On a side road of Main Street in Ridgefield, a sports bar stands, hidden in plain sight. I say hidden because we happened to drive right by it the first time. But once inside of Tigers’ Den Sports Bar and Grill, I didn’t mind the brief time off course.
One of the things that any Food Dude enjoys is a solid beer to wash down the grub. And the bar at Tigers’ Den has a hard to beat list of 16 tap lines, which includes some harder to find craft beers. Having a hard time deciding? You can get a flight for $10.
Owner Joe Attonito was nice enough to toss some other nuggets of useful information. For the people who love their brew enough to take it home with them, brace yourselves. Growlers are coming. And the most recent beer list can be found on their site, along with the site BeerMenus, so you can always find out what’s pouring.
I started the evening with a Grey Sail Captain’s Daughter. Captain’s Daughter is a DIPA (Double/Imperial IPA). Now, I’m usually not a fan of IPAs. I find them to be too bitter. But this beer was actually very easy to drink. It’s also very light in color, but don’t let that fool you. At 8.50% ABV, this brew is definitely one you’d want to sit with for a bit. Try to keep that last statement in mind as you scroll through.
It was time for the other thing that any Food Dude enjoys, our namesake, good food. Our first dishes were the pulled pork fries and the Tigers’ mac and cheese. We all agreed that you could make a meal just out of the fries. Steak fries are topped with slow-roasted pork butt and Jim Beam “Bourbon and Pepsi” BBQ sauce. If that isn’t enough to get your mouth watering, the fries also come with: house-made coleslaw, a creamy cheddar sauce, and peppered onion strings.
The fries weren’t overly messy, but we still had to use our forks to gather all of the goodness. And the cole slaw definitely earned my seal of approval. I don’t consider myself a coleslaw aficionado, but I know what I like. You could tell that this wasn’t just taken from a boxed mix and thrown together to look good. This coleslaw took time to prepare.
The Tigers’ mac and cheese is a shell pasta tossed with a cheesy Béchamel sauce. We couldn’t get enough of this either. The sauce was delicious, and meshed together so well with the perfectly cooked pasta. If only we had some bread to mop up the sauce left over in the dish! Oh, sorry. You’ll have to excuse the Italian in me for coming out in times like that.
Our next plates of the night were the traditional wings. I was impressed to find out that the wing sauces at Tigers’ Den are also house-made. 16 varieties of traditional or boneless wings can be whipped up. They have everything from Garlic Parmesan to Jim Beam Bourbon Honey. And for you heat-lovers out there, you can get: Mild, Medium, Hot, XXX, or Atomic. Paraphrasing one of Joe’s first questions to us when we walked in, “Can you handle heat?” You can already tell where this question was leading.
The flavor arsenal selected for us? BBQ, Maple Bacon, Thai Peanut, and Atomic. Let’s just take a minute to explain the Atomic wings. As it was explained to us, these wings were entered into the first annual Connecticut Wing Fest in Danbury for their hottest wings contest last year. They didn’t win. So, the natural thing to do would be to make them even hotter. A few more ingredients were added into the mix, including a few dashes from a bottled extract. A challenge may even be in the works for these wings, so stay tuned.
We wanted to dive right into the Atomic wings. Now, I won’t mention any names, but one of the Food Dudes isn’t a fan of really spicy stuff. But, when you ride together, you better as hell eat the damn wings together. We raised our single Atomic wing up in the air, and toasted each other before we all bit down. They didn’t look all that intimidating, and they didn’t even smell that terrible, how bad could it be?
Moment of silence for the taste buds lost in the glory of battle. It wasn’t a direct hit, it was a lingering afterburn of nerve splitting proportions. All of our eyes began to water as our sinuses were cleared out. I took deep breaths in and out, the heat was suffocating. I tried to stay strong and not reach for the water, but soon the glass was empty.
Nothing. The water did absolutely nothing to remedy the situation. Even putting ice cubes directly on my tongue seemed to provoke more attacks. We all began to reach for anything in sight. The celery and blue cheese, the remainder of the fries, and the rest of the mac and cheese.
Nothing. The food did nothing to calm the complete anarchy evolving in my body. Another table began to look over in concern for my well-being. Murmurs of, “Is he alright?” were answered with, “I think he just ate something really hot.” My nervous system went rogue. Soon I couldn’t control my hands from shaking. The only defense mechanism was to laugh maniacally and nod as our waiter asked, “You tried the Atomic, didn’t you?” The other Dudes had recovered, while I was still in shock. Sweet relief was finally achieved by the beer at my side. And now I needed a refill.
Everything from this point forward had a lingering taste of the Atomic, so pay no mind to it if I call something spicy. But the rest of the wings were thankfully calmer. We all voted the Maple Bacon as our favorite. It was just the right combination of sweet and salty, and the skin had a nice crispiness to it. We could have easily polished off twenty of these bad boys.
For those of you who are curious, my next beer was a Jack’s Abby Smoke & Dagger. Smoke & Dagger is a 5.8% ABV Black Lager made with Beechwood smoked malt and chocolate malt. You get a smoky flavor while drinking this one, and there’s a balance of sweet and bitter at the end. Not bad at all.
We were all pretty full at this point, and not to mention suffering from hot flashes. But we had to plow through the final food offerings of the night. A Texas Burger and Nacho Burger (the burger special for the week) were served to us medium rare, just the way we like them.
The Texas Burger is an 8 ounce burger topped with: American cheese, smoked Applewood bacon, and a fried egg. This is what it’s like to have breakfast for dinner. The egg was the hero that we’ve been searching for and it amplified everything that much more. It might not seem like a complex burger, but it really doesn’t have to be. The brisket blend is simple and to the point. There isn’t any fancy mixing of exotic meats, just delicious beef.
The 8 ounce Nacho burger was tougher to handle, but only because of the toppings. The Jalapeno peppers, olives, and salsa kept escaping the bun and wound up on our hands. But we don’t mind using an extra napkin or two! I was a fan of the chips that accompanied the burger, they definitely added to the Tex-Mex feel of the burger. And the Jalapenos felt like a fly landing on my arm compared to the Atomic wings, but they still packed a punch.
It was time to conclude our evening, all of our plates and glasses were empty. What, you’re not surprised, you say? I suppose that we’ve earned that reputation and we wear it proudly. And Tigers’ Den has certainly earned our respect. Every dish was on point and the service was very attentive.
This place has a really good vibe going on. You can tell just by looking at the customers that they enjoy stopping in. It’s the kind of bar that you can kick back and relax without having to worry about a rowdy crowd making your night miserable. I can definitely see us stopping in again, especially since they also happen to show UFC fights and WWE pay-per-views. And during the warmer months, they have another bar and patio set up to bring the party outside. There is also a room upstairs for private parties and events that includes: a private bar, games, and a 100 inch projector. All that, plus beer, and food. Tigers’ Den is way better than staying in your man cave, Teddy Brosevelt.
Tigers’ Den Sports Bar & Grill
23 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield, CT
(203) 431 – 0200
Facebook: Tigers’ Den, Twitter: @TigersDenCT