Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fox & Hounds Tavern (closed): 3.9/5

Wolf Hound
Score: 4.1
Platter: $11.20 (tax inc.)

Grey Hound
Score: 4.2
Platter: $8.95 (tax inc.)

Basset Hound
Score: 3.7
Platter: $7.85 (tax inc.)

In a recent Free Press article Lee Poworoznik declared that he’s a "burger guy … and decided six months ago to create a dish that would put the Fox & Hounds on the burger map for years to come.” Of course Burger Club had to head right over to try their new creation and the Fox & Hound's general manager wasn't gasconading – the Wolf Hound is an awe inspiring burger!

The Fox and Hounds Tavern is the grand old beverage room of the St. James Hotel constructed in 1928 at 1719 Portage Ave. There’s plenty of parking around the back; we used the rear entrance and were immediately greeted by our cheery server, Malory. “Les and Stan are already sitting.” We're already on a first name basis - fantastic!
Malory took our food and beer orders as we arrived – and we just kept arriving. I thought we were going to be a smaller group today but  we had to extend our already long banquet table. She was attentive – and patient – with a quirky sense of humour that kept the banter lively. Russ was impressed that Malory “Rattled off the on-tap list with the greatest of ease.”

The large, high ceilinged beverage room encompasses an impressive central bar. The bar “wench” pointed out the carefully chosen relics scattered around the space and had a story to go with each of them. Like the broken hockey stick framing the specials board that a patron staggered into one night and snapped in half. The overseeing Snooty Fox was the star of the bar though. When I phoned to make the reservation Robin answered and said: “I’ll put you in the bar at table 7. Oh wait – better make that table 13. Table 7 is where the regulars sit.” Everyone in our group enjoyed the décor and charm of this “Cheers” style pub.

I wanted a picture of the bar and there were three guys sitting at it so I asked if they’d mind being in the photograph. One jumped up and dashed for cover saying “No way! I don’t want my wife to know I’m here!

There’re three themed beef burgers to choose from – the flagship Wolf Hound, Grey Hound and Basset Hound. They all come as platters with fries, but you can ask for no fries and they’ll take $0.95 off. The fries are really good though, so make sure your neighbor orders some so you can eat theirs. Lee told me they plan on expanding the burger menu with a Reuben Burger and a Pulled Pork Stuffed Burger. I’ll be back for those!

I wanted the Wolf Hound burger because - who wouldn’t! It’s sandwiched between two, well, sandwiches. The top grilled cheese is cheddar and bacon and the bottom is Monterey Jack. The burger’s topped with caramelized onions and a thick layer of deep fried pickles. I’m not a fan of dill pickles and I didn’t think it would be fair to judge the epic creation with the pickles removed so I opted for double Basset Hound. Nelson called it “the least intimidating burger on the menu - it's hard to fear a Basset.”

It was huge - a single burger would have filled me up, but I really enjoyed the taste of the two thick patties. They were nicely spiced, firm not dense, moist not juicy, with a nice dark grill crust. The bacon was cooked to leathery perfection and tasted great.  There were two slices of delicious red, ripe tomato that added juiciness of the sandwich, and shredded iceberg lettuce – which made eating the burger without torpedoing it a bit of a challenge. I’ve practiced my technique many times and managed to keep my grip. There was a cocktail stick holding the stack together but it wasn't scaled for my double Basset Hound Burger and disappeared into the top bun - frill and all.

A few people had the Grey Hound Burger that came with banana peppers, caramelized onions, zesty mustard and Monterey Jack cheese. Les commented “The peppers added a nice zesty taste to a nicely flavoured burger.”

For those that had the Basset or Grey Hound Burger, the common lament was the bun – The Kaiser fell apart. I saw three people eating their burger with a knife and fork.  Les, a retired bus driver quipped “I ordered the Greyhound for obvious reasons and the bun broke down early in the journey but I guess that's par for the course.”

The Wolf Hound was the star of lunch hour. The top and bottom grilled cheeses offered plenty of flavour on their own – and didn’t fall apart like their bunned brethren. Geoff wrote “There is definitely some heft to the package; each grilled cheese is a full sandwich. The deep fried pickles were nice and juicy. The "Jimmy" is a place I've quaffed many pints at over the years.”

Settling up was also a treat – the big burger platters were inexpensive to begin with, but when you realized the price included tax, they tasted even better!

Fox & Hounds Tavern on Urbanspoon

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