The Story of Underbelly

Underbelly is the perfect title for "The Story of Houston Food," and when it comes to Houston, there is no better storyteller than Chef Chris Shepherd. Chris has described Houston as "The most secretive and dynamic culinary destination in the country," and Underbelly is the story of his journey through that city. Beneath its surface lies an endless array of the ingredients and cultures that shape Chris' unique perspectives on food. Houston's century-long history as a bustling port city and bountiful agricultural community provides endless inspiration for those persistent enough to look beyond the usual suspects. "Chris doesn't just cook food inspired by the city I grew up in, he embodies it in every way," notes partner Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar & Refuge. Underbelly asks Houstonians and visitors alike to experience not just Houston flavor, but Houston culture as well.

The Story of Houston Food

Considering Chris' habit of haunting divey restaurants in some of Houston's most culturally extreme neighborhoods, you shouldn't be surprised to find techniques that reshape views on what constitutes Southern cooking. Here in Chris' first independently controlled kitchen, you'll find weekly menus that emphasize rarely utilized Houston resources. Seasonal produce will pair seamlessly with by-catch seafood dishes or with richly historical meats like goat and grass-fed beef. To accomplish this goal, Chris insisted that his first restaurant have a fully equipped back-of-the-house butcher shop, allowing him to pursue his passion for butchery and processing all of Underbelly's meats in house.

The Story of Underbelly's Design

Underbelly was designed around Chris Shepherd's personality. The restaurant has been extensively renovated by Houston's design-focused architect and build firm, Collaborative Projects. Upon entering Underbelly, you will notice the use of modern Southern architecture, along with a wall of photographs depicting the people and places that have inspired Chris throughout the years. The main dining area is both spacious and homey, boasting soaring, barn-like ceilings, handcrafted American Walnut tables, a mix of donated chairs, and a kitchen that’s open to the dining room. The lowered kitchen-line counters allow guests to watch the chefs in action, and a first-come, first-served community table facilitates an interactive dining experience. The décor is a mix of reclaimed materials from around the city, along with woodcuts, chalkboard art, and pressed prints crafted by Carlos Hernandez, Cathie Kayser, and Patrick Masterson of the Houston-based printmaking studio, Burning Bones Press.