I was on the road in Houston, doing a week of shows, and staying in a Best Western, near the entrance to the daunting, complex freeway system, which has more twists and turns than the wiring in the Space Shuttle – so no driving to dinner. The only walk-to-dinner spots were a cheap Mexican place across the street, an Arby's, or a big white building next door with a giant statue of Sam Houston looming over the parking lot. That's how I discovered Steamboat House, which subtitles itself both "A Great Texas Steakhouse," and "A tribute to Sam Houston and Texas Heroes." They're not kidding. It is actually a combination of a very good classic steakhouse and a museum. I enjoyed several nights of dinners there, and walked them off strolling the halls, which are lined with photos, paintings, letters, and memorabilia.
The dish I enjoyed the most was the Will Rogers Bison Filet Mignon, served with roasted jalapeño demi-glace sauce. This was the best bison filet I've had in a restaurant since David Walzug debuted his similar creation at Michael Jordan's in New York’s Grand Central Terminal more than 10 years ago. My other pick from the meat side of the menu was the Gonzales TX Lamb Chops, a three-bone preparation with a pinot demi-glace and balsamic glaze served with bleu cheese mashed potatoes (very good), roasted cherry tomatoes and baby carrots. The bison, by the way, like all of the other steaks, do not come with any sides in the traditional steakhouse manner. Sixteen side dishes are available, such as the sautéed vegetable medley (good), the Applewood bacon spinach orzo (better) and the grilled portobello mushroom (the best).
On my third visit, I aimed for seafood and came up with mixed results. The Twin Sisters Sea Scallops, a large appetizer, is wrapped in applewood bacon and served with a citrus beurre blanc over a baby arugula and spinach. If there was a suggestion of sweet scallop in there, I missed it in the bloated taste of the fat from the bacon and butter. My entree, the Seafood Trio, grilled shrimp, a Texas Navy crab cake, and grilled Verlasso salmon, was intriguing, and two out of three were excellent. The crab cake is one of the restaurant’s finest creations, loaded with crab and just enough binding to make it into a cake. The salmon also was moist, and cooked perfectly. The grilled shrimp, however, went back to the kitchen. Each was so heavily seared on the grill that any actual zesty shrimp taste was left at the Gulf of Mexico where they came from. I felt like I was chewing a piece of burnt firewood. The waitress graciously returned the shrimp and replaced them with an additional crab cake. If you order the Seafood Trio, get the shrimp fried. On a positive shrimp note, the Louisiana shrimp cocktail is excellent. The owner, Charlie Fogarty, deserves great credit for creating this unique Texas destination restaurant, which also happens to be an award-winning museum of Texas heroes.
The Steamboat House has a large menu, and while I was alone, I thought how much fun it would be to come back with a big party, gather in the private Log Cabin Dining Room in the back, and order and share a wide range of starters, steaks and various steak additions and toppings, like the Oscar topping (Béarnaise sauce, asparagus, and crabmeat). That will have to wait for next time, along with an exploration of the wine list, which is heavy on California labels with many good bottles under $40.00 (couldn't have a drop; never drink the night before a show).
The owner, Charlie Fogarty, deserves great credit for creating this unique Texas destination restaurant, which also happens to be an award-winning museum of Texas heroes. He opened the Steamboat House in 2005 to showcase historic 6' by 8' paintings of Sam Houston and George Washington, which were painted for the 1936 San Jacinto Centennial that celebrated the independence of the Republic of Texas. Did you know that Texas was an independent nation for ten years and joined the U.S. by a treaty between the two nations? I studied Texas history, devoured some memorable meals, and had a wonderful time during my week at the Steamboat House. You will, too.