It's Not About the Food

Cookie-cutter concept proves why chains are so boring and why they remain so popular

The difficulty in reviewing restaurants such as Fox and Hound is that there just isn't a lot to say. While the food we had wasn't bad, it wasn't great either. There was nothing that would draw me back. Yet at the same time, I know I could find a reliable meal there, something to fall back on if the situation arose.

While Fox and Hound may not win raves about its food, it does succeed as a sports bar. Indeed, the sign outside this northwest side eatery boasts of 'Sports, Spirits & Fun." No mention of food.

The place is divided into several spaces, including one large bar area and a couple of smaller spaces with pool tables and—according to the radio ad—44 high-def TVs (two of which are larger than my car). During our two visits we watched baseball, hockey, NBA basketball playoffs, golf, two different sport talk shows, the third round of the NFL draft and music videos (most with a hint of country). There is also a channel with all sorts of sports scores (and stock market quotes) just in case the game you want to watch isn't on one of the TVs. And the music was LOUD!

Service was typical of the sports bar milieu. All female and utterly friendly, the staff was kept busy mostly with bar orders. The managers (male) stopped by our table on both visits. For the most part everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Our apps included baked pretzel sticks ($7.99), the Bianco flatbread ($10.99) and onion rings ($3.80 during happy hour; $6.79 otherwise).

The four pretzel sticks came hot out of the oven and were accompanied by a nachos-style dip. They were tasty but lacked that chewiness of "real" pretzels, although the dip added a nice touch.

Our crackerlike flatbread was topped with another of the appetizers—the spinach artichoke dip. It also had cheese, artichoke leaves and fresh spinach and was topped off with a balsamic glaze. I would've been hard-pressed to identify the dip and the promised veggies were few. What stood out was the glaze. There was plenty of promise but, overall, this app was pretty bland.

The same could be said of the onion rings. They were merely OK.

The entreés were a mixed bag. The pepperoni pizza ($9.99) had way too much sauce and not nearly enough cheese, but John liked it enough to bring the leftovers home.

The coating on the fish and chips ($11.49) made the dish. It was crispy. It was hot. It wasn't greasy. But the fish got lost under it. And while the chips wouldn't win any prizes, I had to admire the portion size. Most places serve so many fries that they usually go to waste.

From the list of burgers, we opted for the Black & Bleu ($9.99). This was perhaps the best item we tried. Good-sized and cooked to order, it was topped with well-cooked bacon and some bleu cheese butter that was gooey and hot. It was a fine example of a sports bar burger.

The Reuben, on the other hand, was just plain bad. Served on dark rye, the meat had a weird texture, not to mention that it lacked any flavor resembling real corned beef. There was just a pinch of sauerkraut and a dab of Thousand Island dressing. The major element was Swiss cheese.

We ended up taking both our desserts to go. The Great Cookie Blitz ($4.79) was a large chocolate-chip cookie that I reheated at home and topped with the accompanying vanilla ice cream, which had been nicely packed. Warm and gooey, this was pretty darn good. The chocolate cake ($4.99) was also supposed to be served warm, but we ate at room temp. It lacked pizzazz, but some of that might've been due to it not being heated.

It has to be mentioned that our beers ($6.25) were icy cold, and we had two pleasant visits. Fox and Hound would be a great place to spend a hot summer afternoon watching sporting events or playing pool. Because people don't go to places like the Fox and Hound for the food—they go for the "Sports, Spirit & Fun."

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