, The Butcher’s Son cooks a mean rare Prime Rib and pair that with a Manhattan, I am in heaven! On our menu I can’t get enough of our new Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. Our chef really knocked it out of the park with this one! We grind all of our beef in-house, so it’s homemade in the truest form. We make a chipotle ketchup that tops off the meatloaf that just enhances the total experience.
Can you share a Belle Isle creation with us? What inspired it?
We wanted to use a locally made spirit on our last cocktail list. We chose Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine because of the bright flavor of the grapefruit. We wanted to enhance that experience by pairing it with pomegranate to create the ultimate cocktail to beat the summer heat.
- 1 1/4 oz. Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
- 1/2 oz. Cointreau
- 1/2 oz. Pama Liquor
- 1/4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
- Splash of Soda Water
Combine all ingredients except for soda into a shaker tin with light ice. Shake and strain into a coupe glass and top with a splash of soda water.
Recipe by Katie Frank
Photos by Joey Wharton