As an aficionado of the Houston food scene, I’ve come to love all of Chris Shepherd’s concepts, but Georgia James is certainly one of my favorites. When the restauranteur announced the opening of Georgia James Tavern (in Downtown, no less), my heart skipped a beat. After all, Shepherd has been known to say he would never open a restaurant within our neighborhood bounds. But a more casual off-shoot of arguably one of our city’s finest steakhouses? Count me in.
Shepherd enlisted Chef Matt “Tally” Coburn (formerly sous chef at Georgia James) to lead the kitchen at the new spot, and the menu has Tally’s influence all over it. While parts of the menu reflect similarities with other Shepherd restaurants—cooking steaks in cast iron, for example—the Tavern offers a more low-key experience with specialties like hearth-roasted chicken with coconut sticky rice, green papaya salad and a club sandwich with turkey and ham smoked in house.
No restaurant in the Bayou City would be complete without oysters, and GJT’s are worth every penny. The six oysters are topped with bacon and “redneck” cheddar, then roasted in the hearth to perfection. Accompanied by crusty bread, they are perfect for soaking up every last drop of green garlic-chili butter. Another standout item is the baked pimento cheese (it’s a tavern, after all), which comes alongside thin- sliced country ham, pickled okra and toasted Kraftsman Baking sourdough bread.
Georgia James Tavern occupies the intimate space at the foot of Market Square Tower, one
of Downtown’s most exclusive rental properties. Nest Design Group transformed the space with an art deco-inspired interior such as marquee- style lights around the bar and vintage-inspired glass wall sconces. Other design elements include leather banquettes, brass accents and Zellige tiles from Morocco on the back bar. Coziness is definitely what you will find at Georgia James Tavern, as the interior of the restaurant only seats 40 at a time.
We fawned over the unique drink menu and ordered two favorites—the Ponderosa (a mix of lime leaf vodka, cranberry, orange marmalade and roast aperitif) and the Hall Pass (a blend of bourbon, banana and bitters)—but the entire list was truly calling our name. Consider Georgia James Tavern your next post-work happy hour hang, but make sure to snag a reservation because the space is sure to fill up fast.