200806FLYINGHOUND

While he wasn’t blown away by this salmon appetizer featuring mango salsa, Gazette restaurant reviewer Aaron R. Conklin did appreciate the patty melt and gourmet burgers available at The Flying Hound Alehouse in Fitchburg.

FITCHBURG

The question of whether the Flying Hound, a quaint establishment crouched across the parking lot from the Fitchburg SuperTarget, is an alehouse or a pub is essentially moot.

Even though the restaurant, opened in 2014 by Alex Kammer and Tim Thompson (the guys who also gave us the Free House Pub in Middleton), uses both terms to describe itself online, it’s not hard to know what you’re getting when you walk in the door.

You’re here for the beer and probably the burgers.

Despite the urban sprawl locale, the Hound pitches itself as a European-style pub. And in terms of its beer list, there’s really no qualm—the draft beer list is deep and deeply interesting, rife with a mix of German and Belgian-style brews (think Krombacher and Kronenbourg) and splashing in a handful of Wisconsin options for good measure (Central Waters, anyone?). If you can’t find an option to your liking on draft here, you’re probably not trying very hard.

The menu, on the other hand, is a bit more schizophrenic. While a signature schnitzel dish ($16) and a plate of juicy bangers and mash ($16) might make you think you’d unexpectedly teleported to Dusseldorf or London, the list of options here also features things such as a poutine appetizer, a Cajun/creole shrimp dish and a Mexican-themed burger. Just roll with it—and make sure you order the poutine ($9) as part of your appetizer jaunt. The onion gravy is thick and memorable.

Flying Hound embraces at least one Midwestern pub tradition, while soaring in its face at the same time.

Burgers here are lean, mean and anything but run-of-the-mill. Instead of the usual bacon-and-barbecue sauce, let’s-throw-a-pretzel-bun-in-for-good-measure list of offerings you find at many Dane County brewpubs and burger joints, you’ll find more gourmet options.

The Flying Hound Burger ($12.50) slips a soft-fried egg atop otherwise traditional burger toppings, while the Hunter Mushroom and Swiss Burger ($12) relies on grilled Portabellas and a thick and creamy hunter sauce to get its savory point across.

Opting for the patty melt ($11) proved a wise and solid choice, as the locally sourced Knoche’s beef came perfectly cooked—no mean feat when you’re negotiating curbside and factoring in travel time. It also had a perfect balance of Muenster and cheddar cheese.

Nonburger entrée options were more hit-and-miss. A salmon dish was solidly grilled but was undersized and shaped as if it had only recently shed its factory-sealed plastic wrapper. The pineapple and mango salsa that promised to liven up the party also fell short, apparently forgetting to bring the heat in its, um, dogged pursuit of the sweet. Either way, it added nothing of note to the overall bland vibe.

Seafood lovers are much better served going for the Hound’s Friday fish fry, anchored by three different types of fish (Alaskan cod, fried or grilled Canadian walleye and Lake Erie perch). If you’re ordering fish on a day other than Friday, you’ll only be able to choose the fried cod ($12), but that’s no problem: The breading is thick and deliciously seasoned, which means it holds up well on your fork between the plate and your mouth.

The pandemic has taken the Flying Hound’s homey, exposed-roof interior and cozy bar out of the dining equation. Luckily the comfortable outdoor patio is still in play for small groups. It sports the same laid-back vibe as drinking outside the Free Pub in Middleton does (with sofas instead of lawn chairs) even though it faces a busy McKee Road.

Rather than a distraction, the traffic’s more of a background buzz. It’s a solid soundtrack to help you contemplate whether there’s really any difference between a pub and an alehouse ... as you order another round, of course.

Aaron R. Conklin is a freelance writer based in Madison. He has written about food, theater and pop culture for publications such as Isthmus, the Wisconsin State Journal and Madison Magazine.

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