Most Houstonians don’t think of Mary Li, best known for her cocktail creations at Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen, as a chef. That characterization may turn out to be totally misplaced as Li opens Ginger & Fork, a “modernized authentic Chinese concept” with “worldly craft cocktails” set to open in The Heights tomorrow.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Li is a second-generation restaurateur. Her family owned a Chinese restaurant in Chicago before moving to Houston in 1990. In 1991, Li began her mixology career as a bartender at Houlihan’s before moving on to Mandola’s restaurant where she quickly became one of the city’s best cocktail minds.
Li had a heavy hand in creating the menu, but the Chronicle notes that she brought in Hong Kong native Sammy Li (no relation) to lead the kitchen at Ginger & Fork. Before joining the concept, Li helmed the kitchen at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong and spent time at Houston’s Sinh Sinh and Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot.
The restaurant has quietly been open for the past week, serving up char siu sliders and spicy Cantonese squid half-price as it finds its footing. The restaurant’s signature cocktail, the Whiskey Root, is mixed with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Canton ginger liqueur, freshly-muddled ginger, and Thai basil. Spice junkies can look forward to the Dragon Fire, mixed with Tanqueray Rangpur gin, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, and habanero bitters.
Ginger & Fork opens its doors at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 15 for lunch service. The restaurant is closed on Mondays, and open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sundays.