Katharine Shilcutt's 10 Favorite Dishes in Houston
1. Wild game burger at Rainbow Lodge
Photo by Mai Pham
Like Hobbit Cafe, I have nothing but fond memories of Rainbow Lodge, both at its former home on Buffalo Bayou and its "new" location on Ella. My parents were married there; that's how much my family -- and I -- love this Houston treasure set on the lush banks of White Oak Bayou.
Rainbow Lodge is best known for its beautiful view onto the verdant, rolling banks of the bayou, its bountiful gardens and its menu of wild game and Gulf Coast favorites, dishes such as buffalo tartare with quail eggs or Southern-fried quail with cheese grits and a bourbon-bacon gravy. The timber-framed lodge is refined and business-friendly by day, while the fireplace and ski resort feel impart a deliciously romantic allure by night. This is my special occasion spot sine qua non.
It also happens to be where you'll find the best burger in Houston. And just as no list of Houston dishes is complete without Tex-Mex or barbecue, it's certainly not complete without a burger.
A lot of love goes into these studiously constructed burgers, which are only served on Fridays at lunch. Instead of being wasted, tasty scraps from all the wild game the lodge goes through for a few days' prior are saved and thrown into the meat grinder. The result is a patty that can be a blend of antelope, boar, buffalo, venison and anything else the restaurant uses that would taste good on the griddle. Onto each hand-formed patty go even more house-made ingredients: roasted garlic mayonnaise, whole-grain mustard and thick-cut pickles (all made on site) along with a blend of three Cheddar cheeses. Each burger is served on Slow Dough buns made specially for Rainbow Lodge.
The burger recently won the 3rd annual Houston Press Burger Bracket in a contest that could be politely described as a bloodbath. Those who'd had Rainbow Lodge pegged as just a fancy-schmancy date place were blown away by the arm-soakingly juicy burger and its lovingly made ingredients. What started as a way to use perfectly good wild game has grown from a few burgers at lunch every week to a stampede to get the 60 patties the restaurant turns out on Fridays.
As with Gerardo's, however, this limited availability ensures the highest quality and makes you appreciate the burger all the more. Familiarity breeds contempt. Trust me on this one, and on this: Get to Rainbow Lodge early on Friday afternoon before all those lovely burgers are gone.
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