Rodeo Season has begun — and like every year at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the deep-fried, loaded combinations and concoctions on a stick are just as much a draw as the jaw-dropping mutton-busting and headlining performances.
With around 120 food and drink vendors spread throughout NRG Center grounds, the oldies but goodies like Triple J’s Smokehouse BBQ loaded baked potatoes, carnival corn dogs, cotton candy, elote, and fried cookie dough on a stick are still on the menu, but in its 91st year, the annual Rodeo is offering up some newer, eye-catching additions.
From Nashville Hot Cheeto chicken on a stick to a Fruity Pebbles shrimp fried rice bowl, and wagyu steak served at the new and improved Ranch Saloon & Steakhouse, the Rodeo’s first fine-dining establishment in its history, here is a preview of what to eat.
Nashville Hot Cheeto Chicken on a stick: Carnivals aren’t complete without some food options on a stick. Biggy’s II combines two iconic foods, with its Nashville Hot Cheeto Chicken, and gives guests the option to have it in a sandwich or on a stick. The sandwich touts extra crispy chicken, slathered in Nashville hot sauce and topped with hot Cheetos and slaw on a toasted brioche bun, while the stick finds Nashville hot chicken smothered in cheese sauce, rolled in hot Cheetos, and finished off with pickles. Tough decision.
Fruity Pebbles Shrimp Fried Rice Bowl: Get Fried is putting a playful twist on sweet and savory with its Fruity Pebbles shrimp fried rice. Traditional fried rice is combined with shrimp, sausage, pineapple, and Fruity Pebbles, and served out of a hollowed pineapple.
Honolulu Hog Spud: When it comes to carnival eats, baked potatoes are as popular as giant turkey legs, and everyone puts their own twist on the classic. This year, Spud Ranch BBQ is offering a baked potato stuffed with pulled pork, teriyaki barbecue sauce, pineapple, and sesame seeds.
Rodeo Caramel Crack Sundae: For a rodeo refresher, visit Swirl Ice Cream for a loaded ice cream sundae. The rodeo caramel crack sundae is a busy dessert, topped with chocolate dip, caramel corn, a drizzle of caramel, and topped with a chocolate cowboy hat. Have your camera clicking fingers ready.
The Ranch Saloon & Steakhouse
A departure from the fast or fried options typically seen at the rodeo, Berg Hospitality is bringing back the Ranch Saloon + Steakhouse — the Rodeo’s first ever fine-dining restaurant on rodeo grounds — for its second year, and is serving as the event’s official sponsor. Housed in a nearly 16,000 square-foot climate-controlled tent on the southwest corner of NRG Astrodome, The Ranch welcomes Rodeo-goers to sit down, stay awhile, and experience the service and food promised at other Berg establishments like B&B Butchers.
Like its name suggests, the concept is divided into two different dining experiences: the Steakhouse accepts reservations and serves up a variety of grilled wagyu and USDA prime beef steaks, while its first-come, first-serve counterpart, the Saloon offers a more laid-back vibe, with live music hosted daily in its main bar and the opportunity to people watch on “the Porch” — a covered patio area that sits 115 in its dining area and bar. Offerings include fresh seafood, hearty sides, and dishes like Chef Tommy’s Bacon — a bacon concoction baked with blue cheese crumbles and topped with truffle-infused honey; the Carpet Bagger on the half shell; and appetizers like blue crab beignets; campechana, a Mexican shrimp cocktail; and whipped ricotta dip. This year, the Ranch is elevating things further with the addition of “The Ranch After Dark”, a nightlife experience that combines music from live DJs with bottle service from 10 p.m. to close.
Houston hip hop artist Bun B once again brings his smash burger joint Trill Burgers to the Rodeo this year. Visitors can sample Trill’s melty smash burgers built with double patties, before the restaurant’s first brick-and-mortar opens in Montrose this spring. The booth has gotten a revamp since last year, and is located in Rodeo Plaza, on NRG Parkway East near the Champion Wine Garden and NRG Astrodome. (Catch Bun B in person at his headlining performance, Bun B’s Southern Takeover, at the Rodeo on Friday, March 3, along with a robust lineup of entertainers, including rappers 8Ball and MJG.)
Sunday Brunch at The Champion Wine Garden
Every Sunday during Rodeo season, the Champion Wine Garden is hosting a themed brunch, presented by Frost Bank. From 10 a.m. to noon, guests can enjoy brunch-style eats from a revolving list of food trucks, live entertainment, and bubble flights. Flights include half pours of four different sparkling wines from Italy, California, Tasmania, and Champagne — and are only available at the weekly brunch. Consider the various themes and the wine garden’s live performance schedule, and plan your visit in advance. March 5 is an R&B brunch with the Bo Bottoms; March 12 is a Latin brunch with Bamuaya; and March 19 is a jazz brunch with the Greg Petite Jazz Trio.
In addition to two new carnival rides — the Raptor Coaster, a high speed Jurassic-themed roller coaster with sharp bends, twists & turns; and the Sea Ray, a pirate-themed ship swinger which thrills by way of its smooth swinging motion — the Rodeo is presenting its first ever drone light show. On Saturday, March 4, beginning at 7:45 p.m., 200 drones will soar through the sky over NRG Arena, creating different formations, and showcasing a magical visual display that celebrates the Rodeo’s illustrious history.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s festivities run from Feb. 28-March 19, with its annual World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest hosted from Feb. 23-25 at NRG Center. For more information, visit the Rodeo’s website.