100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 74, Pheasant Dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

One doesn't find pheasant much around Houston anymore, which is a shame. It's some good meat. The bird tastes -- as the saying goes -- like chicken, but with a slightly gamier flavor that reflects its wild roots. And at Sammy's Wild Game Grill, the pheasant hot dogs have a strikingly buttery flavor to them that comes after a sweet snap through the casing of the sausage itself. It's no surprise that the menu lists these dogs as the "chef's favorite."

At this fun and quirky Washington Avenue eatery, all of the dogs and burgers are made with exotic meats -- I recommend the elk chili-cheese fries with your pheasant dog, when they're on the menu -- although some are better than others. I've never been keen on the overly grassy flavor of buffalo, but I love the musky taste of venison. Your mileage may vary, of course, but the point is that you can take them all on a test drive here.

My favorite way to enjoy a pheasant dog, which is encased in a Slow Dough pretzel bun and topped with your choice of offerings such as sauerkraut or jalapeños, is with copious amounts of Sammy's signature, house-made ghost pepper sauce on top.

The almost creamy, yellow-orange salsa is unabashedly made from the Bhut Jolokia chili pepper -- a.k.a. ghost pepper -- although you'd never know that this sauce comes from one of the hottest peppers on record. Instead, the sauce distills all the flavor of the ghost pepper and leaves behind only trace amounts of that Guinness World Record-winning heat. It's all warm, musky flavors of dusky spices like cumin at first before giving way to bright, sweet, citrusy punches that taste like ruby red grapefruit slices wrapped around a silver ballpeen hammer. It's a spike and a rush of flavor and then pain that's thoroughly intoxicating.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate

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Katharine Shilcutt