Restaurants / Openings

Burger Mania Grips the Houston Farmers Market — Chris Shepherd’s New Underbelly Burger Is Already Drawing a Crowd

A Celebrity Chef Behind the Counter and a Near Heights Scene

BY // 01.09.22
photography Shelby Hodge

Had it not been a damp and windy 50 degrees on Friday, the line outside of Chris Shepherd’s spanking new Underbelly Burger in the Houston Farmers Market on Airline Drive probably would have snaked outside the door. As it was, the cozy space, which is already noted for introducing a slightly updated version of Hay Merchant’s Cease and Desist burger, was packed.

This is what happens on day two of a new foodie hotspot, sure to be adored, when renowned chef Chris Shepherd brings his reputation for great food, good service and philanthropy to the table. A beaming if uber busy Shepherd was behind the counter on this day when eager fans chowed down on yummy burgers (double meat, double cheese with lettuce, pickles and tomato on a potato bun), outrageously delish fries and more.

Happily, the line moved quickly and those seeking a table in the 1,200 square foot burger joint could likely find one of the 14 seats. Even so, we looked longingly at the neighboring outdoor tables and the tables on the green space merely yards away. But it was just too cold for these thin-blooded Texans to sit outside.

The scene was warm, cozy and friendly inside Underbelly Burger as there was a certain feel of anticipation accompanied by confidence that these $12 and $14 burgers (the latter made with Wagyu beef) would be worth the tariff and the trip, a trip only if you don’t live in the bustling Heights and near-Heights neighborhoods. The Airline Drive proximity to downtown business offices was evidenced in the number of young professionals filling the tables and savoring every bite.

Spirits behind the counter ran high on this day on which one might say the place was slammed. Joining Shepherd in hustling those amazing Sidewinder fries into paper sacks and announcing ready orders was Nick Fine, Underbelly Hospitality director.

“I’ve been working to get out of burger joints all my life,” Fine quipped. “And here I am in a burger joint. I love it.”

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IMG_5676 (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
On day two of Underbelly Burger opening, young professionals were lining up for the delish burgers, chicken sandwiches and Chris Shepherd bacon sausage hot dogs. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)

The menu is limited, always a good sign in my estimation. In addition to the Angus and Wagyu burgers, there is a veggie burger and chicken sandwich. Shepherd’s bacon sausage has the starring role in the Underbelly Burger hot dog. There is also kale salad, soft drinks, a small selection of beer and wine, and a host of milkshakes, four total. Anyone for Cookies and Cream?

No matter your starting point, Underbelly Burger is worth the trip as it comes with the bonus of the farmers market, a colorful cornucopia of merchants proffering everything from fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs, to all manner of Mexican tchotchkes. Had it not been so chilly, we could have easily spent an hour touring the compelling booths.

Two doors down from Underbelly Burger is the new R-C Ranch Butcher Shop, which you can read all about here.

Underbelly Burger is tucked at the back of Houston Farmers Market on the left flank as you face the main entry.

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