Fox Hollow: What the Hell
Muddled strawberries and limes in a caipiroska, one of Fox Hollow's "farmers market" cocktails.
I do not understand Fox Hollow.
Maybe when the place has been open for a little while longer and had some time to really figure out what it is and what it wants to focus on, I'll get it. But a recent visit mostly convinced me that the well-meaning bar three blocks north of Washington Avenue is already in the midst of an identity crisis. This isn't a good sign in an establishment's infancy.
Fox Hollow already has a few obstacles to overcome without getting in its own way. Namely, the parking situation (always a bear in this part of town) and the fact that it's off the beaten path for what I imagine are your average Washington Avenue bar-goers, being set back in a shady pocket of the "south Heights" (for lack of a better definition) that featured no less than three drunks blundering into the path of my truck in broad daylight.
I live in a neighborhood where I routinely find hypodermic needles outside my house in the morning, so it takes more than a few missing hubcaps in an area to turn me off it. But when you're positioning yourself as an upscale "gastrolounge," it helps to have a thin veneer of civility in your immediate neighborhood so as to reassure your patrons they won't get accidentally stabbed.
None of this was helped by the fact that parking for Fox Hollow is in a "valet" lot where you actually have to park your own car for $5 (although if you don't park it straight enough, the "valets" will yell at you to move it). And which is, for all intents and purposes, actually someone's badly gravel-paved backyard. It doesn't mix well with heels, let's just say that.
The menu is an ambitious blend of artisanal cocktails and food.
I strongly recall the press release for Fox Hollow because I was amused by the description of the bar as having "feminine appeal...made up entirely of purchases from markets and second-hand shops all over the world." In my head, it looked like Anthropologie meets Hearsay, or at least like Flora & Muse.
It doesn't. It looks like the inside of a small-town haunted house, complete with oddly painted faux bricks on the walls and a lighting scheme that recalls the black lights in my college boyfriend's dorm room. On the other hand, it has some lovely seating areas, some interesting overhead lights that look like they came from the Alden Hotel and a gorgeous flocked wallpaper in one corner, both of which attest to the fact that someone along the line attempted to give the place a feminine appeal. It was as schizophrenic as, well, some of the folks wandering around outside.
The drink menu was appealing on its own: Farmers market cocktails made with local, seasonal fruit -- the same thing places like Anvil, Hearsay, Beaver's, Branch Water and many other bars have been doing for quite some time now -- were made with a lot of effort. The bartenders' careful muddling didn't go unappreciated. But the caipiroska that I tried had very little flavor and even less alcohol.
The bar retains a typically masculine presence despite Fox Hollow's efforts to feminize the place.
The passed bites were better, on the other hand. I didn't care for the deconstructed Caesar salad that went down the front of my dress as it shattered in one bite, but the caprese salad skewers were lovely: plump yellow and red tomatoes with fresh basil and thick bites of mozzarella cheese, all perfectly seasoned with a bit of salt and balsamic vinaigrette. Also nice was the house-made hummus, which rotates based on what the kitchen feels like making from day to day. On my visit, it was roasted red pepper served on a thick pita chip. Other menu items are ambitious: a lump crab and strawberry salad served on pieces of endive, a duck dish, et cetera.
I have to wonder, though, how long Fox Hollow will be able to play this game: Will it concentrate on truly being a "gastrolounge" with emphasis on the food and cocktails? Or will it cave to its surroundings, its bizarre interior and the area's proclivity for bars that serve 20 different combinations of vodka and Red Bull?
Gastrolounges are difficult enough to pull off in the best of circumstances; the Washington Avenue corridor does not strike me as particularly hospitable to a place that takes five minutes to shake a cocktail and serves endive, no matter how well-meaning it is.
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