If the third time is the charm, then technically that’s the number of attempts owners of Goss Ave. Pub will have racked up when they (re)open Monday, Jan. 23.
The restaurant located at 1030 Goss Ave. began as the Germantown Craft House. But when the modern and stylish gastropub concept didn’t find its footing in the blue collar-cum-hipster-historic Germantown-Schnitzelburg neighborhood, partners Pat Hagan and Beau Kerley shut it down in December.
Promising to regroup, reconfigure and recreate it, Kerley said v2.0 would be a fusion-smokehouse that could include some ramen bowls. Its name would be Devil’s Due, and it would veer away from its craft-beer-centric bar to offer more mainstream brews and popular cocktails. Table service would give way to fast casual service, and a portion of the space would be occupied by large-format table and arcade games.
Social media response to the re-do ranged from honest criticism to sheer outrage, leading owners to return to the drawing board. Goss Avenue Pub became the new name, and with the help of consultant chef, Howard Richardson, the menu got a second and massive overhaul that not only makes sense—price-wise and flavor-wise—for the neighborhood and beyond, many dishes are surprisingly healthful.
“When you’ve got good ingredients and you cook them right, you can make food that’s good for you,” said Richardson. He said he and the pub’s chef, Tim Smith, weren’t aiming for healthful items, it just worked out that way. “This is really clean food. We’re really pleased with how everything’s coming out.”
On Wednesday Richardson invited me to a tasting of the menu—most of it anyway. At roughly 15 items, not including a rotation of soups and sides, it’s compact and smartly focused. Tasting even half that, though, was a gut buster.
Prices for main course sandwiches range from $6 to $11 and include burgers, smoked steak, slow-staged-and-seared salmon, fried fish, chicken, even a veggie Reuben.
The turkey sandwich doesn’t contain the de rigueur pile of dry of paper thin slices, rather it gets a pair of fork-tender slabs of juicy breast meat topped with apple chutney. The fish sandwich gets a crispy coating from a blend of corn meal and ground corn flakes and a dill-caper tartar sauce. Burgers are made from an exceptionally flavorful 70-30 blend of ground beef from Indian Creek, “slow staged” in a Winston CVap cooker, then seared to order. (Don’t want beef? There’s a savory seared beet sandwich on the menu.)
“Pink or not pink, that’s how we’re cooking our burgers,” Richardson said. “Either way, they’re juicy because of the CVap.”
Easily the best surprise of what we tasted was the Not Dog, a slow cooked carrot served in a poppy seed roll below a colorful mound of Chicago-style relish, made scratch in-house.
“Good, isn’t it?” Richardson said, grinning. It wasn’t just good, it was great. “It’s filling, it’s really flavorful. I could eat three of those.”
Its more traditional counterpart, the Dixon Avenue beef hotdog was also exceptional, smoky and served with a cucumber relish.
Wings are large, dry-rubbed, smoked and then grilled to order. Also great. If guests want sauce, they’ll get a half-dozen choices ranging from Alabama white to smoked apple-vinegar to a highly granular Memphis style.
I have to admit that the Powerhouse Salad looked a bit overpowering in terms of its heap of greens, dried corn, cranberries and cotija cheese. But once tossed with a ruby red French dressing, it morphed into a pile of real deliciousness I’d order without a New Year’s resolution.
But the menu is only half the change. Kerley has turned the front of the house into a sports bar-game room by adding tabletop shuffleboard and a pair of arcade games that hold programs for hundreds of 1980s favorites like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, etc.
“We want to have some games tournaments after we get things going,” Kerley said. “I think people will get into it.”
Pointing toward four wide screen TVs hanging over the bar, Kerley allowed that “you can see the direction we’re going with this. … We want people to come and watch games and stay awhile.”
Though service will be fast casual at lunch and dinner, Sunday through Thursday, bar customers can always get full service. On Friday and Saturday nights, all tables get full-service.
Kerley said the bar will have six cocktails and a handful of wines on tap for quick pouring. The 50 craft beers on draft will be reduced to about a fifth of that number, while the rest of the lineup will include 20 domestics and 20 imports. Pitchers will be on offer, and beer bucket and cocktail specials will be standards during games.
“There will be a lot of beers people will recognize and be comfortable with,” he said. “Craft beer’s expensive, so it allows us to keep costs down with what we’re going to now.”
Kerley said if there was one area the original concept missed the mark, it was design and décor. The Germantown Crafthouse was a real looker of a space, but arguably too much so for locals. He said that too often, customers came in dressed very casually, looked around and felt out of place in such modern surroundings.
“And that was never our intention, but you could see the looks on their faces,” he said. “We want everybody to feel that they can come as they are.”
Prior to Monday’s opening, residents in the Germantown-Schnitzelburg neighborhood are invited to a free preview event on Saturday from 5-8 p.m.
Operating hours aren’t official yet, but just plan for regular lunch and dinner hours every day.
“We really think we can do a really good lunch business here,” Kerley said. Nearby are Check’s Café and The Post, which he said both do well at lunch. “We’re right by Audubon Hospital, we’re close to downtown, and prices will be good for it.”