On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Donnette Hansen joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Rainbow Lodge. After attending culinary school in New York, Hansen purchased the restaurant from her uncle in 1988.
From the beginning, Hansen centered Rainbow Lodge's menu around seafood and wild game. Dishes such as its smoked duck gumbo, rainbow trout with lump crab, and grilled elk chop have become staples.
In 2006, Hansen relocated the restaurant from its original location near Memorial Park to a log cabin on Ella Boulevard in Lazybrook/Timbergrove. The move came with the risk of alienating long time customers, but she notes that being able to purchase a property has insulated the restaurant from ever-increasing rents. Hansen discovered another benefit last year.
"I'm glad that I moved into more of a neighborhood and less of a commercial zone back in '06," Hansen says. "I maybe wasn't at the time, but it's really worked out for Rainbow Lodge. During the pandemic, we embraced our neighborhood, and they embraced us."
The conversation touches on a range of other topics, including some of the chefs who've worked at the restaurant over the years, how Rainbow Lodge is fairing recently, and the younger staff members who are keeping Hansen engaged in evolving the restaurant.
Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Michael Fulmer discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Chris Shepherd's plans to open a burger joint at the Houston Farmers Market, the new burgers and oyster bar concept coming to River Oaks, and the return of Houston Restaurant Weeks.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler and Fulmer recount their meals at Gatsby's, a throwback steakhouse in Montrose, and Mastrantos, a fusion restaurant in The Heights. To hear what they liked and what they didn't at both establishments, listen to the full episode.