The trendy restaurant Underbelly refers to itself as “The Story of Houston Food.” A collage in the lobby has its own handout so you can trace the sourcing of the varied menu at this Westheimer Road eatery. My family’s experience began a few minutes after the doors opened on a Friday night, sans reservations. I would not recommend this method. Soon all sorts of personalities began rolling in and the place was full. I suggested to our server, who put me in the mind of Rosie the Riveter with a bandana and overalls, that my party of three would like to order some things and share. Family style is the way we do it here, she assured, and we picked something called Allen the Leg. We figured Allen was pretty skinny, because what came was a dish of finely shaved meats.
I’m into slow eating, so we savored every bite and have since been doing more of that at home. We had a pork belly and with something like fried cucumbers and my tablemates were concerned the cucumbers would be “touching” the other foods. Well, guess who wanted more of those crunchy little temptations? I had to fight for mine. There was an Asian dish on the table as well.
This meal was so different that I’ll always remember the sensations and the adventure. But my mistake is that I didn’t save the menu, which was presented in the frame of an old schoolbook. I figured I could look it up again, online, but offerings change. We loved the warm ciabatta with a flavored butter, but was it the charred eggplant I saw online later?
My daughter spotted a glassed room with various cuts of meat hanging in the window. An old wire fan stirred the cuts like they were wind chimes. Someone had chalked the message I recall as “pig goggles,” on a steel beam. A server explained that they were like “beer goggles,” and life looks better through them.
Underbelly is not for everyone, but it sure was for us, that night. If you’re into the menu items listed below, you know if you should venture into the Underbelly:
Grilled Mexican Street Corn, Chili Mayo, $14
Vietnamese Pork Cutlet, Oyster Mushroom, Tomatillo Salad, Lemongrass, $28
“Boudin,” cracklin, sausage and seafood are on the sign for Homsi’s #3, which I view from Interstate 10, headed to Orange. I finally got a chance to stop. The poster for “boudin eggrolls” on the door got my attention. I didn’t realize this place is a restaurant and meat market, but I didn’t see cracklins out. I went to investigate the freezers and saw all manner of sausage and, what I call “boudain,” with that extra letter “a” in there.
I had my hand on a cold back that was dense and heavy. I turned it over to see the label: rabbit.
I dropped ice block of rabbit like it was a hot potato and walked out the door, leaving my husband teasing me all the way home.
Don’t get me wrong, if someone else cooked up a pot of rabbit, I’d taste it for sure. I just can imaging that pot being on my stove at home.