The Story of Houston Food under one roof.
The second in our series of reviews for great places just in case you decide to travel outside of Southern California, just to give you taste of what else is out there.
Hugo Ortega isn’t the only star chef in Houston. There’s also Chris Shepherd.
When you think about the kind of balls out, “I’m cookin’ what I like”, “you just come along for the ride” places that are out there, Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly should be at the top of anyone’s list. This is a guy who’s trying to tell the story of Houston Food.
Hell, that’s what it says on his Website.
Shepherd loves everything when it comes to food and food ways, and he really loves the interplay of cultures that make up Houston Food.. He loves Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Cajun, Chinese, and his menu reflects that (as you’ll see in What Should I Get?). You want to know how much Shepherd loves Houston Food, if you walk in (and I’m hoping he still does this), he’ll give you a brochure. It’s not a Take Out Menu. It’s a listing of his Crew, and more importantly, a list of other restaurants in the area:
Chris has complied a collection of photographs and descriptions from folks that inspire his food and make him proud to be a Houstonian. They have enriched our lives in ways we can’t describe. Sure, we’d love to have you back at Underbelly, but we politely request that you visit at least one of these folks first.
Well, in my case, the flyer worked better than he could have hoped. When first go ahold of it, after my first visit at Underbelly, I hit at least THREE places on that list, then went back to Underbelly AGAIN in the space of a week.
Underbelly itself is a comfortable space. It has that edgy, new wave, trendy vibe going on, and it lasts until you hit your seat. It’s got a wood block theme going on, but it’s comfortable. You can feel the weight lift off your shoulder when you get inside. You look around, and the Kithcen is open and exposed for some viewing pleasure. There’s even an in-house smoker where you can watch Charcuterie happen right before your eyes. They’ve even got a waiting room with a bar where you could idle the night away with fine food and fine drink. It’s a great place to meet your friends.
Underbelly is a good restaurant and Chris Shepherd is a damn good guy. I could only wish that every other chef in America would act like him. Not just in formulating a menu that defies convention, but proudly proclaiming and advocating the town he loves and any and all Restaurants that have had his back in the past. The world would indeed be a better place.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Again, this is another Foodie wonderland, prepared a by a Chef who frankly likes what he likes, and wants to bring you along for the ride. I mean any place that has Korean Braised Goat Dumplings can’t be all bad.
But there are other things on the menu that just take your breath away. I’d start with the Korean Style Wagyu Sirloin with Sweet Potato Noodle, Cold Broth and an egg. I’ve had this, and this is emblematic of the of the kind of cooking you’ll find here. I’d also take to the Slow Cooked Pork Belly and, Redneck Cheddar Grits. Following on the “Pork Theme”, there’s the Cornmeal Pork Chop with Onion Bread Pudding, and Maple Mustard. And of course, as near dessert like treat for your table, you can also go with the the Warm Slow Dough Bread, with Sweet Potato and Local Honey Butter.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Mind you, this is not the first time we’ve written about Underbelly.
For the uninitiated, I would say that as much as love eating there, going to Dinner is by far the better bet than going to Lunch there. The lunch menu is…well, okay. It’s serviceable. But, to my mind, it lacks the luster of the Dinner menu. The Dinner menu is one I’d crawl over my beaten down best friend to get at.
PARKING: Ridiculously easy. Underbelly has it’s own free lot, but bear in mind that the lot may only be ridiculously easy in non-prime-time hours. Failing that, I’d recommend going Valet. The station is just front of the restaurant.
1100 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
Tel: (713) 528-9800
Monday-Thursday: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm / 5:00 – 10:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm / 5:00 – 11:00 pm