I was a friend of The Ginger Man and Bob Precious when there was just the original pub in Houston’s Rice Village (you can read more about the history of The Ginger Man under the History tab above). We spent many nights after closing discussing whether it was wise to open a location in Dallas, and how it could be done without diluting the feel and spirit of either location. Many local patrons had commented on how comfortable they felt in the Houston pub, and the dynamite selection of beer and the knowledge of the staff added to that. We felt it was essential not to lose that feeling. The Dallas location came alive and was very popular. Buoyed by this success, Bob added a third location in Austin, which has also been very popular and successful. Since then, and under new Texan ownership, two more successful Texas pubs were created in Ft. Worth and Plano.
One night I was enjoying a meal of fish & chips at Fado down the street in Austin. While chatting with the person next to me at the bar, I asked him if he ever went to The Ginger Man. He responded “no, I never go to chains”. That bothered me (not solely because Fado has 13 locations across the country), and I’ve thought about it a lot. When I think of chains, I think of Benigan’s (now closed), IHOP, Denny’s, Chili’s and other such places. They’re all constructed in cookie-cutter fashion and it appears the total experience is engineered to be nearly identical in all of the different locations. I think “uniform mediocrity” is implied by the “chain” moniker. The Ginger Man certainly doesn’t fit into that definition of a chain.
It’s true we have a “home office” in Dallas that takes care of some of the paperwork and other busy work that would detract from the General Manager’s attention to beer and keeping the patrons happy (although there’s still plenty of paperwork left over for them to do). Beyond that, each pub has been given the freedom to develop its own personality. Houston isn’t so big on serving food, both because of the tiny kitchen area and several great restaurants within walking distance. The newer Dallas-area pubs have larger kitchens and serve more pub food. All of the pubs are dog-friendly, as much as local health regulations allow. Patrons at the Houston and Dallas pubs love the blended beers that the bartenders create, but they aren’t very popular in Austin. Some of the pubs have regular live music that is enjoyed, while patrons at others prefer to left alone to talk. Some ideas, such as the “buy-a-beer, keep the glass” nights are popular at all the pubs. Each of the pubs has their own charities they choose to support through special events. The Austin pub has “trunk shows” where local artists bring in their creations to sell; I don’t think that happens in any of the other pubs.
I personally know all the General Managers at all the pubs, and I’d challenge anyone to find a more independent group of people. I’d say “good luck” to anyone who tried to fit them into a cookie-cutter definition of their job, other than some general principles on providing good beer and good service. And I’d extend that challenge to say you’d never find a group of more dedicated and hard-working managers. Its a LOT of work to keep all those taps flowing with fresh beer.
So, please, think of us as a family of pubs, not a chain. We feel that is a far more accurate description of us.