James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd and his team at Underbelly Hospitality can check one of their many 2022 goals off their list. Underbelly Burger is now open at the Houston Farmers Market, located at 2520 Airline. It’s the first of several new or relocated restaurants that the company plan to open this year, including Wild Oats under culinary director and chef Nick Fine, which will also be at the Houston Farmers Market.
Decorated with the green and white tiles and Shepherd’s collection of vintage burger memorabilia, the restaurant, designed by Amanda Medsger, is reminiscent of mid-century, roadside burger stands. Matt Tabor’s handpainted “burger guys” artwork adds to the retro vibe. While Underbelly Burger only has indoor seating for 14, there are ample outdoor tables throughout the market — perfect for al fresco dining when the weather is cooperative.
Conveniently, Underbelly Burger is able to source beef from the new R-C Ranch butcher shop next door, as well as from its longtime supplier of Texas meats, 44 Farms. In a unique twist, customers can choose which company’s ground beef they want in their burger. Either way, both burgers are slightly tweaked versions of the beloved Cease & Desist Burger from The Hay Merchant, which is set to close mid-January. Each features two patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. The 44 Farms Angus Burger costs $12 and the R-C Ranch Wagyu Burger is $14 (Wagyu is more expensive than Angus). Children can order a single-patty burger, which is part of the $10 kid’s meal.
There are also non-beef options, including a crispy chicken sandwich with black pepper buttermilk dressing, Swiss cheese and pickles, and a veggie burger with avocado, lettuce and corn relish. Each is $12. Another option for vegetarians is the kale salad. It combines kale marinated for extra flavor and tenderness with candied pecans, Parmesan cheese and golden raisins.
If you’ve been looking for a chance to sample Shepherd’s Bacon Sausage (which we included in a recent list of Houston’s best housemade sausages for home), order the Bacon Sausage Hot Dog with pickled jalapeño mustard.
Of course, there are fries. (Come on, you can’t have a burger joint without fries.) Underbelly Burger’s version are called Sidewinder Fries. The potatoes are cut into thick crescent shapes, fried until crispy and golden brown and dusted with ranch powder. The shape helps ensure a tender, fluffy interior.
Those who need that classic burger-fries-and-shake combo can get their fix here. The shakes come in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and cookies and cream. (No word yet on my personal favorite: a chocolate malt.)
Those who want something to drink that isn’t sweet and spoonable have several $5 local beers as options: Karbach Horseshoe, Saint Arnold Art Car IPA, Karbach Love Street Blonde and 8th Wonder Haterade. For now, a single wine is offered — Ramona rosé — which would go very well with the kale salad or the veggie burger. It’s $7 by the glass.
Underbelly Burger is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dine in, to-go and delivery orders are all options. Order online at the website.