The weather in Houston has been beautiful recently – high temperatures in the 70s, and clear, cloudless days. Even the repressive humidity every Houstonian so loathes has lifted for a change. If there is such a thing as resort weather, this is it. And if there was ever a place to enjoy this weather, it would be Brooklyn Athletic Club. BAC feels like a cross between the deck of a cruise ship and a patio bar. The restaurant is both breezy and classy, filled with a mix of families taking advantage of the croquet courts out front, preppy guys in pastel polos, and ladies who lunch.
The menu at BAC has a lot of traditional favorites – Mac and Cheese, hamburgers, and beef sirloin with fries. But each dish also has updated, modern elements.
For example, the gnocchi that my friend Jackie and I started with was made of sweet potato. True, BAC is far from the first to make gnocchi from sweet potatoes, but the addition of roasted apples, mushrooms, and crispy fried leeks turned the pasta into something out of the ordinary. The roasted apples played up this sweeter take on gnocchi, and the savory elements in the mushrooms, caramelized onions, and crispy fried leeks rounded out the flavors.
After the gnocchi, Jackie and I moved onto the main dish. We both got the The Clubhouse Burger. I’m not usually a hamburger person and actually had my eye on the mussels. But then we saw the burger delivered to a table next to us. It was so beautiful and smelled so good, we ooh’ed and ah’ed over it the way an old lady does a baby. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from that baby, and I wanted to hold it in my very own arms. Apparently so did Jackie. We both ordered the hamburger, and both of us loved it.
The most critical ingredients in any sandwich, but particularly a hamburger, are the bread and the meat. The bread on this baby was perfectly toasted and had the ideal bun texture – spongy enough to hold the drippings from the patty, but with enough “structural integrity” not to become soggy. The meat was also tender, perfectly pink in the middle, and well-though-not-over seasoned, just like a hamburger patty should be.
The BAC burger is traditional, no necessary ingredients are omitted and no unnecessary ingredients are added. Bun, patty, cheese, tomato, onion, and lettuce. The only “twist” was using jalapeno jelly in place of a relish.
The burger was served with your traditional side items as well. But even the accompanying French fries and a pickle were far tastier than most I’ve had in a long time. No Vlasic pickles here, folks. The pickle was so good I asked our waiter about it. He said that the pickles are made in house using the chef’s own recipe, which he’s been using for years.
And no, I couldn’t have the recipe. Not that I had asked for it, but apparently enough people had that the waiter thought he should preempt any inquiries.
In addition to the pickle, the burger also came with, of course, french fries.
I am a French fry fiend. Though I tell myself I’m not. I say “I don’t like fried things. Too greasy. I don’t like potatoes. Too heavy.”
And there was no way I was going to be able to trick myself once I had had a taste of the fries at BAC. They live up to every hope you could have for fries. They were the perfect size for getting that very important crispy exterior to tender interior ratio. There is nothing more sad than a big, yellow, soggy, and soppy French fry. They were also perfectly salted, AND peppered.
The least impressive dish I tried was the Butter Lettuce Salad. The mixing and mingling of avocado, grapefruit, and spicy little pepitas would have been wonderful, had the salad not been heavy handedly dressed.
Though the salad didn’t live up to my hopes and dreams, the other parts of the meal certainly surpassed my expectations for a casual, friendly, Saturday afternoon lunch. Apparently there have been some complaints about the service, but the service I experienced was great.
The waiter has very knowledgeable and helpful, and even Chef Jeff Axline was stopping by tables. He stopped by ours a couple times to ask how we liked everything, and of course the answer was “a lot!”
Though I know it’s nearly impossible to get a chef to admit that they prefer particular items on their own menu, I’m always curious to know what the people behind the food recommend. Chef Axline couldn’t say what his favorites dishes were. He told me they were all “babies,” and I have to say, after trying that hamburger, I can really taste the love that went into each dish. But after some pressing he did reveal that he was probably going to enjoy the Rueben after the kitchen closed for lunch. His description made my mouth water even with it full of juicy hamburger.
Most favorite dish: The Clubhouse Burger
Perfect for: playing croquet in the sun, mimosa and/or hamburger in hand