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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, July 17, 2008

Foxenkill: Old tavern gets new life under McDonald’s ownership

By  Tyler Schuling

KNOX — Last month, a local tavern that hadn’t seen customers in two years was bustling. 

On June 13, the Foxenkill Tavern, a Hilltown eatery and watering hole that had been owned by Mark Wade and closed nearly two years ago, was under new management and celebrating its grand opening.  Between 300 and 400 people came, according Brian McDonald, the tavern’s new owner.  During the Fourth of July week, business slowed, but, other than that, he said, it’s been steady. 

On Monday, McDonald, 36, was behind the bar having a late-afternoon beer.  A man from Long Island who lives up the road stopped by, wondering if the tavern had re-opened and who was running it.

Located along Route 443 where the towns of Knox, Berne, and Wright meet, the business straddles the road.  Just across the street from the tavern, which is set against the backdrop of the Fox Creek, there is a large open area for parking and camping. 

“We changed the menu, but we offer the same stuff,” said McDonald.  “We haven’t really changed.”

The tavern — open Wednesday through Sunday — offers casual dining.  Dishes include steaks, pasta, daily soups and vegetables, hamburgers, sandwiches, and pizza.  Seating is available inside or outside at tables or on the wraparound porch.  Meals range from $7.95 for a hamburger or for a chicken sandwich to $18.95 for a filet mignon dinner.  An 8-cut cheese pizza goes for $10.95.  McDonald buys his produce locally.  Everything else is bought from food distributors, such as Sysco.  The Foxenkill Tavern also offers a full bar and bands play every couple of weeks.  This weekend, the tavern will host Shakey Ground.

For the past two years, McDonald has lived at the house next to the tavern.  Originally from Massachusetts, he and his family moved to Knox about 25 years ago. 

“I ended up liking New York a whole lot better than Massachusetts,” he said. 

He had been a chef, but, he said, he got sick of it and wanted to experience other things.  He then did a little bit of everything; he was a stonemason and also did landscaping and carpentry. 

McDonald, who had cooked at the Foxenkill, had no idea, he said, that he would become a restaurant owner.  As the tavern closed down, he thought to himself: How can I keep my job? 

In his first venture as a business owner, McDonald has made some additions.  He had four speakers installed outside on the porch and added a jukebox. 

He also has plans for changes.  He’d like to see his tavern change to more of a steakhouse, he said.  And he’d like to sell tickets for Creek Fest, an event to be held outside with a band, a bonfire, and horseshoes and all-you-can-eat-and-drink steamers and beer for $25 per person. 

After acquiring the business, McDonald mowed the property, which includes land on both sides of Route 443 that extends far from his tavern.  He now contracts it out. 

“Because I’m just so tied up during the week,” he said.  “I’m working 12, 15 hours a day.  I’ve got to have one day where I can get a little rest.” 

The Foxenkill Tavern also keeps drunk drivers off the road.  

“Campers are welcome,” McDonald said.  If people have too much to drink, he said, they can pitch a tent nearby.  “People have been doing that lately.” 

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