Sacramento’s Hop Junction serves delicious Indian food complemented by locally produced craft beer, a combination that works on a menu, as a business plan and as a dream of a better life in America.
The craft beer and Indian food are what distinguishes this Pocket area establishment (7600 Greenhaven Dr. #20). They are the staples of a business plan created by Hop Junction proprietor, Jasdeep Singh Purewal, or “Jas” as he called by friends.
And they are – the restaurant is – the embodiment of Purewal’s dream that drove him to leave his native India and come to Sacramento, by way of Canada and the Bay Area. He has pursued a years-long trek of hard work and periodic loneliness where nothing was promised. Everything Purewal has achieved is because he and his family willed it to happen.
“Over here, people will support you if you do good,” Purewal said of advice he was given when he considered setting up shop in Sacramento. “That’s how I started, commuting in from the Bay Area.”
Purewal was searching for a life in the finest tradition of immigrant dreams on American soil. But he was also searching for a community where he knew people by their first names and where they knew him.
He dreamed of a little place where people could walk through his doors and feel comfortable and welcome. The food of his country and the beer of his adopted community would become the entrees for fellowship and happiness and Purewal was well on his way.
SURVIVING A SHUTDOWN
In March, COVID-19 shut down everything.
Overnight, he went from a packed house of people occupying every stool at his bar, and every table in his dining room, to an empty space. To trying to survive on take-out orders which any restaurant owner will describe as a half a loaf in terms of profits. In fact, half a loaf doesn’t begin to describe it.
This pandemic has obviously affected everyone on every level, but for small business owners like Purewal, it has created a daily struggle to survive.
“I’m trying everything to stay in business,” Purewal said. “But on takeout alone, it’s not even close.”
Jasdeep Singh Purewal, whose family owns and operates Hop Junction, talks with regular customers Felicia Picazo, left, and her husband Rich Knight in the Pocket neighborhood restaurant on June 27 before dine-in was again suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. “The food is, like, amazing,” Picazo said. “I didn’t even know I liked Indian food,” she added, saying they started frequenting the bar when it served mostly burgers and pub food, but the move to Indian food after about a year made it their favorite date-night spot.
So this is not just a story of a dream achieved by a member of the most recent generation of immigrants to land in America and make it better. This is a story of keeping that dream alive amid a crisis that is getting worse, not better.
Purewal is not like some of our culinary stars in Sacramento who had years of goodwill and regular customers upon which to draw when everything shut down. He had only paired Indian food and craft beer in March of 2019 – exactly a year before this damned pandemic. He had only opened his restaurant in May of 2018, initially as a burger place before realizing he had to create something that made him stand out.
A CULTURAL INTERSECTION OF BREW AND NAAN
Indian food gastro pubs are common in Europe, Purewal said. They are more common in large urban American cities. But in Sacramento, Hop Junction would be different. Hence the name.
“Hop,” obviously, is self-explanatory. Purewal only moved to the United States in 2010 after waiting for years to get his green card. He learned about craft beer from one of his countrymen in the East Bay, where his parents and sister had moved to follow another sister. She had married and moved from India to the U.S.
“I used to be a hard liquor guy,” Purewal said. But the locally made craft beer appealed to him because it was good, obviously. But also because a movement of people was behind it. That intrigued him, appealed to him. The beer had created a community, something he was searching for.
He chose the word “Junction” because of what it means: A point where two or more things are joined. Indian food and Northern California beer. Immigrants and Americans. He had heard about Sacramento’s diversity before moving here when he opened. Once he opened his doors in the Pocket, he found that the image of Sacramento he had been sold was true.
So now he was going to have to sell himself, his food and his beer to this community, to become a part of it. He would make good on all his plans, his years of work, his courageous move to leave his country, to live in Canada first for a few years before his American green card came through.
FROM INDIA TO CANADA TO SACRAMENTO
He came from a nation with cold weather charting at 55 degrees. He landed near Calgary, Alberta, with temperatures as frigid as 45 below, with wind chill. He worked in restaurants, drove a truck.
In the U.S., he was a dental assistant but found the job boring. Working in restaurants was always a constant source of income, so why not do it for a living? Why not use his savings and the help of his family to create something greater than just a job?
Hop Junction became where all his work, devotion and sweat intersected. His open heart and natural ability to make friends helped create a culture of hospitality.
“We started coming here when it was a burger place,” said Felicia Picazo, who had become a regular with her husband Rich Knight. “The burgers were OK. Then Jas decided he wanted to do Indian food. He hired some amazing cooks and I didn’t even know I liked Indian food.”
Samosas served on garbanzo beans with tamarind sauce and mint chutney, at top, is ready to serve with other dishes at Jasdeep Singh Purewal’s Hop Junction on June 27, 2020. The restaurant offers a unique combination of craft beers and Indian food on Greenhaven Drive in Sacramentos Pocket neighborhood. Xavier Mascareñas XMASCARENAS@SACBEE.COM
She found out she did. She became a regular in that slim year before the shutdown.
Now Picazo and other Hop Junction regulars are trying to keep the place they love alive until a vaccine enables all of us to return to eating out again. Purewal attracted some good crowds in those weeks when Sacramento restaurants briefly welcomed in-dining customers again. He created a sanitary space with fewer tables but the same hospitality.
Then on Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an end to dining at restaurants for the time being. And now all restaurants, all small businesses, will try to hang on.
We need to support our small businesses right now, especially family businesses like this one.
It was created by Purewal, his wife Sandeep, his parents, siblings. It is a true family restaurant. It is the kind of place worth patronizing, the kind that we hope survives this trying time. They are going to try to make it on takeout orders, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays. Call (916) 382-9211. or email email@example.com.
“My focus is to support independent brewers,” he said. “So our customers can have various good beers with good food.” It was a dream born of five simple words: “Let’s give it a try.”
Author: Marcos Bretón writes commentary and opinion columns about the Sacramento region, California and the United States. He’s been a California newspaperman for more than 30 years. He’s a graduate of San Jose State University, a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the proud son of Mexican immigrants.