"If this place were in Houston, it would be packed every night," my friend marveled over our dinner at Fielding's Wood Grill last week. "And it would cost a lot more."
Fielding's Wood Grill
1699 Research Forest Dr.
I can't say for certain that his second statement is true—after all, real estate costs in The Woodlands are as pricey a proposition as some Inner Loop parts of Houston, which in turn drives up food costs—but I wouldn't be surprised if a Houston location of Fielding's did indeed merit a wait in the evenings for its stunning, surprisingly inexpensive burgers.
What makes the burgers at Fielding's so good is exactly what should make them pricey: everything is made in-house here, from the house-cured and smoked bacon and the Angus beef from 44 Farms that's ground twice-daily to the buns baked fresh every day (yes, even the gluten-free buns) and the sweet shakes whipped up with milk from Mill King Dairy. Even the sauces are made on premises. It's what every restaurant should aspire to, and proof that it can be done without breaking the bank: Fielding's has quickly become one of the most successful and popular restaurants in The Woodlands since opening in late 2013.
Anyone familiar with Hubbell & Hudson—the late, great grocery store that was a destination for its dry-aged beef and other specialty items—will recognize certain similarities between the grocery store (in particular, its burger bar) and Fielding's. That's because H&H founder Cary Attar is the brains behind this burger operation, and his committment to high-quality products translates here as well.
The simple Texas Blues burger I enjoyed last week (in cross-section above) was one of the best burgers I've had in a very long time, the patty cooked to a requested medium-rare and oozing juices into the fresh, sweet bun. The sweetness of the bun and the buttery meat was enhanced with a spread of sugary fig jam, then balanced right back out with some tangy Point Reyes blue cheese, tart pickled red onions, and spicy jalapeño pepper slices.
My friend selected something from the "alternative burger" section: ahi tuna steak, grilled and still rare inside, topped with a mixture of ingredients that read half Vietnamese, half Japanese. A savory dashi glaze coated the tuna, which was piled high with wasabi peas, seaweed salad, pickled daikon radish, carrot strings, avocado, and tiny green pearls of tobiko that snapped open like briny-sweet spheres of seawater.
By the end of our burger feast, however, I was sad to find that I was too full for one of Fielding's signature "adult" milkshakes. How do you pass up a bananas foster shake with Flor de Caña dark rum and cocoa nibs, or a bourbon caramel shake with Buffalo Trace Kentucky Bourbon and toffee? You don't; you simply tell yourself that you're taking an extended digestive hiatus, only to return again in a few weeks—and this time with a designated driver.