Underbelly, the Montrose restaurant from James Beard Award winner Chris Shepherd with the stated mission to tell "the story of Houston food," may be three years old, but it's still racking up acclaim.
On Tuesday, Southern Living magazine named it as one of the South's 30 best restaurants. The restaurant is the only Houston establishment to make the list and one of only three from Texas.
By now, Houstonians are probably well aware of the reasons that Southern Living cited in awarding Underbelly earned its spot. The magazine mentions both the restaurant's in-house butchery program and the way Shepherd used a trip to Vietnam in January to enhance his menu. That sort of commitment to innovation apparently impressed the judging panel, which included high profile chefs like Charleston's Sean Brock, Donald Link of New Orleans, and Billy Allin from Georgia.
While it seems obvious that the magazine would include a restaurant that's as celebrated as Underbelly on a list like this, lots of similarly high profile establishments didn't make the cut. Indeed, many of the other restaurants are even newer than Underbelly is. Rather than Qui, Odd Duck or Uchi, Austin's representative is Launderette, the eclectic neighborhood restaurant from chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki that opened in February. Similarly, the John Besh empire's work in New Orleans is represented by Shaya, the white-hot modern Israeli restaurant instead of more established locations like Domenica or Restaurant August that also opened this year.
Cured, the San Antonio restaurant from chef Steve McHugh that features an extensive array of cured and pickled items, rounds out the Texas members of the list. Houstonians will have an opportunity to sample the cuisine of list-topper Husk when its chef/partner Sean Brock visits Houston as part of Underbelly's Southern Smoke charity fundraising event. In the meantime, the city can be happy to know that at least one magazine thinks Underbelly is continuing to push Southern cuisine forward.