A couple of weeks back, Bobby Heugel—he of Anvil Bar & Refuge fame, he who's credited with bringing the craft cocktail movement to Houston—took to Instagram to call out a fellow Montrose bar for serving what was essentially a vodka-Red Bull with added Everclear for $9.75, made with extremely inexpensive UV Vodka that retails for less than $15 per liter. "This is why we can't have nice things," Heugel wrote. "Please make it stop."
Johnny's Gold Brick
2518 Yale St.
It's hard to imagine Heugel, or anyone else for that matter, taking issue with the cocktail prices at Johnny's Gold Brick, however. Every day of the week, no matter the hour, its 10 classic drinks are $8 each. "Our boiler maker has been really popular," said bar manager Jason Moore, whom you may recognize from his time spent managing D&T Drive Inn just down the street—both bars are owned by the Treadsack Group, which also includes such diverse interests as Down House, the Kipper Club test kitchen, CHOAM seafood distribution, and Sugar & Rice magazine under its umbrella. Moore and wife Amber White were both fixtures at D&T before briefly moving to LA. Now that they're back in town, the duo—along with beverage director Leslie Ross—is providing the same casual, come-as-you-are vibe that made D&T such a success, but this time with mixed drinks instead of craft beers.
Beers are still on offer here, of course, as well as wine—this is a bar—but the emphasis is really on those cocktails, specifically the timeless 10: a lineup of classic cocktails printed on the leaf-green wall in vibrant orange and bright white. The daiquiri, Manhattan, Moscow mule, old fashioned, gimlet, martini, Tom Collins, Cuba Libre (the original rum and Coke), that aforementioned boiler maker—even a frozen margarita are all included in this purview. I suppose that Moore, White or Ross could ostensibly make you anything you asked for—Ross, winner of many a bartending competition and co-founder of the Ladies of Libation—certainly could—but there's something attractive about a simple line-up of staples after a long, un-simple day at work.
There's something equally alluring about the straightforward set-up of the space, reminiscent of D&T in its liberal use of wavy, warm-hued oak planes cut from local trees and in keeping with the overall Treadsack aesthetic of cute-but-not-too-cute with a dash of mid-century thrown in because why not. Everyone loves a shell chair. And while there are plenty of seating areas to be had—a front patio that's pleasantly sunny in the afternoons, deep booths along one wall inside, pub-height tables near the bar, more intimate seating towards the back—we chose to sit at the bar. That's where you can best appreciate the warmth and energy that Moore and White bring to Johnny's, and that's where a friend and I enjoyed two delicate coupe glasses, one filled with tart daiquiri and one with sweetly boozy Manhattan.
When it came time to leave for our dinner date, we could hardly tear ourselves away, wanting just one more cocktail and a few more songs on the Pandora playlist that Moore described, half-jokingly, as "kinda dark, creepy 70s and 80s stuff." Johnny's Gold Brick is the kind of place where you want to stay to watch the sun go down, even if only to see its neon sign light up at night.