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Step aside beef, it's time for these other four-legged proteins to shine 

click to enlarge 1898 Public House's Southwestern Bison Burger packs a punch. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • 1898 Public House's Southwestern Bison Burger packs a punch.

For perhaps too long, beef has played the leading role in America's favorite dish, yet more restaurants these days are branching out with other sources of animal proteins, creative seasonings and toppings to offer some more unique combinations than the traditional hamburger with cheese. From fatty, juicy lamb meat to lean and mean bison, from German-style sausage to elk you don't need a hunting license for, these four non-beef (yet not vegetarian; see page 28 for that list) burgers found locally offer an exploration of flavor not to be missed.

Mediterranean Lamb Burger ($12.95)

Moon Time, 1602 Sherman Ave., Coeur d'Alene, 208-667-2331

The star of Moon Time's Mediterranean Lamb Burger is, as it should be, a juicy, hearty, well-seasoned lamb patty, made with a prominent rosemary infusion that you can taste in every bite. And that's saying something, as the herb is constantly competing for mouth space with a flavorful oregano pesto mayo and generous portion of melted goat cheese. The cheese and sauce offer a complementary creaminess to the patty, char-grilled to perfectly seal in the moisture of the meat, and the grilled vegetable relish that tops it all off — cooked just long enough to soften the veggies while still offering a slight onion crunch. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

Southwestern Bison Burger ($18)

1898 Public House, 2010 W. Waikiki Rd., 466-2121

Halfway through 1898 Public House's Southwestern Bison Burger, you might not yet have felt the full force of its spicy kick, created with a combination of fried jalapenos, chipotle aioli and pepper jack cheese. But with one more bite, the sum total of spicy toppings explodes in a powerful combination of heat, only barely tempered by a subtle-by-comparison mushroom salsa, which is melted right into the cheese. The bison patty itself, best not cooked more than medium, plays almost a supporting role in this spicy combination on a toasted bun, with the house-cured bacon serving as the cherry on top. (SW)

Elk Burger ($11)

Hills' Restaurant and Lounge, 401 W. Main, 747-3946

It's not the Elk Public House, ironically, that has the Spokane's star elk burger. It's local mainstay Hills' Restaurant and Lounge in the heart of downtown Spokane. Done right, elk is one of the more delicious meats, but because it's so lean, it can easily become dull and dry without a little something extra. Hills' solved that problem by mixing in a bit of pork into the ground elk, topping it with melted Swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms for a juicy, satisfying medley in every bite. It's all in the game, y'know? Guy Fieri featured the burger on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but don't let that turn you away. (DANIEL WALTERS)

Brat Burger ($6.95)

Alpine Delicatessen, 417 E. Third Ave., 455-5148

"Hotdog or hamburger?" goes the classic barbecue conundrum. But the Alpine Deli rejects this false choice, delivering a hamburger made from sausage. For the Brat Burger, Alpine Deli doesn't do anything fancy with the lettuce, onions, pickles and tomato, and simply tops it with mustard and mayo. But it's the patty itself that's the clear star, with Alpine Deli's bratwurst mixture of pork and beef seasoned in a way that give it a complex flavor much stronger and more interesting than any conventional hamburger. It comes served on a German Brotchen roll, just in case the whole German delicatessen concept wasn't clear enough. (DW)♦

The original print version of this article was headlined "The Other Red Meats"

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