December 19th, 2011

Sammy’s Wild Game: Eating for Zoo

In 6 Words: Pheasant, Gamy, Drive-Thru, Chili, Burgers, Sandwiches

Just off Washington, you’ll find Sammy’s Wild Game Grill. Initially, I had only tasted the chili that Sammy’s had provided at the Child Advocates Chili Cook-Off at Hughes Hangar, back in October. Wild boar was the meat of that day—exotic at the time.

Lo and behold, when I had the chance to finally visit Sammy’s Wild Game Grill this week, wild boar just might have been the most domestic meat on the menu. We’re talking about a strip where the barbacoa at Laredo Taqueria is considered one of the most daring departures from the norm—and even their wildest offerings still hail from the cow and chicken. Tasty variations of ostrich, buffalo, pheasant and kangaroo are all accounted for at Sammy’s, making it a fun jaunt on the wild side.

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The interior is very clean, as is the ambient music that quietly floods the ears upon entering. Not that I had reason for being confounded by this, but with  “Wild Game” in the name, I still found it somewhat surprising. They’re defying convention. Ballsy.

I checked the menu and glanced at the bottles of beer, which even to my eagle eyes, were hardly readable from their perch on the third shelf behind the counter. It didn’t much matter; Adam, partner to Sammy and childhood friend to Jamie Zelko from their days at Elsik High School, was there to help guide me. He was more than willing to explain what we might be getting ourselves into, not only with the beer selection, but with the wild game as well. A veritable, culinary safari guide without the funny hat and less khaki clothing.

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With two nutty browns chosen for drink, my wife and I decided upon the BBQ pulled wild boar sandwich, kangaroo burger and elk chili fries. We grab a table and admire our surroundings. Meat-related illustrations line the wall behind us. Other than that, it feels very much like a fast food joint, and with a drive-thru and relatively late-night hours, I suppose it is. Will this in any way influence the quality of food?

One very loud individual at the bar continuously rants about how hard Sammy’s Wild Game Grill is to find. “I’ve been searching months for you guys!” I guess that’d be flattering if it weren’t intermingled with insults about the location and vague directions given by the website. I found it easily. It’s called GoogleMaps…and not driving down Washington with your eyes closed.

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Our food arrives and- holy smokes- the smells alone would seduce a stubborn Eddie Vedder from vegetarianism. My kangaroo burger, a lean patty smothered in lettuce, pickles and onions in between a pretzel bun, with a side of cilantro aioli sauce is a thing of beauty. The surprisingly mild taste of the kangaroo is well matched with the zip of the pickles and side sauce. A perfect habitat for Little ‘Roo.

The elk chili fries are another smack to the taste buds. The elk, another subtle yet distinct flavor, has stolen the spotlight from what might’ve been fries. They require a fork if you’re afraid of gettin’ your hands messy- which is the true measure of such a dish. The BBQ pulled wild boar sandwich was as gamy as expected- but that ain’t necessarily bad. If I had been in the mood for cookie-cutter flavors, I would’ve gone to The Counter. The bits of boar slathered with salty barbecue sauce and topped with fried onion strings had me second guessing my own selection of a cuter animal from down under. Wild boar is much less fatty and forgiving than it’s domesticated brethren, so how Sammy’s pulls off the pull in their pork is a secret they can hang their hat on.

I left Sammy’s proud that I had tried a few new things, but with the satisfaction of having cleaned my plate without any gastronomical effort. Did I mention that there are all sorts of health benefits to eating leaner and protein packed animals that aren’t featured on a See-n-Say? When any restaurant offering food “outside of the norm” can satisfy its customers in that manner, they’ve got a good thing going.

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Where3715 Washington Ave., Houston, TX 77007
What – It’s reasonably quick food, don’t let that fool into doubting the quality—Sammy’s is top notch
Wear – Come clothed
How much – Burgers, sandwiches, and hotdogs are anywhere from $6 to $10, that $10 being a trio of sliders
When – Sunday to Wednesday 11:00AM to 10:00PM; Thursday 11:00AM to 11:00PM; Friday to Saturday 11:00AM to 12:00PM (midnight)
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— Richard

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