Poutine, sauerkraut and wurst are the best.
Among the top draws at the new Flying Hound Alehouse is poutine, a Canadian answer to chili fries that's sometimes difficult to find in acceptable form south of the border.
The pub, opened this spring by the owners of Middleton's Free House, should also appeal to fans of good beer and those who prefer locally owned eateries. It's located near the Super Target in the ever-developing McKee Road area that has tilted mostly to fast-food options.
The seating area is full of high-top tables. It can make for a rather loud atmosphere at certain times of the evening, especially since the spot has been offering itself as a World Cup match-viewing locale. The service, however, is friendly and prompt.
The Flying Hound's creative beer menu doesn't disappoint. It's heavy on European producers, with favorites like Belhaven Scottish Ale and Young's Double Chocolate Stout, and Belgian classics like St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Tripel Karmeliet. There are also Western U.S. choices from Lagunitas and Big Sky, in addition to a handful of rotating Wisconsin locals (Potosi, Lake Louie, Wisconsin Brewing Co. and Karben4 have been spotted). Enthusiasts will have tried many of these beers, but likely not in one place. There seems to be something for everyone, and servers are happy to make recommendations or offer a sample.
On a first visit I tried a Hacker-Pschorr hefe, eyeing the pretzel and sausage options on the menu as a suitable pairing. First it was imperative to sample the poutine, however. I find that many bars attempting poutine focus on crafting what amounts to a French fry mac 'n' cheese, when they should be focusing on the quality of both the cheese and the gravy-like sauce.
Understandably, this Wisconsin poutine does not disappoint in the cheese department, with fresh curds squeaking away amid a cushion of provolone and herbs. The sauce, a house onion gravy, left something to be desired, but the fries were crisp and well textured. On balance, the dish seems a collection of components rather than a united front.
The pretzels and mustard appetizer was similarly hit-and-miss. The pretzels themselves were too dense, but the mustards are spicy and tangy enough to enliven their lackluster vessel.
Mustard lovers will also enjoy the Pelicaric Family sausage sampler, normally an appetizer but workable as an entree. The dish presents three artisan sausages from the Wisconsin sausage makers: bratwurst, English-style banger and hot Hungarian, along with mustards, sauerkraut and Clasen's sourdough toast.
The sausages are fantastic, and the sauerkraut is an unexpected pleasure. It's addictively tangy, with a perfect crunch, red pepper flecks, caraway and a spicy kick. I found myself wanting more than even the liberal helping initially served so that I could douse my sausages with it. All this left me happy to ignore the rather sad sourdough toasts, except to briefly wish their portion of the plate was being occupied by more sauerkraut.
Onion gravy shows up again in the schnitzel platter entree, this time with the preferable canvas of mashed potatoes. The platter includes a healthy dose of sauerkraut and a thinly breaded schnitzel, tender and moist. The salty-spicy-crunchy-chewy combination hits the spot, accompanied by a pint. On its own the schnitzel lacks enough breading for its trademark sinful crunch, though it improved topped with kraut and gravy.
Flying Hound's fish and chips, starring cod, features a nice crispy breading and acceptable fish, with more tasty fries and a homemade tartar sauce. The Friday fish fry offers four more varieties of fish: fried wild-caught Alaskan cod, Canadian walleye (fried or grilled) and fried Lake Erie yellow perch.
The grilled ahi tuna sandwich, however, needed more sauce (a wasabi-soy mayo, I'm told, though I could barely discern it) to compensate for a rather dry and slightly overcooked filet. The accompanying tossed salad (one of three side options, along with fries and slaw) was appealing and fresh with a spring green mix and sweet cherry tomatoes.
A blue burger was also wanting for sauce. The described spicy cherry pepper aioli was all but absent and would have brightened up an otherwise uninspired bite.
The Flying Hound has ups and downs in its food quality, but it fills a void with the Euro-centric beer selection, and it's family-friendly. Already a popular stop for shoppers, the pub could become a dining draw as well as a beer spot with a few improvements to match the quality to the prices.u