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SQUARED AWAY: Foxes Boxes brings farm-to-table fare to NOFO

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Listen here, Brooklyn Arts District. There’s nothing wrong with washing down those Goat & Compass brews with a pepperoni pie from that chain delivery spot. But what if we could up our eating game with ingredients from fresh, local farms and urban gardens? This isn’t a metaphorical question. The Foxes Boxes to the rescue.

CUBAN STAPLE: The Foxes Boxes get it right with their version of a Cuban sandwich and other protein options from their menu. Photo by Tom Dorgan.

CUBAN STAPLE: The Foxes Boxes get it right with their version of a Cuban sandwich and other protein options from their menu. Photo by Tom Dorgan.

Co-owners Randy Fox and his charming wife Rachel are putting a new spin on how the north end of downtown eats: They’re making the community a better place. Between Randy’s food chops and Rachel’s for-benefit business model, we’re all in for a treat. And I’m not using the word “we” loosely—this is my neighborhood, after all.

As far as interior design goes, the urban setting couldn’t be more spot on with BAD’s trendy vibe. Slate-colored wood floors meet dark exposed brick wall and whimsical chalkboard menus. The refurbished historic space—copiously larger on the inside than expected—has been given new life with a breath of fresh veggies.

On to the food…

The layout of the menu is simple: Pick a protein from the left, and a side from the right. The selections are divided into three categories: Gourmet Box, Fox Box and Basic Box. And, yes, everything comes in a box—an ecologically sound box, of course. Nearly all items are an ode to the dishes that have seasoned the Fox family’s lives—memories for meals. I can dig that.

Let’s talk proteins.

First up was the Gourmet Box’s Kalbi steak, which Randy described as his homage to a style of Korean barbecue. Long strips of juicy meat were speckled with sesame seeds and perfumed with Asian staples like soy, garlic and ginger. The beef was tender, expertly cooked, and sat on top of a puffy mound of white rice. An extra drizzle of sauce wouldn’t have hurt anybody.

I selected two options from the Gourmet section, too. Second—and my all-around favorite—was Randy’s interpretation on the Cuban pork sandwich. The gargantuan creation was reminiscent of a traditional Cuban (minus the uber flat panini-style bread). The sandwich’s exterior offered a crunch and the inside was fluffy but was definitely denser than the norm, enveloped by two thick, nutty slices of Swiss, generous shreds of succulent pork, shaved ham, and thin dill pickles. Instead of the classic yellow, I noticed a pebbly smear of whole grain mustard. Randy’s alterations were minor but welcome changes to the staple.

My protein pick for box number three was the Farmer’s Flatbread Pizza from the Fox Box. Forget oily pies dripping with greasy cheese; Randy’s take on the fan-favorite was a fresh, crunchy flatbread loaded with garden fixings. I was lucky enough to walk in on BLT night. The crispy dough was slathered in creamy guacamole and layered with tomatoes, spinach and salty bacon. A pizza I don’t have to feel bad about afterward? Yes, please. Speaking of washing down guilt: Did I mention they serve beer? Well done, Foxes Boxes. You know your audience.

I saw a review or two on Facebook that mentioned the Chickpea Wrap being tasty, so it was my choice for the Basic Box. Sorry to say the handheld was slightly disappointing as far as execution. The peas had an overwhelming spice and the ratio of tortilla to fillings was a bit off. The wrap itself was on the dry side, but thanks to it being one of a handful of thoughtful vegetarian selections, I respect the direction Randy has taken with his menu.

Let’s talk sides.

Overall, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the majority of side dishes. However, a few tweaks of cooking time and a heavier hand with seasoning could certainly turn them around. The seasonal roasted veggie of the day was green beans, and I was looking forward to something simply prepared. What I got was a touch more basic: The cooking method appeared to be blanching or boiling, but the beans could have used longer in their bath. As opposed to having a gentle crunch, they had a fairly intense bite. Between under-cooking and the slivered almonds thrown on top like an afterthought, the best part of this was the quality of the original product. Fresh and local are always better, but need to be handled with a hair more consideration.

The fresh greens salad, mixed with almonds and dried cranberries, was served alongside a cup of lovely fruit dressing. The homemade vinaigrette was tangy, and the salad was a nice accompaniment to the hearty Cuban sandwich. One fond word about the potatoes: well-cooked. Roasted potatoes are often underdone, leaving an unpleasant, starchy flavor on the tongue. Foxes’ potatoes were delicate and soft, but lacked in the flavor department. Even a dusting of garlic powder would have given the taters a taste boost.

With local gardens at Foxes Boxes’ fingertips, I wouldn’t mind seeing some aromatics or fresh herbs here and there. The carrot salad with ginger unfortunately was a miss, too. The mixture featured carrot shreds and edamame in a light spicy sauce. The beans were lacking in flavor and the dressing needed something sweet or creamy to balance out the ginger’s sharpness.

Let’s sum it up.

The majority of the proteins received high marks, but I was less enthusiastic about the sides. Regardless, the whole menu has potential to grow. Overall, I appreciate Randy’s culinary vision and Rachel’s passion for manifesting a business whose central focus is the people. Foxes Boxes is in a prime, thriving location. With a few adjustments, the BAD community will welcome this restaurant with empty tummies.

The Foxes Boxes
622 N. 4th St.
(910) 769-0125
Closed Mon.; Tues. – Wed., 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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