Downtown Restaurant & Bar
We believe dishes and drinks that bring you back again and again are the true test of a neighborhood restaurant, a gathering place, a tavern. We’re serving simple, elegant dishes from our wood-burning grill with the same philosophies on sourcing, technique, service and attention to detail as our sister restaurants.
Whether you want a casual patio bottle or a sought-after allocated wine, we’ve got you. Our list is extensive and approachable with small producers alongside tried and true well-known producers, varietals and regions. It can be hard to have something for everyone, but this time, wine director Matt Pridgen nailed it.
We’ve got great spirits on the bar, and we’re not holding back on our allocated whiskeys (bourbon and scotch alike). As for the cocktails, we’ve got a few familiar classics, dialed up a bit, and some very fun originals that push boundaries.
Tim Reading grew up in a small town near Boston and discovered his passion for cooking through his high school’s culinary program. During high school, he worked as a dishwasher at a local country club, where he eventually became a line cook. Tim attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and while he was in school, completed an internship at a two-Michelin-starred restaurant Gourmet Restaurant Lerbach in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. After graduation, Tim returned to Boston and worked under Michael Schlow at his four restaurants—Via Matta, Doretta, Tico and Alta Strada—and progressed from line cook to chef de cuisine within the next five years. He moved to Houston in 2018 looking for a new culinary challenge, which he found as executive chef of Hugo Ortega’s Caracol. During COVID, he started a business as a private chef and then opened Ixim Restaurant in Bravery Chef Hall. In early 2022, Tim joined Underbelly Hospitality as executive chef of GJ Tavern.
Cameron started his career in the restaurants at Eddie V’s, where he worked both front and back of house. Before COVID, Cameron taught guitar but lost his job when the pandemic hit. He felt like it was the perfect time to reenter the restaurant industry.
Before joining Underbelly Hospitality, Cameron worked at Tiny Boxwoods as a bartender. Wanting to learn more and work under Underbelly Hospitality Director of Bars Westin Galleymore, Cameron came to work here with the Tavern team in July 2021.
Cameron has followed in his dad’s footsteps, who owned restaurants and worked as a food and beverage consultant all of Cameron’s life. His uncles have also worked in the hospitality industry in Houston and in Florida.
Cameron wasn’t born in Houston, but he says Houston is home. His parents are from Brazil and Portuguese was his first language, but jokes that today he speaks Portuguese like a toddler.
In his free time, Cameron likes to play guitar, go camping, read, and research spirits.
Matthew Pridgen was raised in a farming community—and he understands the hard work involved in the production aspect of the food industry. The Houston native started in the restaurant business as a bartender at Mark’s American Cuisine, where he was eventually promoted to General Manager and asked to take over the wine list. From there, Matthew accepted the general manager position at Catalan, where he worked alongside Chris Shepherd for five years. Because of their shared philosophy on using small-farm produce and supporting family-run businesses, Matthew followed Chris to Underbelly, where he was hired as general manager. Matthew employed the same attitude in crafting Underbelly’s wine list, choosing selections from wineries that are family owned and operated. Matt was promoted to wine director for Underbelly Hospitality in 2017 and runs the wine programs at One Fifth, UB Preserv, Georgia James, Hay Merchant and Georgia James Tavern.
Wine Enthusiast, recognizing Matthew’s expertise, named both Underbelly (2015-2016) and One Fifth (2017-2019) to its list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants. In 2021, Georgia James made Wine Enthusiast‘s list of 50 Wine Restaurants We Love. Georgia James earned a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator in 2020 and 2021.
Midwest-raised, James Beard Award-winning Chef Chris Shepherd has helped change the landscape of the Houston culinary scene since opening Underbelly in 2012. He built the restaurant to support the Houston food community and its suppliers by buying local and drawing inspiration from the people and cultures that live in the city. Thanks to Chris’ vision and passion, Underbelly was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit and Esquire and was named one of 38 essential restaurants in America by Eater. Chris was named one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine in 2013 and was then awarded the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest.
In 2018, he closed Underbelly to expand his Underbelly Hospitality restaurant group, which includes Georgia James steakhouse—named the Best New Restaurant in Texas by Texas Monthly and one of the Best New Restaurants in America by GQ and Robb Report; Georgia James Tavern, and Underbelly Burger. Underbelly Hospitality will open Wild Oats, a fresh take on traditional Texas cuisine, and Pastore, a red sauce Italian restaurant, in 2022.
Chris was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2019 and was named Robb Report‘s Chef of the Year the same year. Chris’ first cookbook, Cook Like a Local: Flavors that Will Change the Way You Cook—and See the World, was published by Clarkson Potter in September 2019 and was nominated for a 2020 James Beard Foundation Book Award.
Chris began his fine dining career at Brennan’s of Houston, where he spent seven years in the kitchen and then ran the wine program for two. He left Brennan’s in 2006 to open Catalan Food & Wine, which was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America that same year.
Chris’ foundation Southern Smoke has distributed more than $9.5 million directly to people in the food and beverage industry in need via the Emergency Relief Fund.
GJ Tavern is located in Downtown Houston at 737 Preston on the first floor of Market Square Tower. Valet parking is complimentary at Market Square Tower.