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The Dish: The Elk Burger (reindeer coming soon)

Where to Get It: Thunder Burger, 3056 M St. NW; (202) 333-2888; thunderburger.com

Price: $15 for an grilled elk burger with a side of fries

The Story: The elk burger is one of three gamey burgers always on the menu (along with bison and boar). And just in time for the holidays, chef Ryan Fichter plans to serve reindeer, too. He isn’t quite sure how he’ll prepare the meat just yet, but last December, he made reindeer kabobs with a cherry tomato at the end of each skewer (a not-so-subtle tribute to Rudolph). The reindeer meat comes from Alaska and will be available for two nights only: Dec. 17 and 24.

Fichter uses strange animals for a weekly special that he calls “Wild Wednesdays.” On recent Wednesday nights, he’s served venison-stuffed poblano peppers, antelope lettuce wraps, and kangaroo dirty rice. “Not everybody can cook kangaroo just right, so I did this as a creative challenge to myself,” he says.

What It Is: If you miss the chance to try Rudolph later this month, his cousin the elk is a suitable stand-in. The elk burger is served between a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, and a mayonnaise remoulade. The farm-raised elk comes from New Zealand.

What It Tastes Like: Elk is not an overwhelmingly gamey meat, and it doesn’t taste grassy like bison, either. Fichter seasons the burger lightly with mustard seed and herbs like thyme, parsley, and chives. “I want people to taste the meat for what it is,” he says. “Elk, to me, is almost better than a steak.” Reindeer meat can be a bit more of an adventure, Fichter says. Especially if the animal was in the wild, the flavor will have a very gamey taste.

How to Eat It: Make sure to order the burger medium or medium-rare. Elk is very lean—about 7 percent fat content—and overcooking it will cause the meat to dry out, Fichter says.

Photo by Tim Ebner