Decemburger: Wild Bubba's Wild Game Grill

First came 50 Burgers, 50 Days. Then Novemburger. 2011 wraps up with a burger a day for Decemburger.
Day 28: Wild Bubba’s Wild Game Grill
13912 FM 812, Elroy. 512-243-1333,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.28.11
“I’ve got elk and venison so fresh they haven’t had time to rest yet.” That’s a sentence I’ve never heard at a burger place before, but it’s just another day at Wild Bubba’s in Elroy, where Wyman Gilliam explores the animal kingdom with burgers made from goat, antelope, wild boar, elk, venison, alligator, kangaroo and yak. Always with the yak.
With the F1 racetrack going in less than a mile away, you might guess that Wild Bubba’s is taking the long view toward attracting the world travelers who follow this exotic sport around the world, from Monaco to Shanghai to Elroy. But Gilliam has been trading in exotics since before the mammoth track was a glimmer in a gearhead’s eye. I came here with the Statesman’s John Kelso in 2009, when the shop was called the Elroy Sausage Co., and Gilliam talked kangaroo chili and rattlesnakes and traditional beef and sausage barbecue. The barbecue’s taking a rest for now, but you can still get a burger made with everyday beef.
Manager John Brunson said the restaurant does good lunch business with the construction crews from the FI track, but there’s not much dinner traffic. Consequently, the restaurant’s hours shifted away from the dinner hours listed on the website, and I made one frustrating drive out to Elroy to find them closed. The actual hours are listed above. When the track’s in full swing, Brunson figures its 1,000-plus employees will bring the kind of business for which there aren’t enough hours in the day.
The burger: When you have the chance to order a fresh elk burger ($7.99), you don’t argue. It’s a 5-inch patty spread across a starchy white picnic bun dressed with chopped onions and lettuce, plus pickles and tomatoes and American cheese for 50 cents extra. With mustard, it’s not entirely unlike a Sonic burger in form and composition, until the meat kicks in. The immediate impulse is to compare it with beef, a comparison made easier with the simple salt-and-pepper seasoning from the flat-top grill. But the elk is more dense and rich, and a third of the way through, you start to feel satisfied — tired even, from working through the leaner, rangier meat.
If wild boar ($7.99) catches your interest, let go of the notion that it’ll have the porky character of bacon or ham. There’s no curing, so a pork chop might be a closer comparison, but it’d be a lean chop with a center bone to give it some marrowed intensity. Like the elk, it’s a slower experience, one that will fill you up before you’re ready.
Fries or rings? Crinkle fries ($1.69) and battered onion rings ($2.69) are both here, and they’re fried just fine. But both have the bagged character that argues for saving room for more of the exotic proteins that draw you to Bubba’s in the first place. Brunson said that in the coming weeks, Wild Bubba’s will work in a game platter that includes fried antelope cutlets, bacon-wrapped dove and one more player yet to be determined, all fried. Maybe I’ll fill my fried-food quota with that instead.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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