I'll admit, I'm quite tempted to call Bloodhound Brew a "gastropub," as so many a bar-and-grille refers to itself nowadays. After all, the food here was thoroughly enjoyable, the selection of suds notable, and the vibe neighborly and welcoming. But I find myself asking: Where was the couple reserving the space for their wedding reception? Where was the bourgeois self-indulgence? The $20 burger? Where, pray tell, was the wine list??? Could it be that we stumbled onto an old-fashioned watering hole that served up some of the best bar food in the city? Impossible! I'm sure I overheard the server say the chef trained at the CIA. No? What was that? The Tilted Kilt in Lake Mary? And the building used to be … a Pizza Hut?
Fine, I'll abandon this endeavor – it seems that if "gastropub" is going to be used to describe Bloodhound Brew, it had better be prefixed with the word "anti." Not that the folks here take any reverse-snob pride in being an anti-gastropub. They merely choose to take bar-fare standbys and elevate them to higher gustatory levels. That is, without the flourishes and affectation: dishes like grilled chicken wings ($10.99 for 10) cooked with a delectable "mac & cheese" rub, and the Bloodhound burger ($9.99), a whopper of a sandwich featuring a hand-shaped, pan-fried 10-ounce patty topped with bacon, havarti and mac & cheese.
But what most intrigued us was the "Street Food" portion of the menu. The five sizable street tacos ($9.99) – "straight from Mexico City" – may not have been al pastor, but ¡hijole! they had us comparing them to the ones at Border Grill. Sticks skewering the fried chicken and biscuits ($8.99) negated any need for utensils, and even with a healthy slathering of white country gravy, the chicken stayed properly crisp. The noodle bowl ($8.99) was a valiant attempt at spiced "hawker stall" flavoring, but the fried chicken tenders the kitchen used ought to be replaced with a more appropriate rendering – grilled thighs would be more authentic. Enjoying the meal with a glass of St. Bernardus Abt 12 ($) made it better – then again, that Belgian Trappist ale makes everything better.
On a separate lunchtime visit, everything from the sloppy sliders ($7.99) with crumbly buns to the classic cheesesteak sandwich ($8.99) was as uninspired as the service, which was a bit too casual for lunch. Also, it's just not the same when funnel cake ($5.99) comes with little to no powdered sugar, and when pineapple upside-down cake ($6.99), usually a favorite, fails to elicit a strong positive response.
Still, there's plenty good coming from the kitchen of this neighborhood gastro- … er, bar and grille, and the inviting outdoor space and live music help differentiate the eatery from the rest even more. In the competitive world of food service, it could make a top dog out of an underdog.
5801 Conroy Road
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