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Come for the football, stay for the food

by Brian Clarey

 editor@yesweekly.com

Idon’t know why I do it.

Every year, as late summer rolls around, I throw myself into the football season, casting my lot with the New Orleans Saints as I have done for the last 20 years.

Some of those years my team’s performance on the field ruined my entire fall; some of them filled me with unearned pride; and one of them — the Saints historic Super Bowl run in 2009 — still gives me goosebumps and chills.

But this year the Saints kinda suck, mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with nothing left to hope for but a better record next year. Even this last game of the regular season is meaningless, a bout against the 6-9 Carolina Panthers who managed to fare just a little bit worse.

And let’s face it: Football is a children’s game, played at the professional level by giant mutants who faked their way through college and get paid more than an individual school budget.

So why am I sitting here in a North Carolina sports bar in my Who Dat gear surrounded by Panthers fans, watching an inconsequential game while the US Congress grinds to a halt over tax policy and our state government is taken over by special interests?

Because that, friends, is what football fans do. And this isn’t just any sports bar — it’s the Fox & Hound, the best in Winston-Salem, according to our readers, with more TVs than NORAD, sections cordoned off for fan groups and a bar menu that rivals any I’ve ever seen.

It’s loaded with burgers, pizza, sammies and stick-to-the-ribs entrées, but I’m here to eat a plate of appetizers so big I should get a free T-shirt if I finish it.

The Play-Action Platter comes with three loaded potato skins, eight wings, five mozzarella sticks and three Bavarian pretzels, with five cups of sauces for dipping.

The Saints are down 3-0 when my server brings the thing to my table, and I start right in on the cheese sticks while they’re hot and gooey. Mozzarella sticks come in two classes: fantastic and inedible. These are perfectly fine, served with a marinara that does the job.

Potato skins, likewise, need only meet a few requirements to satisfy my palate. They need to be cooked all the way through, with crisp edges and lots of cheese and bacon — if I get the idea they’ve been anywhere near a microwave, it’s over. The Fox & Hound’s offering is made with smaller potatoes, which is a good move because nobody wants a giant potato skin, and otherwise meets all of my criteria.

Let me tell you how to screw up a chicken wing: you undercook or overcook them, make them either too spicy or not spicy enough, cover them with batter (blasphemy!). The Fox & Hound commits none of these mistakes; indeed their wing sauce is nuanced and layered with several distinct pepper flavors.

And pretzels… man I love pretzels. I wish more places served them.

These are hot and soft, glistening with butter and studded with salt. I dip them in queso and I dip them in ranch. In terms of the cost hierarchy of the items in my platter, the pretzels are lowly carbohydrate serfs, yet I would be a fool not to eat every bite.

And I do — finishing the last bits as the Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees throws a short pass into the end zone to make the score 10-7, in favor of the Panthers, and then minutes later intercept a Cam Newton pass for another 7 just before the half to put them ahead 14-10.

Who Dat! There’s no more food on my plate, but plenty of more football for these two teams today. I won’t bore you with the details — if you’re a true fan you already know what happened.

WANNA go?

Fox & Hound; 367 Lower Mall Drive, Winston-Salem 336.722.6000; foxandhound.com

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