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Underdog Triumphs With Its Korean-Influenced Menu and Lively Natural Wine Pairings

Going Beyond in Bouldin Creek

Underdog, a brand-new wine bar and restaurant in Bouldin Creek, defies the odds by delivering a well-considered food menu.

Of course, the standard wine bar fare of cheese and charcuterie is delicious and satisfying. However, when an establishment invests in a unique wine list, visitors expect more from the food options than an afterthought.

At Underdog, the dream of a top-notch food menu at a wine-centric spot comes true in a big way.

The Rise of the Underdog

Underdog is the brainchild of Richard Hargreave and Claudia Lee, a couple with serious chops in the hospitality industry.

Hargreave honed his sommelier skills in Sydney’s restaurant scene before collaborating with the Momofuku empire. Together, they opened venues in Sydney, NYC, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Lee has a background in marketing with a focus on luxury wines and spirits and event planning. It gave her a keen sense of how to curate a space and source a one-of-a-kind wine collection.

Underdog Austin
Underdog owners Claudia Lee and Richard Hargreave.

Hargreave and Lee chose Bouldin Creek as the location for Underdog because of the neighborhood’s creative vibe and central location.

“We loved the charm of the neighborhood and the close proximity to downtown,” says Hargreave. “It’s just far enough away from the hustle and bustle across the bridge.”

Underdog Vibes

Underdog is located on the ground floor of a newer building development on South 1st Street. It’s easy to spot due to its adorable sign featuring a drawing of a happy, shaggy-eared puppy.

The space has a minimal, almost industrial vibe, but it manages to feel warm and welcoming. Exposed pipes, pendant lights, concrete flooring and tonal wood offer a Nordic aesthetic. It’s softened by coral velvet bar stools, archway accents and abundant natural light spilling through grand floor-to-ceiling windows.

Underdog’s service is cheerful and knowledgeable. If you’re unsure about anything on the daily wine list, your server or bartender is ready and able to answer questions and steer you in the right direction.

MORE: Rediscovering the Timeless Charm of Elizabeth Street Café

Underdog Austin

Diversity Uncorked

By design, natural wine is Underdog’s focus. “Our aim is for everyone to have their eyes opened to food and wine combinations they may never have experienced before,” Hargreave says.

Lee adds, “Our wine list is an ever-evolving list of producers that we love. The list mainly leans toward thoughtful European producers with a similar commitment to sustainable farming and labor practices.”

“We hope to showcase regions and producers that don’t get the acclaim they deserve — especially female Asian winemakers,” continues Lee.

Underdog’s Flavor Fusion

When it comes to Underdog’s overall menu concept, Lee says, “Having a Korean-American restaurant with an amazing wine list was something that Austin was missing.”

That gap — along with Lee’s Korean heritage — inspired the flavors, ingredients and dishes on the menu. It’s designed to pair with Underdog’s wine offerings.

”We look for powerful, umami-driven flavors in our food,” Hargreave says. “The way the wine complements it is to be well-made, balanced and with an energetic drive that matches the complex flavors of the food.”

For example, Underdog offers a unique twist on traditional hotteok, a classic Korean street food. Instead of a sweet pancake-like pastry stuffed with brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts, Underdog stuffs the yeasted-dough pastry with housemade kimchi and nutty Taleggio cheese.

The kimchi achieves a brilliant balance of sourness and funk. It doesn’t overpower the cheese or the pastry, resulting in an engaging bite.

It pairs perfectly with Sassara Coconar Orange, a vibrant wine from Southern Italy. It has a light texture, bright notes of peach and citrus, and an appealingly tart top note.

The fried chicken served with milk bread and pickles is Underdog’s signature dish-to-be. The chicken has a satisfying crispiness and interior juiciness that diners expect from Korean-style chicken. The breading is an intriguing blend of seasonings anchored by nori, which brings a salty, slightly briny dimension to the dish.

The pickles feature a fascinating blend of Southern sweet-and-sour and Korean-style with rice vinegar and sesame oil. When paired with the chicken and delicate, plush milk bread, it creates a diverse and compelling flavor blend that won’t be forgotten.

Before You Go

Before you leave Underdog, stop by the restaurant’s adjacent wine shop. It’s a compact but impressively-stocked space with menu-featured bottles and the owners’ natural wine favorites.

With its combination of robust food, a nuanced wine selection and take-home convenience, Underdog is a must-visit for Austin foodies and wine enthusiasts.

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