Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christian's Tailgate

Christian's Tailgate, much like Lankford Grocery, is heralded as one of the finest burgers that Houston has to offer. Most people that I have talked to that recommend the place either claim it's one of the best they've ever had or that it's a staple that we simply have to make sure we don't ignore. It's about time the reviews came back, and Christian's seemed as good a place as any to go throw down on some cow.

There are two Christian's locations in Houston. One is on Bagby and the other is at I-10 and Washington. Being from the 'burbs, and being told that the one on Washington is better, we set sail. When you get there, you quickly put together that Christian's is the definition of a burger bar. You walk in and it offers a lot of restaurant style seating, but the place is more bar than restaurant. You order your burgers at the bar, along with your pitcher of beer, and then you find your seat and wait for your number to be called. The decor includes lots of small screen TV's around the place, beer signs and a really cool old truck that's been hacked up and thrown on the wall. Get there early, as parking seems like it could get hairy during busier hours.

Their menu stretches 3 sizes of burger: 1/3 lb, 1/2 lb and a belt-busting 1 lb double burger. They offer them in your standard dress of lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mustard and mayo as well as a chili burger or a mushroom-swiss combination. If you're looking for something a little different, and a little more heart stopping, they also offer up a Chicken Fried Bacon Burger. The burger is your standard burger that is loaded with battered and fried bacon and onion rings. Nick wasn't about to let a little heart disease stand in his way and threw down for one of these beastly creations while I opted for a more subtle mushroom swiss burger. Both of us ordered a side of fries and with it being $5 pitcher Wendesday we enjoyed a pitcher of Texas's own Lone Star and then another of Shiner Bock with our meal.

The burgers that came out looked fantastic. Great big patties adorned with generous toppings and packed between thick buns that are then half-wrapped in butcher paper to keep them from falling apart. Good call on the paper. I've always been a fan of anything that makes finger food easier to handle.

That first bite? It lacked a little something. Grease. Considering the huge griddle that we saw in the kitchen we were expecting these things to run down our arms, but they were really clean. The meat tasted great. It didn't seemed to be seasoned at all, maybe with just a little salt and pepper, but it left behind a clean, distinct flavor that actually left room for all of the toppings to actually be able to do some work. I'd tread lightly with using the word bland, because the overall flavor was far from it, but I wouldn't ever want to knife and fork the patty by itself. This is where the toppings came into play. The mustard works its way into the lettuce and tomatoes, the pickles were thick and vinegary and in each bite you really got to appreciate why people actually bother putting veggies on their sandwiches. Most of the time a big, fat, nasty greaseburger will simply overwhelm the palate and all you taste is delicious, juicy fat. This was the opposite. An explosion of different and very distinct flavors await the person who eats at Christian's.

As a person who has had homemade chicken fried bacon on a few occasions in my life, the prospect of a burger with chicken fried bacon actually on it sounded both terrible and awesome. I remember the first time I ever had it I ate 3 pieces of it drizzled in bacon grazy and was only capable of stumbling around the house for a few hours as I fought off The Itis. The chicken fried bacon here did leave a little to be desired. Yes, it's delicious. It's bacon that is battered and fried. But, much like the mostly pure burger, there couldn't have been anything in the batter except flour, milk and egg. This produced a product that tasted more like oil than any kind of fancy deep fried concoction that you might hope for. It was also definitely cooked a lot less than we were used to compared to every other time we've had the CFB. How about the burger? Put it all together and it once again leaps to something wonderful, but it just seems like there is so much room for improvement.

The burgers were cooked well, not well done, but well. They were far from dry, in fact, for how cooked the meat was I was suprised at just how juicy the burger was. The bun was definitely prefabbed, but seemed to be very lightly toasted on the griddle and did a fine job of not leaving anything to be desired. Recommendations? Double up on your toppings. Next time I eat here it will probably be the same burger, but with double cheese and double mushrooms.

The fries? Absolutely terrible. Wendy's on a bad day levels of terrible. I was salvaging mine with salt, pepper and ketchup mixed with Jalapeno Tabasco sauce. This was able to pull them back from the cliff, but still, Christian's Tailgate is definitely not the place to go if you are a fry fanatic. They also offer onion rings, but neither of us ordered them. A visual inspection of someone else's basket of rings did leave me with some hope that there is a side dish in there worth ordering.

How would we rank this burger? It was really good. In fact, if you live near it, it should probably be your de facto burger place. It's a great place to eat if you are working in the area, looking for a place to stop and wait out traffic or just want to eat somewhere a little different. You don't really need much of an excuse. Unfortunately, our final judgement does leave it out of the top three. It simply doesn't stand up to the best we've had so far. Our comparisons would be that it was like a really good burger from Clay's or maybe a burger from Miller's with all the grease left out. All we can say is that if you go to Christian's you'll be treated to a damn good burger. Just not the best. Check them out and let us know what you think!!