Burgers, sandwiches and tacos in a unique setting
The 144-year-old brick building in downtown Fulton is brimming with history. The Palace Hotel was a hub of activity in the Callaway County seat. It played host to uncountable community and civic events and served as the media center for Winston Churchill’s 1947 visit to Fulton.
Today — in an area once occupied by the hotel’s tap room, beauty salon and boiler room — you’ll find a unique restaurant dishing up delicious pub grub to peckish Fultonians and students from the town’s two colleges. Bryan Hanneke opened 1851 Underground in 2012 in the former hotel focusing on classic handheld food with a fresh twist.
Bryan has hospitality in his blood as he grew up helping out at a handful of his family’s restaurants in the greater St. Louis area. After graduating from Westminster College with a computer science degree, he thought he could add something to the community. “I felt like Fulton needed an upscale bar and grill that college students could also come to at night and hang out,” he says. “I wanted the menu to reflect the vibe of the building.”
Bryan chose 1851 for the name as that year was significant for Fulton. Westminster College, Fulton State Hospital and Missouri School for the Deaf were all founded then spurring new businesses around town.
Come to 1851 Underground with a couple hungry friends and your meal will start with the Fiesta Nachos. Bryan and his team start the dish with a pile of tortilla chips which are topped with housemade queso, pulled pork or chicken, housemade pico de gallo and black olives. The nachos start piling up as that process is repeated and the dish is topped with jalapenos, sour cream, guacamole and scallions. “It’s a pretty big dish,” Bryan says. “It’s very shareable. But sometimes people order it as their meal because it is that big.”
Other popular meal starters include the chicken wings with your choice of 11 different sauces or rubs or the Guacamole Wontons featuring freshly fried guacamole-stuffed wontons with a side of Thai sweet chili sauce.
1851 offers a trio of taco options with the Baja Fish Tacos being the most popular. Three pieces of cod are fried to order, placed inside warm tortillas and topped with shredded lettuce and the house pico de gallo. All are served with salsa, sour cream and avocado cream. “The cod definitely has a much lighter taste,” Bryan says. “It’s very popular.”
If you want your meal between two slices of bread, fret not. 1851 has a long list of plentiful-portioned sandwiches and burgers. The Fire and Ice Chicken sandwich is so popular it is the daily special every Tuesday. A grilled or fried chicken breast is tossed in their Cholula honey sauce, topped with pepper jack cheese and served on a Hawaiian roll. “The sauce makes the sandwich,” Bryan says. “The hot sauce and the honey mix together to create this sweet sauce with a subtle heat.”
Bryan’s favorite item is the prime rib sandwich. Instead of a thick cut of meat, shaved prime rib is heated on the flattop and topped with pepper jack, caramelized onions, creamy horseradish and freshly fried onion straws before finding a home between two pieces of ciabatta. “That’s served with au jus and your choice of fries, slaw, onion rings, chips or side salad,” Bryan says. “It’s a pretty heavy sandwich and complements well with the caramelized onions.”
Burger aficionados have plenty of options from which to choose. Bryan credits their burgers’ quality to their fresh, never frozen, certified Angus beef and the charbroiler, which fills their small kitchen with that classic burger smell. “It gives it that taste and smell of cooking it over an open flame on your backyard grill,” he says.
If you arrive in Fulton plenty hungry, the 1851 Burger is sure to fill you up. While the fresh burger grills over an open flame, hickory-smoked bacon is cooked to order on the flattop. Once cooked to your liking, it’s topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, warmed pulled pork and steamed under a dome. The mammoth meal is placed on a toasted Hawaiian roll and served with lettuce, pickles and a side.
Other interesting burger options include the Royal Burger with cheddar, bacon, mayonnaise and a fried egg, and the Cowboy Burger with bacon, cheddar, onion straws and A.1. aioli.
Bryan says his food’s quality and consistency, mixed with a friendly staff have kept customers filing into 1851 Underground for more than a decade.
“I love working down here so much, it’s like a family,” he says. “A majority of our customers are regulars. We know each other by name. We’re involved in their lives as much as they are ours.”
1851 Underground Tap & Grill
Specialties: Appetizers including chicken wings, Fiesta Nachos and Bavarian Pretzels. Burgers including the 1851 Burger, Callaway Burger and Veggie Delight. Sandwiches including Prime Rib, Fire and Ice Chicken and Ozark Pulled Pork.
Price: Appetizers from $6.50 to $17. Salads and sandwiches from $6 to $16. Burgers and tacos from $12.50 to $16.
Details: Kitchen open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday. Cash and credit cards accepted. Free Wi-Fi. Nonsmoking. Located at 111 E. 5th St. in Fulton. Contact at 573-642-6196 and www.1851underground.com.