Moving Sidewalk, the bar that has replaced shuttered ramen shop Goro & Gun, opened quietly on Main Street last weekend. With teal walls and three antique chandeliers hanging over the bar, it's a calmer, cooler atmosphere than its predecessor. As one patron quipped during Saturday night's first official service, "It doesn't look like Josh Martinez's dorm room anymore" (referring to the ramen shop's former partner).
For Gregg, restraint is the governing principle that guided this new venture — the first time the veteran barman, whose credits include Anvil and The Pass & Provisions, has his own place.
Beverage director Alexander Gregg tells CultureMap the new look reflects a deliberate choice. "We wanted it to feel sexy. Dark lights, candles, nice cool color on the walls . . . Teal is a soothing color. Kinda puts people in a good mood."
If it all feels a little bit restrained, well, that's sort of the point. For Gregg, restraint is the governing principle that guided this new venture — the first time the veteran barman, whose credits include Anvil and The Pass & Provisions, has his own place.
"In any creative form, I feel like restraint is the hardest principle to attain. You know a great master painter by his restraint. It’s not the lines he draws. It’s the lines he doesn’t draw," Gregg explains.
Gregg gets a little philosophical when asked to explain how restraint manifests itself in Moving Sidewalk's tidy, eight-item cocktail menu.
There’s a couple of schools of thought on flavor balance in cocktails. I’ve seen judges in competitions tell people ‘you should be able to taste every component in your drink. Every ingredient, you should be able to taste that.’ I completely disagree. When you add ingredients, you don’t taste them all on their own.
That’s where the restraint comes in. Maybe you can taste the chartreuse in that drink but if you dial it back a little bit and not hitting you over the head with chartreuse it’s a little more interesting . . . but if you take it out it doesn’t taste the same."
Even the name, which is inspired by ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons' first band, is a more low-key reference that replaces one taken from a Japanese cult classic movie. Beyond alluding to a local legend, Gregg cites two components of the name. "There’s this flow of people downtown. It’s becoming a bar hopping district. Basically, outside is a moving sidewalk," Gregg says. "Finally, is the name memorable? Or does it have a world-class feel to it? We think it does."
Gregg thinks that having a kitchen will help Moving Sidewalk distinguish itself from Bad News Bar, the neighbor that he cites as another world-class cocktail bar in Houston. Compared to bars that focus on classic cocktails, Gregg says that Moving Sidewalk will be "a little more modern in the approach. Having the kitchen allows us to create ingredients that don’t exist and use them in cocktails."
Even the name, inspired by ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons' first band, is a more low-key reference that replaces one taken from a Japanese cult classic movie.
The kitchen's vacuum sealer helps with a rosehip infusion for the Lermontov Rose cocktail, and bartender Molly Pillow created a fig and marigold shrub for the All That Falls. Ultimately, Gregg cites bars like The Aviary in Chicago and Booker and Dax in New York as examples of places with kitchens that are creating modern cocktails.
"I’m not going to say that’s the style we’re going for, but looking at some of the different techniques and some of the different lines of thought is definitely an inspiration," Gregg says.
The bar's modern approach is best demonstrated in the White Lady -> to Corpse Reviver No. 2, in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze Cocchi Americano and absinthe, the ingredients that distinguish the two drinks. The first sips are all White Lady, but the Corpse Reviver No. 2 emerges as the ingredients melt. The theater created by watching the liquid nitrogen pour into a glass from a thermos has an instant "gotta have it" effect that prompts nearby patrons to order the drink.
Beyond a specific cocktail or technique, Moving Sidewalk is Gregg's first opportunity to have his own place. "It’s always been a dream of mine to have a bar. The reality is still kind of setting in," he admits.
"It’s huge. It’s a life changing event for me for sure. It’s one thing to have a job. It’s another thing to have a bar."
Moving Sidewalk is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.