Last week, chef Ryan Hildebrand of Triniti announced that a long-expected second concept is mere months away from opening. It’s called FM Burger and will be located at 1112 Shepherd just north of Washington Avenue.
If it seems like this isn’t the first time a second restaurant from the people behind Triniti has been announced, that’s because it’s not. Way back in 2012, another one, first called Brande and later renamed to FM 903, was slated to go in the now-empty parking lot where Ruggles Grill used to be.
According to Hildebrand, ultimately Triniti owner Chong Yi and his business partners decided that putting only a single restaurant on the approximately 28,000-square-foot lot on the corner of Montrose and Westheimer just didn’t make sense. “In order to maximize its usage, Chong is developing a multi-tenant project there. There will be some retail. There’s a small section for a restaurant there. I don’t know who’s going in,” Hildebrand said.
Since Brande/FM 903 ended up not happening, Hildebrand has been very cautious about not announcing FM Burger until it was a for-sure project. “It should be fully-permitted within the next week or so,” he said. “We’re 90 to 120 days out from that—November or December, hopefully before Thanksgiving.” Robby Rodriguez, who is currently at Triniti, is slated for the general manager position.
A burger joint makes a whole lot of sense. Triniti has long offered terrific burgers on its lunch, dinner and brunch menus. Despite that, Hildebrand says that the FM 903 burger is different from all the Triniti burgers. “The burgers at Triniti are brand-appropriate. We always try and do something on the creative side. We’re always trying to re-create something in our own way. [FM Burger’s] is not that. This is almost the antithesis. This is simplicity — direct familiarity executed very well. That would be the only common thing. This is not overly complicated or complex. There are not a lot of ingredients. There's not a lot of manipulation. It’s just done very well in a very simple format,” he explained.
The beef burgers feature a proprietary blend of brisket, chuck and sirloin. “I’ve been working on the ratio with our vendor to have them grind it to our spec,” says Hildebrand. “I’m doing that for a few reasons. One is for consistency, and for the FM Burger concept, that’s extremely important.”
FM Burger’s menu also has two different chicken sandwiches. Both feature deep-fried chicken breast brined in the same kind of solution used for the Cornish game hens at Triniti. One kind of chicken sandwich is dressed simply, either with pickles and butter infused with agave syrup, or as a standard burger, depending on what the diner prefers. Another variation is a chicken pot pie sandwich, topped with beurre blanc loaded with peas and carrots.
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Sides include the same exquisite, hand-cut fries that Triniti has perfected over the past five years as well as tater tots. Either can be topped with house-made chili and cheese. For dessert, Triniti’s pastry chef, Caroline Ramirez, has developed “loaded milkshakes” in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, as well as individual-size pies.
Jim Herd of Collaborative Projects is developing the space, which Hildebrand says will be a very casual hangout with walkup counters and a sizable patio. “It’s really meant to just be a place where you can park it and hang out for the day,” says Hildebrand. “Jim Herd’s doing a good job and understood what we wanted pretty quickly. It’s really in his wheelhouse — the style of place we wanted to do, and it looks really good. It’s like a little park. On Washington, one thing that’s really missing is grass, and [FM Burger] has it. It’s got a great green space to chill out in.” Herd’s other projects include Bernie’s Burger Bus, Morningstar and The Pastry War.
Hildebrand says that since the announcement, “Triniti has been selling a lot of burgers these days.” A sneak preview of the signature FM Burger is currently available for only $5.29 on the happy hour menu at Sanctuari Bar inside Triniti between 3 and 7 p.m.