When you dream of opening a cozy, intimate wine bar with big international menu flavors to match, you can’t let a pandemic put the cork back in your unbottled enthusiasm. And, like many local restauranteurs, the owners of the new Fox Tail Wine Bar on Mellen Street in Hampton have forged ahead with creativity and determination.
At a recent soft opening event, guests had an opportunity to sample brunch offerings that showcased an around-the-world sensibility. Avocado toast with whipped ricotta and pico de gallo delighted, as did a delicate, classic French omelet with paddle fish roe, beautiful fresh herbs and beurre blanc sauce. Meanwhile, two small plates boasted bold but comforting bites in the form of a fried chicken Bahn Mi Vietnamese sandwich with pickled onion, spicy aioli and pâté, and glazed brisket with next-level tater tots, shishito peppers and homemade dill pickles.
Co-owners Christopher Fox and Justin Ramos are both military veterans whose international travels and combined passions for wine and fine dining at an accessible price have come to fruition at Fox Tail, one of three exciting new attractions for food and drink lovers in the historic Phoebus neighborhood (The Baker’s Wife and 1865 Brewing are also slated to open soon).
Fox’s love affair with wine started when he was stationed in Vicenza, Italy, and he hopes to translate the vibe of the European wine bars he frequented into a laidback yet sophisticated venue where both “wine neophyte and connoisseur” can find something to their liking “from crisp and zesty sweet whites, to dark and bold reds,” as their website notes.
Ramos also serves as executive chef and brings diverse experiences and tastes to the table along with chef David Martell, who was miraculously navigating a miniature kitchen (think walk-in closet size) during the soft opening but will soon find a place to hang his toque in the permanent food trailer to become a fixture in the back of the restaurant and function as its full-service kitchen.
“Wine is international,” says Ramos, who grew up in Mexico City and will certainly incorporate some Hispanic and Caribbean influences into this venture, “so we definitely had to create a menu that complements that international flair.” There will be a French and Italian presence, of course, but there may also be African spices to go with South African wines or South American flavors to go with South American wines. “We wanted to be able to hit all the notes of our 70-plus labels of wine from all over the world.”
Charcuterie will be a mainstay on their full daily menu as will popular shareable noshes like hummus platters and cheesy crab and artichoke dip. A small changing entrée menu with a variety of price points will offer more filling fare from pork birria tacos with sundried tomato salsa and crème fraiche to prime NY strip with porcini miso and red wine reduction.
“We like to take very, simple fresh ingredients and treat them how they should be treated,” Ramos says. A big part of their approach, too, is making good eating affordable. “I feel like everybody should be able to experience an elevated style of cooking, because food is love.”
There’s much to love about the savory food and wine list at Fox Tail, but you’ll also want to be sure to check out their signature drinks and desserts. In addition to mimosas, sangrias, old fashioneds and the like, bar manager Paul Honda will be serving up intriguing blends like their smokey jalapeño chardonnay—chardonnay infused with roasted jalapeños, grilled pineapple, smoked rosemary and fresh mint, and mixed with honey and bitters.
Apple strudel and banana bread pudding were recent dessert features, and at the brunch event Ramos took chocolate chip cookies to a sublime new dimension with a crispy-on-top, gooey-in-the-middle version cooked in a single-serving cast iron pan—a recipe he notes took him much painstaking trial and error to perfect. The result is definitely a sweet reward for a job well done.