Put a Fork In It: Fork in the Road Serves Up Well-Crafted Basics With Funky Style
Jul 19, 2016 11:54AM
By Melanie Heisinger
Fork in the Road is about as out-of-the-way as a restaurant can get. Nestled in a central Arlington neighborhood between an old motel on one side and a convenience store on the other it is, as owner and chef Josh Hopkins says, “a bad location.” But it’s also great food in a fun atmosphere and the customers just keep coming back.
The 42-year-old Hopkins has spent nearly three decades now working in every part of the restaurant business, from dishwashing, busboy and server to cook, chef and now owner of his very own place. “I’m originally from Worcester, Mass., and moved here with my mom when I was a teenager,” he says. “I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 14 and have worked in everything from rat trap kitchens all the way up to Taj Mahal-style state-of-the-art kitchens.”
He says he first got the idea of seriously launching his own restaurant about 4 or 5 years ago. He had saved up some money and finally decided to take the plunge in 2013. He leased the space where the old Jackson’s Grill was on South Fielder in Arlington. He scoured Craigslist for used kitchen equipment and slowly pieced it all together, literally. He opened up in December of 2013. With just one server and himself handling the cooking duties. “I had originally considered 5 or 6 different menus before deciding, because of the limited space, I had to just keep it basic with my favorite sandwiches and build-your-own-burgers, but give everything my own unique twist,” he says.
He was working nearly 100 hours a week in those early days but says he’s cut back “to about 75 hours a week now.” He’s also grown his staff to 10 to keep up with demand. He says he would love to expand if the opportunity becomes available.
Rock ‘n Roll Style
Hopkins has a long-standing love of rock music and that’s apparent inside his restaurant. This place is really tiny but has great character and that classic “hole in the wall” feel. Seriously, this place is barely 1,500 square feet, including the kitchen, and only has room for 30 diners at a time. The funky rock ‘n roll style is evident. Cymbals from drum kits hang on one wall and each is covered with music icon autographs. There are just 9 tables inside and each is uniquely crafted and “a conversation piece of its own,” he says. The one we sat at featured maybe 100 ticket stubs lacquered over its top for music enthusiasts to gawk at. They’re all from concerts Hopkins has attended over the years. Indeed, one of his hobbies when he can sneak away from work is playing the drums. Elsewhere, there are Kiss (the rock band) action figures still in their original packages lined neatly along a shelf. And, of course, classic rock music played over the radio, just in case there was any doubt.
So what better food for a rock ‘n roll-themed joint than burgers and sandwiches, right? But these aren’t your ordinary garden-variety sandwiches. These are ideas that Hopkins has pieced together from his years behind the grill. For example, on our visit, the “Burger of the Week” was The Philadelphia Experiment, a 7-ounce burger topped with a fat slice of Philadelphia cream cheese, fresh slices of jalapeno, cut tomato, onions and lettuce. The week before it was the The Great Halloumi, a 7-ounce burger topped with grilled Halloumi (a brined semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese) and pepperoncinis.
Beyond burgers and sandwiches, there are a number of other unique items here. For example, you don’t typically find mussels in a burger joint. But they’re available here served up steamed in garlic, mushroom, jalapenos and white wine. Then there’s his “accidental invention” of Crack-a-roni, a succulent truffled three-cheese macaroni dish. Even the drinks avoid the middle of the road here. You’ll find more than a dozen soda choices ranging from lemon lime, chocolate and birch beer to bacon, pumpkin pie and sweet corn flavors, seriously. All drinks sold here are made with real sugar, no high fructose corn syrup served. If you want to wash it down with alcohol it’s BYOB. For dessert, there’s even something called Not Yo Momma’s Nanna Pudding. Fork in the Road trades in the irreverent.
Trying It Out
Of course we had to have some of the Crack-a-roni. Wow, thick, creamy and hearty, and smacking good. The Caesar salad was tangy and included thick slices of pepperoni. It was a great beginning. The cranberry chicken sandwich was comprised of boiled chicken breast mixed with dried cranberries, pecans, celery, onion, and mayo on sour dough bread. The chunky pieces of chicken and the crunchy celery combined with a fresh-just-made-taste made it a winner. We also tried the Reuben sandwich; this staple featured tender griddled corn beef, with fresh kraut, Swiss cheese and a tangy jalapeno Thousand Island dressing served between fresh rye bread. There seemed no better way to wrap up this meal than with a slice of the red velvet cake topped with melted chocolate chips.
Fork in the Road is located at 1821 South Fielder in Arlington. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. For more information call 817-459-3675 or check them out on their Facebook page.