Exotic meats or veggie burgers: Get ‘em both at Game

I like Game restaurant. I like it a lot. It’s the only place I know of where all of these exotic options for a burger are on the menu: kangaroo, alpaca, wild boar, elk, venison. But, you can get intriguing veggie burgers, too. I learned an important thing about getting takeout fare from Game the other day: If you live more than about five minutes away from this little free-standing shop on Lexington Road, you might want to consider ordering your burgers rare, or waiting until you feel comfortable dining in to partake.

We ordered a selection of meats and a veggie burger the other day, and thanks to the inexorable physical phenomenon called carryover, all the animal flesh — ordered medium — cooked right up to well-done before we got it on the table.

I’m not going to say it still didn’t taste good. It tasted very good indeed. But well-done meat does a number of undesirable things to your ration: It dries out the juices and toughens the meat. In other words, if you want Game’s delights at their best, you want to enjoy them as soon as you can get your teeth into them. Or get one of the estimable veggie burgers, which didn’t suffer from carryover cooking as the meats did.

Please don’t understand this as a complaint about Game, though. It was my own greedy fault for wanting to eat those tasty meatballs at home. I’m not sorry we got this bunch of meat and veggie protein; I’d just do it a little differently the next time.

More than a dozen meat choices include the familiar (prime angus, dry-aged or wagyu beef, bison, duck, rabbit and more) and the aforementioned exotic choices. They’re available as three-ounce meatballs or larger burgers. You may choose them dressed as the chef recommends or build-your-own with your choice of meat, cheese, bread, dressings, toppings and sauce. The build-your-own options range in price from $11 (for prime angus or a salmon burger) to $17 (for wagyu or kangaroo). The chef’s recommendations add a buck or so.

Where does all this exotic meat come from? It is acquired from local farmers who raise exotic animals for sale as high-quality meat, the Game website assures us.

If you’re not down with this level of carnivorishness, Game also offers three meatless burgers. A portabella burger ($12), a fried green tomato sandwich ($11) and a garbanzo-poblano-corn burger ($11). There’s also a short list of sides and a couple of desserts, but the name of the game here is, well, Game. Game is currently open for inside dining, carryout, curbside and delivery. We put in a phone order for curbside pickup and got quick, friendly service. We sampled three kinds of meat and the garbanzo burger, plus two sides.

My favorite of Game’s three veggie burgers, this house-made specialty features garbanzo patties akin to falafels, studded with bits of poblano pepper and corn kernels.

A wild boar meatball and an elk meatball (both $4) and a venison burger with the chef’s pick of toppings ($15) proved to be more similar than different. In fact, the two meatballs were put in the same box with no clear way to identify them, so our feast turned out to be something like a blind tasting of fancy wines, looking for nuances to help distinguish each varietal … er, animal.

We started with the sandwich, which we knew was venison. Even cooked through, it was typical deer meat, similar to beef but tougher, even in its coarsely ground form, with a hint of earthy taste akin to beef tongue. It was topped with blue cheese that nicely complemented the earthy venison, and it was dressed with wild lettuce and a slice of pale winter tomato, served on a tasty everything bun in lieu of the usual pretzel bun, which was out of stock.

Identifying the two meatballs was more of a challenge, particularly since the carryover cooking had dried them out and diminished their flavor. One meatball was relatively coarsely ground; the other fine-ground. The finer-ground meatball definitely fell in the beefy category, with a gamey back note reminiscent of beef liver, and the fine grind suggested a response to tough meat. We’re putting the elk label on this one.  The coarse-ground meatball had a subtle minty-herby undertone, and we later noticed that tiny cubes of what appeared to be fresh ginger were ground into the mix. Its good flavor lacked the distinct beefy-liver character of the other, earmarking it as the wild boar.

Here’s a closer look at Game’s everything-style burger bun bearing a tasty venison burger.

The meatballs came with a tub of smoked truffle mayo and cranberry jalapeño jam, Game’s standard condiments.

The grilled garbanzo-poblano-corn veggie burger ($11) consisted of two falafel-style patties stacked on a simple brioche-based burger bun. Chopped poblano peppers and yellow corn kernels added flavor pops to the mashed garbanzo patties, as bits of brie, smoked truffle mayo, lettuce and tomato added flavor accents.

Sides of hand cut fries ($3) and gilled asparagus ($5) made it home in good shape, but I wish the chef had discarded the stringy asparagus ends so I didn’t have to.

An excellent meal for two was $44.52, plus a $10 tip.

2295 Lexington Road

About the Author

Storyteller and seeker. Writer, editor, recovering metro journalist; playwright, poet, once a classical DJ. Hard-core food-and-drink geek, serious home cook. Seminary grad, part-time Episcopal preacher. Did I say eclectic? Deeply rooted Louisville native who’s lived in NYC, LA and the Bay Area; political junkie and unapologetic leftie. Covering the Louisville dining scene in print media since the 1980s, and doing it online since 1994.


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