Burger Preserv

Chris Shepherd hosts Houston food influencer's hit smash burger pop-up

Chris Shepherd hosts local food influencer's hit smash burger pop-up

Abbas Dhanani Burger Bodega
Burger Bodega is coming to Montrose. Photo by Mir Anwar

One of Houston’s most prominent food influencers is borrowing one of the city’s best restaurants for a one night only burger pop-up. Abbas Dhanani, better known as houstoneatz, will host his next Burger Bodega event at UB Preserv on the evening of Monday, October 11 (6 pm until sold out).

Introduced earlier this month, Burger Bodega's previous two pop-ups have featured long lines that have sold out in a couple of hours. Instead of operating under a tent, Dhanani wants to test the concept in a restaurant setting.

When Dhanani, who has over 100,000 followers on TikTok and 25,000 followers on Instagram, told Underbelly Hospitality chef-owner Chris Shepherd and UB Preserv executive chef Nick Wong about his plans to start a burger business, they expressed an interest in providing him with a platform to grow the concept.

“He had come in for a few of our late night things when we were doing those Thursday one-offs. I met him. Seemed like a nice guy, very authentic, very genuine,” Wong says about Dhanani. When Wong heard about Burger Bodega, he told Dhanani, “If it’s something you’re interested in, I’d love to offer you our space.

So far, the pop-ups have happened on portable griddles, but Dhanani will get to test the concept at a larger scale in UB Preserv’s kitchen. Dhanani says he met with Wong and the UB Preserv team to work out the logistics. Wong will be on hand to assist the Burger Bodega team as required.

The success of the two pop-ups has convinced Dhanani that his basic formula is solid. Inspired by visits to New York and Los Angeles — two cities where smash burgers have become a popular trend — each Burger Bodega burger starts with two patties that are smashed extremely thin to get lots of maillard chard and crispy bits. They’re topped with cheese, grilled onions, pickles, and “bodega sauce” then served on a Martin’s potato bun. At $9, it’s an affordable treat.

Wong adds that next Monday’s pop-up marks a new direction for UB Preserv. He wants the restaurant to be a platform for the culinary community.

“All these folks that come up during covid with their popups, I was very inspired. I would love to offer them the resources we have,” he says. “‘Hey, we have a platform for you. We’d love for you to shine because that only makes our whole industry better.’”

He also acknowledges a more personal reason for wanting to host some new people in the UB Preserv kitchen. The chef, who moved to Houston from New York in 2018, has been so focused on his job that he still feels like he’s new in town.

“I don’t really know a lot of folks,” Wong says. “Selfishly, I’d like to have more friends and meet more people.”