Downtown Ramen Joint Closes

Ramen joint closes; will return as new bar in emerging downtown entertainment district

Ramen joint closes; will return as bar on downtown entertainment block

Goro & Gun intermission closed sign
Goro & Gun has closed and will reopen as a bar soon.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Goro & Gun chef J.D. Woodward
Chef J.D. Woodward resigned on Tuesday after the food budget was cut below an acceptable level.  Photo by Jay Tovar
Alexander Gregg, Goro & Gun bartender
Alexander Gregg will lead the new bar, which has yet to be officially named.  DowntownHouston/YouTube
Goro & Gun intermission closed sign
Goro & Gun chef J.D. Woodward
Alexander Gregg, Goro & Gun bartender

Downtown izakaya Goro & Gun served its final meal Tuesday night. Rising star chef J.D. Woodward has resigned his position as Goro's executive chef. On Wednesday night, Goro's curtains were drawn and a sign that simply reads "Intermission" hung in the window.

After what owners Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse promise will be brief amount of time, the space at 306 Main will reopen with a new name (and some new decor) as a bar under the direction of Goro's current general manager Alexander Gregg, who was recently named one of 10 bartenders to watch by Beverage Media. 

Gregg tells CultureMap that he's seen people walk up to Goro, look in and leave. "Ooh, that's a restaurant. We want a bar," he's heard them say.

Woodward took over at Goro after founding chef David Coffman's sudden departure only a couple of months after opening. He stabilized the menu and introduced signature dishes like the "phat ass ham hock" and crispy duck for two, but a summer slowdown in pedestrian traffic in the area put too big a dent in food sales. 

"I no longer have the budget to run a food program that is indicative of my standards or ability," Woodward writes in a statement. "I would like to thank Ryan Rouse and Brad Moore for the opportunity. I have no regrets about my time there. I think we took a food program that was on the ropes and made it into something we could all be proud of."

When Joshua Martinez, the person who originally defined Goro's concept as a ramen shop and cocktail bar, left the restaurant in May to focus on upcoming fried chicken restaurant The Chicken Ranch, Moore told CultureMap he anticipated moving into more of a bar direction. "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." The decision to close Goro and revamp the space completes that transformation.

While a new downtown restaurant district could emerge a few blocks south with El Big Bad, Springbok and the imminent openings of Prohibition and Main Kitchen and 806 Lounge at the J.W. Marriott, the partners think most patrons view the 300 block of Main as an entertainment destination rather than for food. Bad News Bar, The Pastry War and Little Dipper have established themselves as bars on the block, which will soon be joined by another bar called The Nightingale Room.

The Original OKRA Charity Saloon is just around the corner on Congress. While recently opened The Honeymoon offers food, it's a breakfast and lunch-oriented menu that matches the coffee shop atmosphere created by the presence of Boomtown Coffee's roasting operation in the space.    

Gregg tells CultureMap that he's seen people walk up to Goro, look in and leave. "Ooh, that's a restaurant. We want a bar," he's heard them say, which further influenced the decision to change directions. 

For Rouse, it's a chance for him, Gregg and Moore to do what they know. "What we do best is bars," he says. 

"Losing J.D. is one of the hardest things we've ever done," Rouse adds, but he notes that the new bar will have a prep kitchen unlike any other in the city. It will allow Gregg to expand his syrup business and recently launched hand cut ice program as well as provide new abilities for the Moore and Rouse's other concepts on the block, Bad News Bar and The Honeymoon. They declined to offer many details about Gregg's new direction until the bar is ready to open.

Woodward isn't sure what the future holds, but he plans to take a week or two off "and hang out with my kid . . . I can tell you one thing for sure — I won't be cooking ramen," he adds with a laugh. 

"Me and Brad and Ryan are still buddies," Woodward tells CultureMap. "I'm setting them up with a couple guys to get their food program up at Grand Prize with Sandy Witch leaving.

"I had a really good time there," Woodward says. "I had a really good run."