Your new downtown watering hole beneath the glow of the marquee lights.

The Food

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. 

Chefs Nick Wong and Leila Frink joined our team in January 2022, and are slowly transitioning the menu to reflect their vision of this restaurant—simplicity is elegance, as Nick likes to say. It’s always a great time to dine at the Tavern—our menus online reflect what’s on the menu now—and we’re adding new dishes all the time.  

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The Wine

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.

The Cocktails

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.

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The Team

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Nick Wong

Executive Chef

California native Nick Wong started cooking in sixth grade and was interested in pursuing a career in cooking almost immediately. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, frequently changing majors and always coming back to food. He graduated in 2007 with a degree in nutritional science—the degree closest to cooking that was available. He attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City before joining Momofuku, cooking at both Momofuku Ko and Momofuku Ssam Bar. After two years as a line cook at Momofuku Ssam Bar, he spent a year at Gramercy Tavern before returning home to California to work with Chris Cosentino at Incanto. Nick returned to Momofuku Ssam Bar in 2013 as sous chef and was promoted to chef de cuisine a year later. He moved to Houston in 2018 to open UB Preserv as chef de cuisine. UB Preserv was named the best new restaurant in Texas by Texas Monthly in 2019, and Nick was named a Rising Star Chef by StarChefs the same year. Nick was promoted to executive chef of UB Preserv in 2021, and transitioned to Georgia James Tavern as executive chef at the end of the year.

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Leila Frink

Sous Chef/Operations Manager

Leila Frink, who comes from a military family and had the opportunity to live in a lot of different places growing up, calls Texas home. Leila credits her love of cooking to her abuela, who she used to watch in the kitchen at a young age. Leila’s cooking style is a blend of Asian and Hispanic fusion, stemming from her Chinese and Puerto Rican background. Leila’s experience includes both front of house and back of house roles—from working as a sous chef at Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City to working front of house at Bludorn here in Houston. Leila is no stranger to the Underbelly family, and worked as a line cook here at UB Preserv from 2018 to 2020, and with Underbelly Catering in 2020. In addition to her work in restaurants, she graduated with an MBA from the University of St. Thomas in 2021. Leila uses her vast restaurant experience and business knowledge in a new role as operations manager and sous chef first for UB Preserv and now at Georgia James Tavern.

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Fremmiot Rodriguez

General Manager

Fremmiot Rodriguez grew up in a blended Puerto Rican and Midwestern family, spending most of his formative years in Puerto Rico. Fremmiot’s first restaurant job was shucking oysters and dishwashing. From there, he was able move up the ladder in the hospitality industry in Corpus Christi, Texas, and eventually made his way to Houston in 1995 where he worked front of house at Pappa Mia. He then transferred to Pappas Bros. Steakhouse where he was a reservationist, cigar steward, office administrator and sommelier for 25 years. Fremmiot joined Underbelly Hospitality in 2018 as assistant general manager for Georgia James and moved to Georgia James Tavern as general manager in 2021.

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Victoria Dearmond

Pastry Director

Victoria Dearmond has been a member of the Underbelly team since the restaurant opened in March 2012. In addition to managing the pastry departments for all Underbelly Hospitality concepts, she serves as Chris Shepherd’s consigliere—managing his schedule, collaborating on recipe development and overall project management. Prior to joining Underbelly, she worked in the pastry department at Triniti and at a ski lodge in Washington State. The Lake Jackson native graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. In 2016, she was an Eater Young Guns semifinalist, and in 2018, she was named Eater Houston’s Pastry Chef of the Year.

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Matthew Pridgen

Wine Director

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.

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Westin Galleymore

Director of Bars

Westin Galleymore grew up in the restaurant business and learned about wine from his chef/sommelier dad, who also introduced him to cocktails at Anvil Bar & Refuge. Westin was hooked. Not long after, he accepted a job at Anvil, completed the bar’s notoriously rigorous training program and developed a strong understanding of cocktail architecture. Two years later, he opened One Fifth Steak as bar manager. In 2018, he was promoted to Underbelly Hospitality’s director of bars and manages the cocktail programs at Hay Merchant, UB Preserv, One Fifth, Georgia James, and Georgia James Tavern. Westin was named a Rising Star Bartender by StarChefs in 2019.

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Chris Shepherd

Chef/Owner

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 ReportGeorgia 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.

The Location

Georgia James Tavern is located at 737 Preston on the first floor of Market Square Tower. Valet parking is complimentary at Market Square Tower.