Fielding's Wood Grill is one of the new breed of fancy burger emporia that in no way can be classified as a joint. It's a restaurant, or perhaps more to the point in modern parlance, a "concept." Wood-grilled burgers are the backbone of the menu, but there are steaks and fish, salads and all manner of dishes for nonburger-eaters as well. The ingredients are pointedly prime, a legacy of owner Cary Attar's and chef Edelberto Goncalves' time at Hubbell & Hudson grocery and bistro - which Attar founded - just a few miles away in The Woodlands.
Lots of items are made or processed in-house. And the non-jointy burger prices climb into the double digits. Are the burgers worth the tariff? Come along and see.
Price: $11.95 for the Texas Blues Burger with Point Reyes blue cheese, house-cured bacon, pickled red onions, fig jam and fresh jalapeños; $2.50 for french fries; 50 cents each for habanero ketchup and garlic remoulade sauces; $5 for a caramel shake with roasted peanuts and gray sea salt - for a total of $20.45.
Ordering: Table service only. Take a seat at the bar, in a booth, or at a table. Incorrigible multitaskers will want to find a spot at the counter equipped with iPads.
Architecture: Salad stuff on the bottom and the top. On a toasted house-baked wheat bun goes a whopping schmear of fig jam and a handful of shredded iceberg lettuce, followed by a half-inch Angus patty, a thick layer of crumbly blue cheese, a tangle of pickled red onions, a couple of wide bacon strips and a final layer of whisper-thin fresh jalapeño wheels. The whole thing is held together by a bamboo skewer.
Quality: The fresh-ground Angus beef and the big, bold quality of the Point Reyes blue cheese give this burger plenty of character, supported by the tart lift of pickled red onions and the deft kick of fresh (not pickled) jalapeño. Only the abundance of sweet fig jam seemed off the mark: a little would go a long way in this savory context.
I did wish the house-cured bacon had registered more firmly, with a bit of crunch to it. I could tell the flavor was there, but the bacon was hard to bite through and slid around a lot, which lessened its impact.
The house-baked wheat bun, scattered with black sesame and poppy seeds, held up well and was exactly the right size to create a proper meat-to-bread ratio. And the beef patty, which I ordered medium-rare and which emerged from the wood grill medium, had a lightly compacted texture that held its juices nicely.
Ooze factor: Good.
Grade: A-, If not for the surfeit of sweet jam, this burger would have been a solid A.
Bonus points: Very good fresh-cut fries were even better with a couple of the house-made dipping sauces: a sharp-salty garlic remoulade and a bright, soaring habanero ketchup that I wish I could buy to take home. I liked the fact that there was a good lush Spanish red, Vinos sin Ley Monastrell from the Yecla, to drink by the glass with the blue cheese burger, a happy combination.
Extra bonus points: The salted caramel shake here is stupendous. Yes, it's five bucks. No, it's not huge. But the soft-serve gelato base is made in-house, and the add-ins of house-made caramel, roasted peanut and gray sea salt fitted together seamlessly to produce a balanced, harmonious whole. The salted caramel shake I reviewed at Grub Burger Bar recently could take lessons from Fielding's version.
Local color: Lots of wood and earth tones in the dining room contrast with the glow of the open kitchen, the waiting iPads and the bright red enamel of barstools that pop from the sepia gloom. Young couples and retirees occupied the booths on a recent evening, while kids whaled away on the iPads and families staked out the dining room floor. At the counter, a succession of youngish guys met up for after-work drinks, burgers and basketball-watching on the overhead flat screens. On my way out, I paid my regards to the slabs of pork belly curing in the lit-up cooler, paused in a hallway to watch the burger line at work, and checked out the separate glassed-in area where the daily grinding is done.
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