I Suppose We Should Say a Few Words About the Closing of HOPS & HARVEST

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Hops & Harvest bit the dust a few days ago less than six months after it opened to great fanfare in Tivoli Village.

Its ignominious demise was hardly a surprise, as we had received a stream of reports over the past few months about how empty it was even on weekends.

H & H marked the first time in Las Vegas’s history that a nationally acclaimed chef had ventured off the Strip and into the neighborhoods. The fact that Bradley Ogden‘s star had dimmed a bit over the past twenty years in no way diminished this milestone, and lot’s of us kept our fingers crossed that his bold move to the ‘burbs would herald a new dawn in quality, off Strip dining.

Alas, it was not to be.

There was nothing wrong with the food — maybe a few of the dishes didn’t hit their mark, but on the whole, it was exactly the type of upgraded, casual American fare that Americans seem to crave these days (and which the Ogdens – both Bradley and son Bryan – do better than just about anyone. Prices were fair and the booze and service left one with little to complain about.

When we  spoke to Ogden yesterday, he gave a us very general and diplomatic statement about the reasons for the shuttering.

“We decided to pull out of the project because of issues we had with the way the restaurant was being run,” is how he put it. “And once we finalized our decision (a short time ago). they decided to close it.”

Left unsaid was the reason H & H went off the rails in the first place, and that reason is twofold: One, it had the most awkward design, and worst feng shui of any eatery we’ve ever been in; and two, it was no more a “Bradley Ogden” restaurant than the Venetian/Palazzo is a “Mario Batali” hotel.

We’ll say no more about the hideous, awkward, uncomfortable and nonsensical design of the place, beyond it was that way for everybody, patron and staff alike. Whoever thought up this patchwork quilt of a dining space ought to be shot (figuratively), and the next sucker the landlord dupes into signing a lease should have their head examined.

As bad as the physical space was, what really doomed H & H from the get-go was deal that brought the Ogden’s to the project in the first place. Simply put, it was a management contract similar to the ones signed by (some) celebrity chefs with (some of) the big hotels….albeit with less zeros involved.  Without actually having seen the document, we can guess that Bradley received an up-front fee, plus a percentage of either gross revenues, net profits or both, in exchange for which he was to create and oversee the implementation of the menu.

This formula works fine when you’re spoon feeding “brand name” chefs to hordes of slack-jawed, credulous tourists. But riding something as esoteric as a chef’s national reputation to  fun and profit from the locals is a much harder task — especially when it’s pretty obvious to the community that the name on the door has nothing to do with the day-to-day operation of the establishment.

The people who did have day-to-day oversight of things also own several other competing eateries in Tivoli Village. (Lord only knows how the parcel out their time and their loyalties to businesses who seem to be cannibalizing each other. Ethical quandaries aside, these folks can be forgiven for looking at these stores as nothing more than profit and loss ledgers. They’re businessmen after all. They’re supposed to have a calculator for a heart. Soul and passion and pride of craft are things that people like chefs have….and that the Ogdens have in spades.

Unfortunately, H & H had none of the above — profits, pride or passion. It exhibited all the soul of a muffler shop and the warmth of a bus terminal.

That’s what you get when it’s all about the balance sheet.

17 thoughts on “I Suppose We Should Say a Few Words About the Closing of HOPS & HARVEST

  1. We always stopped there when over on that side of town. Stopped just last night and it was no more! We’ve known Bradley for years and will miss him. The food was good…..but, the place was set up in a strange way!

    Wishing Bradley and Brian the best in their other endeavors!

  2. “H & H marked the first time in Las Vegas’s history that a nationally acclaimed chef had ventured off the Strip and into the neighborhoods.”

    It seems you’ve forgotten the dear departed, Tre. Nonetheless, your points are well taken.

  3. I do not really see Bradley as a Nationally Acclaimed Chef. As far as the deal goes he knew what it was going in or he should have known what it was. Maybe he just got greedy with the upfront money and saw it as another chance to come to Vegas and blew his money gambling! Some habits are hard to break…

  4. npc,
    I had always thought Tre was run by the sons, and didn’t have dad-involvement.

  5. The three times we have eaten there, the service and food was very inconsistant.
    First time good, second, poor, third about 6 weeks ago,really bad service, probably a reflecting of staff getting wind of the fact the place was going down! But as ELV points out, these celebrity chef joints with no celebrity chef in charge overseeing daily operations are mostly over hyped, over priced and designed for the touristas with more money than culinary brains. There are a few on Strip exceptions ofcourse, but they number less than you can count on one hand in my opinion. In the suburbs again quality dining is few and far between. Again less than 1/2 dozen places worth the effort and money to patronize.

  6. Not realizing it had closed, here’s what I wrote on Yelp yesterday:

    Have to look back on my initial optimism for this spot with disappointment. We went really early, like the day after they opened, so I was hopeful that they would figure out the awkward space. I don’t think that’s happened.

    Plus, the last couple times I went to the bar, I noticed a really terrible smell. Huge space in a big, high-end shopping development, and the restaurant stinks. Over the years, I’ve loved some dives for their stench, it’s part of the package or overall experience. But at a place as sterile and pristine as Tivoli Village (an Italian village that looks like it’s been plopped down in the desert by aliens), bad odors are out of place and totally unacceptable. Write your own jokes about the aliens who developed this spot and plays on Bradley Ogen’s initials (BO).

    Add to that that service is stilted for a place that’s trying to cultivate a “fun” vibe. I’ve been to places that have elevated food in a playful or at least relaxed atmosphere, where they pull off that delicate balance. OH&H misses the mark. It must be a challenge to attract quality staff to the suburbs when there are so many great opportunities for good people on the strip. But that’s not my problem.

    I really like Bradley Ogden. My 1yo daughter loves him, and we love his food. His spot at Caesars was a special occasion place for us. We can actually walk to this place from our house. Given all that, it really pains me to say that it’s unlikely we’ll be back.

  7. After John’s glowing review, I couldn’t wait to try the new Ogden spot a month after it opened.

    My Yelp post-

    was so looking forward to Ogden’s new restaurant after years of enjoying his old place at Caesar’s. The burger there was one of the best I’ve ever had, and for once I was ahead of a trend- I’ve been ordering burgers at steak houses forever, because that used to be the only place you could get a high quality hamburger.

    I loved everything at the CP location- the food, wine list, service and ambience. Every trip for the last several years, I’ve sat at the bar and had that sublime prix fixe burger and a bottle of wine- sometimes on more than one night.

    John Curtis, one of the trio of authors of the annual “Eating Las Vegas” (a wonderful guide if you go to Vegas with any regularity) has just written a review of H&H and called it ‘the best food suburban Las Vegas has ever seen”. I usually find their reviews to be spot on.

    In any case, H&H is a much more casual space and everything about it is was just awful. Our server was manically cheerful, and the food sucked. As in, I can’t remember the last time I had such a bad meal.

    The complimentary blue corn muffins (which I had to ask for and wouldn’t have known about except from the review) tasted like sawdust. We started with the Maytag Bleu cheese soufflés and they had no flavor. Followed with a Bibb lettuce salad that was so over-salted it was inedible.

    By this point, not only was I starving- but I figured at least the burger would redeem this meal. The server messed up our order and only brought out one burger, so in the meantime dropped off a passable pork belly app, took back the one burger and came back with 2 freshly cooked burgers. Wow, again so freakishly over-salted that we both could only take a couple of bites.

    I asked the server for iced tea (we’d finished our bottle of wine and needed something to get the salt-lick taste out of our mouths) and she said that the tea “didn’t come out so well today”. She was right, it was really weak. Excuse me, but it is 105 degrees out and 9 pm and no one could make a fresh batch of tea at some point during the evening?

    Obviously, we skipped dessert so I don’t know if the butterscotch pudding and Snickerdoodle cookies survived the transition.

    I asked when we first arrived if Bryan (Bradley’s son) was cooking that night and the hostess told me he was on vacation. I realize this spot has only been open 8 weeks or so, but seasoning food is pretty basic stuff- as is making tea.

    The 2 separate incidents of the clatter of trays of breaking dishes in an hour and a half, hostess over-sharing, server not asking why we weren’t eating our food, etc. are all things one could expect in a new spot. But food this wretched is just unforgiveable by 2 chefs like the Ogdens.

    At least we were able to drive out there, because if I had spent the money on a cab I would have been pissed. Instead, just disappointed and $150 poorer.

  8. I had the worst meal ever in history at this sad place shortly after it opened and I had read your glowing review. I also had loved Bradley’s wonder restaurant at Caesars Palace, and I was expecting the equivalent here. Alas, the food was not edible; everything tasted as if a pound of salt had been dumped into it, even the salad. My dining companion and I predicted that the place would close within months, and we were correct. Bradley is foolish if he continues to open places in this manner.

  9. Really? Now this blog is going to be polluted with “yelp reviews”? If I wanted to hear the random musings of the uninformed, I’d go to Yelp. Even mentioning that toxic waste of a website should be grounds for blocking someone’s IP address…

  10. Mark, they were OOB in a flash. As for uninformed, I’ve eaten at the CP location 30 times at least- besides BO’s spots in SF. I know their food.

    A-hole, party of 1?

  11. I think the opening of Echo and Rig hastened the exit since this village cannot afford too many eateries. The Echo and Rig has gotten good reviews and it is well designed for parties. Tough time ahead for celebrity chef’s digs unless you are Gordon Ramsay (supposedly pulling 1000 covers a day !, according to Bradley Ogden himself)

  12. Agree with Mark completely. The only thing worse than a Yelp review is someone copying and pasting their Yelp review somewhere else. And I’m surprised to learn that eating somewhere 30 times is the qualification for writing food criticism. It reminded me of Curtis Armstrong in Better Off Dead: “Lane, I’ve been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I’m no dummy.”

  13. Well, I find the anti-yelpers far worse than the yelpers. At least the latter display some level of measurable charisma. Even Mssr. Curtas has registered on yelp, you know.

  14. Hey, at least I actually commented on the subject being addressed and didn’t just attack other posters.

    Actually, 30 visits is a pretty good start to make a valid critique of a chef’s food.

    Good day.

  15. I worked there.
    The Ogdens had.nothing to do with the demise.
    in large part it was the fact that most of the employees quit due to not being paid… we are all still owed 2 paychecks

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