Sunday, August 7, 2011
Wild Wednesday at Thunder Burger
This past Wednesday I went wild in Georgetown.
This didn't involve me maxing out my credit card with a bunch of trophy wives at Mineral Kingdom and Urban Chic (that was Thursday). There's a weekly event called Wild Wednesday at Thunder Burger on M Street. Every Wednesday, Chef Ryan Fichter serves something no sane person would want to eat: beer-braised alligator ribs, rattlesnake, boar, antelope, turtle, or llama. And this past week, yak. Birch and I immediately made plans to check it out.
Thunder Burger started Wild Wednesday just last month, but it's already attracted some controversy. City Paper and DCist reported that animal rights activists were "deeply troubled" because the restaurant was going to serve lion. The restaurant caved and won't serve lion even though the animal isn't endangered (and tastes good). Plus, Serbian Crown in Great Falls has been serving lion since the 1990s and I don't know anyone who has a problem with it.
There's an important lesson here: serving Simba is a devastating blow to wildlife but only if it happens within 15 miles of D.C.
Wild yaks are extinct in Nepal, but there were no animal rights activists when I showed up for my yak because there aren't enough cartoon characters based on yaks. The ambiance of Thunder Burger is a mix between biker bar (snakeskin leather menus) and Georgetown restaurant (the only piece of road the customers are biking is the Capital Crescent Trail). The music (Wolfmother and Pearl Jam) strikes the right middlepoint. The regular menu looked enticing, especially the Kobe beef burger, Pig in a Cow Suit (beef burger with bbq pulled pork), and the elk burger. But then I spotted the white-board over the bar: "WILD WEDNESDAYs: YAK burgers." I rededicated myself to the mission at hand.
I've never had yak before. The closest I came was when Smita, the Nepalese checkout lady for the cafeteria at work, made me momos, but she's a vegetarian. True or false: Once you go yak, you never go back? I couldn't wait to find out.
When I got my yak burger, I was disappointed that it was covered in cheese. I aimed my kisser away from the cheese so I could have some no-frills yak.
Yak is a bovine, but I was still surprised when it tasted exactly like sirloin. This made me wonder whether I was tasting pure yak or a cross-breed with domestic cattle - a theory supported by theyakranch.com (a website worth bookmarking if only for their catch-phrase: "YAKS ... not Gnu! Are they for you?").
The meat wasn't particularly lean or gamey. It wasn't uniquely marbled. It was possibly the most average hamburger I've ever had. It was about as wild as reading some articles about the debt crisis.
I'm not giving up on Wild Wednesday. This week Thunder Burger is serving up black bear burger, and you can bet your ass I'll be there for that. I guess once you go yak, you do go back.