Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Watson's House of Ales
"I am not a smart man."
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt It's not a faux British pub without a red phone box.
Forrest Gump's words echoed in my head as I stared at the Saint Patrick's Day decorations hanging on the temporary plastic tents erected outside Watson's House of Ales this past Sunday afternoon. In my haste to come and try what I've been told is one of the better pub-style burgers in the city, I had completely forgotten it was St. Amateur's Day.
Worse, I had my parents with me. Fresh out of church, and certainly not wearing any green. If someone inside this bar pinched my mother, I knew there'd be a fight on my hands.
Tentatively, we peeked inside. It was still early in the day for such festivities, and thankfully the tavern was still quiet. As my eyes adjusted to the relatively dark environs, I was surprised to see one of the nicest British-style pubs I'd yet encountered in Houston. How had I always overlooked this place?
It could be that I'd always written it off as just another Sherlock's or Baker St. Pub -- the chain bars and Watson's are owned by the same parent company, although there's only one Watson's House of Ales.
Watson's has a nicer living room than I do...
The real answer, though, is that it's off the beaten path. This wouldn't be a series otherwise. Watson's House of Ales is tucked into that odd little development at Highway 6 and the Katy Freeway where a collection of old cottages has stood for years, housing restaurants like Lupe Tortilla, Las Ventanas and Ginger Thai. All good restaurants, all very popular with local residents, all easy to forget about in their purposely secluded, woodsy, quiet neighborhood.
Perhaps for this same reason, Watson's House of Ales remained quite peaceful for almost the duration of our lunchtime visit. The waitress was perhaps a little confused that we were only there to eat -- she attempted to dye one of our Goose Island beers green, to the consternation of my craft-beer nerd boyfriend -- but she shouldn't have been. The food at Watson's is decidedly above-average pub grub.
In honor of the day, I ordered the greenest burger on the menu: the green chile-avocado burger, which also came with grilled onions, sweet-and-spicy pickles and serrano mayonnaise. I wasn't asked how I wanted the burger cooked, which can be a bad sign. But I shouldn't have worried. Despite being well-done, the burger was still surprisingly juicy.
The sautéed onions and roasted poblano peppers added their own welcome juices to the mix, while the avocado and Pepper Jack cheese kept things gooey and melty. In spite of all this, the bun kept it all together in one wonderfully contained mess. This is exactly what I look for in a burger.
My family's lunches were panning out as well: Chicken strips were battered like the fish and chips -- my parents ordered both -- and both were deeply satisfying with a few vigorous shakes of malt vinegar on top. My boyfriend's Bull Dog sported bacon, queso and pickled jalapeños on a large, beefy hot dog that, like the burger, held up surprisingly well under the weight of so many toppings. And even the beer selection held up to the bar's name: There's a diverse array of brews on tap at this House of Ales.
Looking at a corner of the bar that held some really lovely leather couches and a dramatic fireplace, my mother turned to my dad and said: "You know, this place is really nice. We should come back here some time." They only live a few blocks away, after all.
Two thumbs up for the battered onion rings, too.
Then, over a megaphone turned up to 11, a bartender crackled out: "I have two George Strait tickets for the Rodeo! Sold-out concert! The first person who brings me hand sanitizer and a condom can have them!"
We looked around. Over lunch, Watson's had picked up a crowd and we'd been too busy eating to notice.
"I know you have hand sanitzer," my mother told my dad. "But you'd better not have a condom."
"Come on!" yelled the bartender. "Anyone! Does anyone have hand sanitizer and a condom?"
It was time to go.
- Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Poppa Burger
- Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Blake's BBQ & Burgers
- Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Stomp's vs. Tookie's
- Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Taqueria Taconmadre
- Burgers Off the Beaten Path: Chief's Cajun Snack Shack
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