Restaurant Review: Beer, food selection keep Flying Hound Alehouse in the hunt
FITCHBURG—Comfort food along with local and European beers are keys to the success of the Flying Hound Alehouse, which opened a year ago on Fitchburg's bustling west side.
The spacious, upscale bar/restaurant combo—what some are calling a gastro-pub—has been a big hit in this Madison suburb on the strength of 32 rotating draft lines highlighted by local craft beers, American microbrews and selections from Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom.
The kitchen turns out some tasty fare to go with the suds, including a dozen sandwiches.
The menu also lists sausages produced in Milwaukee, along with schnitzel, burgers, half a dozen good salads, seven appetizers and a small selection of entrees. Entrees include grilled salmon, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and mussels served in a savory chardonnay garlic broth with a slice of baguette and french fries with parmesan peppercorn aioli.
The alehouse features an attractive interior with three large flat-screen TVs and chalkboards listing local vendors and various breweries that produced the beer. A faux stone wall rests behind a handsome bar that anchors the dining room, which is composed of two sections. The larger of the two has high, dark-wood tables and chairs, while a smaller area includes a banquette with lower tables and chairs. There's also an inviting patio with a fireplace that's sure to get lots of use in the coming months.
While shiny and new, the alehouse does not exude the sort of homemade, personal feel that a place like Wendigo in Stoughton or Fort Atkinson's Café Carpe do. Still, service is friendly and efficient, and what Flying Hound lacks in personality it makes up for in cosmopolitan ambiance.
Among appetizers, the poutine ($9) is a favorite, according to our server. A generous plateful features fries topped with melted cheese curds and aged provolone, fresh herbs and a large side of savory onion gravy. There's good flavor and lots of calories, while it is a bit of a mess to eat.
Our party gave the Canadian classic mixed reviews, from delicious to “grotesque,” (that from a vegetarian in our group) with most opinions falling somewhere between the two extremes.
Another appetizer—a plate of warm house-made pretzels with three types of mustard ($7.50)—also received mixed reactions. The pretzels are a bit dense and flavorless, but the spicy and tangy mustards give them a much-needed kick. The pretzels are a good fit with Ale Asylum's American pale ale, which is served on tap.
The Pelicaric Family sausage sampler ($9.50) offers three varieties of local artisan sausage: bratwurst, an English-style banger and a hot Hungarian, sliced and served with grilled Clasen's sourdough, sauerkraut and house mustards.
The sauerkraut is a terrific addition to the plate: crunchy, tangy and spicy with red pepper flakes and caraway. The sausages themselves each sport a different flavor and texture. They were devoured quickly at our table.
The kitchen offers six burgers that range from $9 to $12.50. All are one-third-pound fresh ground beef delivered daily by Knoche's Butcher Shop and served on a Clasen's Bakery bun.
The spicy blue burger ($9) comes topped with cherrywood-smoked bacon, blue cheese crumbles, lettuce, tomato, red onion and spicy cherry pepper aioli. It offers a nice combination of flavors, but the bacon was overdone, and a side of sweet potato fries was disappointing—thin, greasy and limp.
The kitchen's schnitzel platter ($15) was a big hit at our table. A thinly breaded pork loin comes with more tasty sauerkraut, and we loved the garlic mashed potatoes and the same onion gravy that came with the poutine.
The vegetarian in our party was pleased with an arugula portabella salad ($11) that was tossed with grape tomatoes, roasted red pepper, croutons and shallot vinaigrette, and then topped with shaved pecorino romano cheese and a marinated, grilled portabella mushroom.
An outstanding kale salad ($10.50) included Parmesan and pecorino romano cheese, croutons, walnuts and dried cranberries tossed in a light herb vinaigrette.
A grilled Ahi tuna sandwich ($12) was, oddly, a little dry and dull. Odd because the menu describes the fish as coming with wasabi soy mayo, which should make it anything but bland.
The alehouse is an attractive new venue for beer connoisseurs and a lively place to gather. Unfortunately, like so many other restaurants these days, the place gets very loud when there's a crowd, making conversation a challenge. But the energy here is positive, and most of the food is a good complement to the impressive beer selection.
Bill Livick is a freelance writer who writes entertainment stories and Madison-area restaurant reviews for The Gazette.