The Heat Is On
The team behind Foxboro’s Patriot Place is rolling the dice that its glitzy eateries can go head-to-head with good, old-fashioned tailgating for the attentions of revved-up Pats fans. Although central heating is a brilliant opening play (especially this time of year), to take on parking-lot partying you’ve got to provide ideal proportions of excellent food, drink, and raucous merriment, too. We recruited two tailgating vets—Norm Gray, a Wrentham firefighter famed for his silver, red, and blue party bus, and his buddy Rich Frucci, a Hingham homebuilder—to test-drive the competition.
THE GRUB The Whiskey River BBQ Burger scores big (onion strings inside the burger—genius!), but Norm finds the thick-cut fries flavorless. "That’s probably for a reason," he says—the spuds are all-you-can-eat.
THE VIBE Norm claims to not be much for fruity drinks, but his daughter raves about the margaritas here. If you’re man enough, go for it.
THE CALL First down. 508-698-0030, redrobin.com.
THE GRUB If steak’s on your pregame list, this is the spot. Gorgonzola-crusted sirloin—thick and juicy, with a nice char—comes with port wine sauce, a generous helping of fingerling potatoes, and sautéed spinach.
THE VIBE Rich and Norm say they were concerned about feeling uncomfortable in this ritzy joint, but are pleasantly surprised by the refined—not opulent—atmosphere. "I don’t feel like I need to pull my collar up," Norm says, though he adds, "This isn’t a place you come to get hammered."
THE CALL Touchdown! 508-339-4810, davios.com.
Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro
THE GRUB Our experts insist no tailgate is complete without crackers and large hunks of cheese. But these plates are Pop Warner–size, featuring fine artisan fromage from around New England. It’s not for this crowd. "Tailgate food is a little more about quantity than quality," says Norm. "If you sent some big guys into this place, they wouldn’t be happy."
THE VIBE A decidedly gourmet wine bar with small plates like Catalan flatbread (with Serrano ham and manchego) and more than 175 wines on offer, this is the spot for football widows (and widowers) to drown their sorrows.
THE CALL Sacked. 508-203-9463, tastingswinebarandbistro.com.
THE GRUB The guys order wings, but are disappointed that the only options are General Tso’s sauce or a garlic glaze so potent Rich complains, "I had to eat a fry just to get the taste out of my mouth!" At the risk of coming off as Bills fans, where’s the plain old buffalo flavor?
THE VIBE This network-themed eatery is an upscale family restaurant on steroids, with a menu of American standards and a 360-square-foot projection screen, plus 135 HDTVs scattered around the joint.
THE CALL Tackled for no gain. 508-203-2200, cbsscene.com.