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Crazy Like a Fox: It's more than felt and flair at the Westside billiard lounge

It's more than felt and flair at the Westside billiard lounge.

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If Fox's Billiard Lounge was a Hollywood movie, I imagine the pitch would have been something along the lines of Color of Money meets Cocktail. It's unclear whether owner Marshall Fox is Tom Cruise's number one fan or just felt that Newport Avenue was severely lacking in a pool hall with bartenders who can juggle their shakers, but either way, his far-fetched concept has turned out to be shear genius. Throw in the abundance of games to play, the all-day happy hour and the Vegas décor including sparkly beaded curtains, dark leather couches and red felt pool tables, and it's hard not to suspect that it was all set up as a sting operation to lure you in, get you drunk and steal your wallet. But that's another movie. Fox's is gimmicky, yes, but certainly not a scam. With everything in the place priced well below the norm, it would be pretty tough to lose the family farm at Fox's.

The menu consists entirely of $5 dishes. Drinks are also absurdly cheap with all beers for $2.75 including microbrews, well drinks for $3.75 and wine for $5. It's pretty inconceivable that you could make any money that way, but Fox's seems to be making up for it in volume. Perennially packed with a complete cross-section of Bend dwellers, from cougars on vacation to COCC's finest, this grown-up playground has received a very warm welcome on the Westside where sushi, gourmet groceries and high-end kitchenware have always ruled.

I know what you're thinking: They get you on the games. Not so. Pool is only $8 per hour and shuffleboard and foosball a reasonable $5 per hour. You can even snag the VIP room in the back with a private lounge, TV, Wii system, pool table and direct phone line to the bar for only $20 per hour. Then the drinks must be watered down. Nope. Besides the fact that they're being served by "flair" bartenders, which can get old fast (visit www.foxsbilliards.com for a hysterical definition of the term), drinks are completely normal. Okay, then the plates must be tiny and/or straight out of a freezer bag, right? Also not the case. Granted, we're not talking about fine-dining, and of course there are some clunkers on the menu, but they're full portions for $5, and in most cases you're getting more than you paid for.

I'd avoid dishes where Fox's overreaches like the Mandarin Chicken Canapés. The flavors were a little confused and, frankly, canapés and foosball just don't mix in my book. I'd also issue a warning about the Hot Wok Wings, which you can get doused in a variety of sauces. Not that they're bad but they're not what I want when I order hot wings. No nice little wings and tiny drumsticks here, Fox's version is all legs that are absolutely Flinstonian in size and more plausibly from a pterodactyl than a chicken. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Tortilla Soup. It was a traditional preparation on the brothier side, served with a dollop of cilantro lime cream. The garlic and truffle cheese fries were also very successful, seasoned and topped with garlic, Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Dessert plates were pretty much a fried sugar bomb across the board, but I expected nothing less when I ordered the Fried Twinkies, Tempura Apple Rings (they tasted remarkably like pancakes), Cinnamon Beignets with three syrupy dipping sauces and Fried Cookie Dough Bites with vanilla bean ice cream. The latter took the cake.

Fox's also offers breakfast on weekends with ample wide screens for football season. I'm not sure I could stand to watch my Bloody Mary assaulted with Fox's level of flair and enthusiasm - morning drinks should be served straight up and with a scowl - but the free pool that comes along with it might be enough for me to make an exception.

Fox's Billiard Lounge

937 NW Newport Ave., 647-1363. Mon.-Fri. 4 p.m. to close;
Sat.-Sun. 9:30 a.m.-close

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