In 1977, the first Apple computer went on sale, University of Texas football star Earl Campbell won the 43rd Heisman Trophy award (before becoming an NFL legend with the Houston Oilers), and “Star Wars” made its debut in movie theatres. And closer to home, the Houston dining landmark Rainbow Lodge was born.
The Lodge is housed in an original cozy 111-year-old log cabin on an acre of lush grounds along White Oak Bayou with dynamic views, a citrus grove, a kitchen garden, and a variety of garden decks and patios. The restaurant is run and lovingly cared for and maintained by owner Donnette Hansen. Montana-born and Texas-raised, Hansen graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, then made the move to NYC for a year in the New York Restaurant School. “Good culinary training was critical to my goal of owning a restaurant,” says Hansen. That dream became a reality when she acquired the Rainbow Lodge in 1988.
Hansen immediately went to work turning the restaurant into one of Houston’s finest places for seafood and regional wild game. Her passion for delicious food and outstanding wines has helped her stay focused and develop a loyal following. In the summer of 2006, after 30 years in a lodge-style building on Buffalo Bayou, Hansen picked up her roots and relocated Rainbow Lodge down the road to White Oak Bayou. “I had the unique opportunity to acquire a then 100-year-old log cabin restaurant inside Loop 610. You don’t get any more ‘lodgy’ than that and, frankly, it was a timely business move. Rents were only going up and I enjoy taking care of this Houston landmark,” says Hansen. “It was an ideal space for our concept and immediately felt like home. I enjoy welcoming our neighbors and their guests to settle in and enjoy a comfortable meal and friendly, attentive service. I have said for years—Rainbow Lodge is sophisticated but not stuffy!”
It’s Hansen’s love of fly fishing that inspired one of the Lodge’s most notable features. In 1993, she commissioned Vermont artist Bill Herrick artist to carve a 20-foot sculpture she named the “Tied Fly Bar.” The curved, glass-encased bar top depicts life in a flowing trout stream including the Lodge’s namesake rainbow trout, logs, fallen leaves, a fly box, and even a hidden beer bottle cap, and all are carved from a single basswood tree. Crafted cocktails are named after famous fishing flies, and servers sport custom fishing shirts.
Cover photo courtesy of Rainbow Lodge.