Big Restaurant Shakeup
Goro & Gun co-owner bows out: Best ramen dreams never came true, but a great foodie bar is still standing
Goro & Gun co-owner Joshua Martinez has left his role at the restaurant to concentrate on running his food truck The Modular. Martinez tells CultureMap that the change has been coming since he relaunched the food truck in February.
Goro was one of the first of the new wave of bars and restaurants to emerge on Main Street, and Martinez has been one of the strongest advocates for the latest attempt to revitalize downtown's nightlife.
"We are honestly parting amicably," Martinez says. "I think that downtown is working. More people are moving down there. I’m very excited for (business partners) Brad (Moore) and Ryan (Rouse) and all the projects they have coming up. Those guys have really helped me."
"Because it’s such a small space and we built such a big bar, we want it to be a bar that impresses people with its food. We think it could certainly act more like a bar."
Moore echoes Martinez's sentiments, saying the move evolved naturally once Martinez returned to the food truck. "It’s not that big of a deal," Moore says. "I talked to him maybe once a week now. We’re still friends and everything, but I see him socially more than business-wise."
As for Goro, Moore is confident it's in good hands. "When Josh started doing the truck, (chef) JD (Woodward) and (bar manager) Alex (Gregg) took over the operations of the restaurant. That’s the way it’ll be," Moore explains. "Me and Ryan are trying to do the least work we possibly can," he adds with a laugh.
Martinez shares similar sentiments. "Alex Gregg is a great person and has a great talent. He is going to do great things with Goro and any other projects he has," Martinez predicts. "JD Woodward is a beast. He took a food program that had its legs swept out from under it and was able to make something that anyone in Houston could be proud of."
Although both Moore and Martinez emphasize the amicable nature of the separation, some tension gets hinted at by examining Martinez's intentions for Goro versus how its evolved over its year-plus existence. When it opened, Martinez intended for Goro to be known for serving ramen that could compete with the best in the country, but the dish never came together under either Woodward or founding chef David Coffman.
In one sense, Chinatown restaurant Tiger Den's mix of ramen and grilled skewers has better filled Goro's original intentions in Houston's culinary landscape.
Under Woodward's leadership, Goro has evolved away from a pure restaurant and towards being a bar with great food, even earning a nod from Texas Monthly as one of 2013's best new bars. Moore says he's pleased with that status. "Because it’s such a small space and we built such a big bar, we want it to be a bar that impresses people with its food," Moore says. "We think it could certainly act more like a bar. If you think people are perceiving it as a bar, good, we’ll take it.
"Me and Ryan are bar people. This restaurant thing has been a roller coaster. Josh taught us how to run a restaurant."
Meanwhile, Martinez says he'll be concentrating on The Modular but has warm feelings about his time at Goro. "I’m grateful for the experience. I’m happy to see downtown thrive from where it was to where it is now, and its future. I’m happy to have had a part in doing that," he says.
"I get to focus on my own personal projects and The Modular. It’s got a lot of places it will be in the next year, multiple festivals. In and out of Houston."