You can almost start to hear the cheering, and before you know it, one of America’s favorite sports, professional football, will take the field and fill millions of monitors.
Here in our neck of the woods, the Carolina Panthers will be the big buzz, especially this coming season. I know; this isn’t a sports article. However, I also know we have a desire to watch great games on bigger screens with lots of people. And at the same time, enjoy some yummy food that goes great with ice cold beer.
Several dining establishments have opened and closed in the Ballantyne area the last few years. One restaurant has quietly held their own and maintained a steady business; the Fox and Hound in Ballantyne. This sports bar and restaurant has been satisfying south Charlotte’s appetite for cheering on your favorite teams for more than 10 years.
Most evenings, and especially on the weekends, I often see folks waiting outside for a table. I thought it was finally time to check them out as a good location to watch a few games with a crowd of cheering fans. It was a Friday evening at prime time.
Knowing they would be busy, I had a guest in the party make a call around 6:45 p.m. to see if we could get a table. Sure enough, they took the request for 7:30 p.m. We arrived and were immediately seated at a comfortable roomy booth.
The place is deceiving; it looks a lot bigger on the inside than it appears from the parking lot. A large horseshoe-shaped bar is just beyond the entrance. To one side is a large cocktail area with multiple tall tables with bar stools. To the other side is an arrangement of tables surrounded by the booths, many appearing to comfortably seat a party of eight. And, of course, big flat screen television monitors.
You can easily see several screens from just about any seat in the house. The center booth, where we were seated, is directly across the dining room from the featured very large screen for the main game.
As soon as our party was seated a smiling server came over, introduced herself and welcomed us to the Fox and Hound. She proceeded to tell us about the specials that evening and I took pleasure in the simple courtesy of an appropriate and pleasing first contact after being warmly greeted and seated.
The menu is extensive, consisting of appetizers, salads and soups, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, entrée’s, and desserts. Everyone should be able to find a couple of choices or more they would enjoy. Consider this a good destination when you or others just aren’t sure what to eat.
We all enjoyed the ultimate nachos and the chicken wings, once we decided on one of the nine sauces, including hot honey, spicy garlic and honey mustard barbecue. Unique items are always appreciated. Here are a couple of examples – freshly baked Bavarian pretzels; you get four giant twists served with a side of queso.
Another is the chili cheese dogs; three mini dogs topped with spicy chili and melted cheeses, and garnished with green onion. Great bar food!
The burgers were a big hit. They are seasoned, cooked to your liking and served on a toasted sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and crispy fries.
The Tavern was a favorite, with sautéed onions, applewood bacon, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. There are several enticing sandwiches, like the Black Forest – a giant Bavarian pretzel roll is topped with grilled turkey, applewood bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and honey mustard dressing.
You might not think to come to the Fox and Hound for pizza, but if that’s what you crave at that moment, I suggest you think again. We really enjoyed the Basil Pesto pie – sweet basil pesto sauce is topped with mozzarella and feta cheeses, followed by mushrooms and char-grilled chicken. The crust was thin and cooked up nicely, and the topping tasted very good as well.
Unlike some sports bars offering pizza, Fox and Hound makes them fresh in-house to order. There also is a couple of flat bread choices, like the French Dip Flatbread, topped with creamy Alfredo sauce, London broil, caramelized onions, then onion straws and horseradish sauce. It even arrives with fresh au jus sauce, so dip away.
A couple of folks dining with me decided to go for an entrée. One chose the Top Sirloin – a 12-ounce USDA choice center cut sirloin, char-grilled to your preference and served with crispy fries and thin onion straws. The steak was delicious, tender and cooked properly.
I chose the Newcastle Fish & Chips – the distinctive Newcastle Brown Ale provides a tasty beer-battered fish that is fried golden brown and served with crispy fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce; and malt vinegar, essential for dining on fish and chips. I enjoyed the selection very much and would gladly have it again. Jamaican Chicken and Grilled Salmon are a couple more of the eight options.
Very pleased with my first visit to the Fox and Hound, I looked forward to returning. Even though it was mid-week, the place was still busy for dinner. In fact, the lounge side of the bar was hosting a large private party for a company enjoying a special occasion.
I decide to order the Half Rack of Baby Back Ribs, a Fox Fave – slow-smoked, hickory-flavored ribs served with crispy fries and Texas toast. Unfortunately, when the dinner arrived, the ribs were barely room temperature. Fair to say that someone wasn’t paying attention in the kitchen; they were obviously not heated through for serving. I checked with my guest, for confirmation, and they agreed that the ribs were almost cold.
Shortly after being served, as on other visits, the server stopped by to check on us. My guest couldn’t help but say something; the server apologized, and said a manager would be right over. Sure enough, a few seconds later, the manager was at our table. Upon being informed of the lack of heat, she immediately requested that they be allowed to make an entirely new order.
The manager was extremely sorry, stating how proud they are of the slow cooked ribs. It was obvious she was sincerely apologetic and wanted to make it right. A few minutes later the manager brought me a new dinner with piping hot ribs. They were tender, scrumptious and really hot. She stopped back a couple of times to make sure I was truly satisfied, and I was.
At the end of the meal we received the check, and I noticed that the baby back rib dinner was credited and there was no charge. I would have been happy to pay for them, as they really did properly correct the issue, and with passion. I consider the fact that the manager took the item off the check an unexpected delight. That really is the way to run a restaurant! The only thing more difficult than getting it right is correcting a mistake above the guests expectations, and that is exactly what was accomplished.
Here are a few fun facts that may further entice you to check out the Fox and Hound. They have about 100 different beers to quench your thirst, with 32 of them on tap!
The place seats up to 200 people and stays open 365 days a year, offering the full menu from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily (the only exception is closing early on Christmas Eve). I look forward to my next visit to the Fox and Hound and taking in some delicious eats at a very good value and watching a great game.
Questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email culinary@the charlotteweekly.com.
Fox and Hound
*** of four stars
15235 John J. Delaney Drive
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Details: Reservations are accepted; large parties.