Underbelly’s Wild Oats Restaurant Will Sprout at Houston Farmers Market This Summer

Nick Fine by Julie Soefer

IN THE NORTHEAST corner of the Heights sits the future home of the Houston Farmers Market, a $35 million overhaul of the 18-acre, 77-year-old market Airline Drive. The finished development will include 10 restaurants, community green space and more — and it'll be ready for Houstonians to explore as soon as this summer.


We're finally hearing details about Underbelly Hospitality's full-service restaurant that will open this summer in the space; Chris Shepherd himself has consulted throughout the market's redevelopment. (A second, fast-casual concept by Shepherd is yet to be announced.)

Houston native Nick Fine will helm the kitchen of the forthcoming Wild Oats, billed as a "fresh take on traditional Texas"; think shrimp-and-grits but with masa, as in tamales. Fine has traveled the globe, spent time cooking under famed chefs Scott Bryan and Dean Fearing, and was named culinary director of Underbelly Hospitality in 2017.

Houston Farmers Market

UBH's preference for partnering with regional farmers and ranchers will be well matched here, where up to 65 local purveyors will sell their goods. A 40-foot, open-air pavilion will highlight street-food and counter-service vendors, and Brazoria County's R-C Ranch Texas Craft Meats will open a butcher shop with glass walls for optimal viewing of the preparations of meats like goat, specialty sausage, Wagyu beef and more.

Elsewhere in the market, which is being developed by MLB Capital Partners, expect spaces dedicated to chef demonstrations, live music and more, plus improved bathrooms and parking.

Food

“I WISH I came here sooner to experience this amazing city,” says advanced sommelier Rachel Van Til of her move to Houston just one year before the pandemic lockdown. When Covid appeared in 2020, along with layoffs and closings, it led to a career swerve for Van Til, a working mom who was a sommelier at Pappas Steakhouse. She took over the wine program at The Clubs at Houston Oaks, a posh (initiation fees can range into the six figures) members-only club northwest of the city with 10 lodges, 17 lakes, 900 acres and six dining options. Speaking of lots of good food and vino, the club’s 2022 Wine and Food Classic is this February 12 — it’s a great chance to taste hundreds of wines from around the world and learn about them from winemakers and professionals. “It’s our largest event of the year and it’s open to the public.” In our Q&A, Rachel dishes on her favorite date night, best wines to try this year and her brush with the me-too movement!

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