Whitney of the Ginger Man: Local Beers Make Her Proud

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This week, I paid a visit to that Rice Village staple, the original Ginger Man, to have a post-work beer at a picnic table in the evening sun. You can always count on the Ginger Man for a great beer selection featuring some of Texas's and Houston's finest labels, and for the interior to be a cool, dark respite from the commotion of the shopping centers nearby.

I ordered a Flemish sour and got to talking with fiery redhead Whitney behind the bar, who graciously divulged a little about herself, her bar and how good, local brews make her proud to call Houston home.

Where are you from? Houston.

How long have you been bartending? Well, I've been here for two years, but I've been bartending off and on for about seven.

How would you describe the bar's aesthetic? It's really laid-back. In a way it's like a "Cheers," where everybody knows your name. It's homey, but it's still in the middle of a bustling area. The coolest thing is that we're the original Ginger Man and the oldest establishment on the strip. This house is over 100 years old, and when we first opened, about 27 years ago, nothing that's around us now was here. We have history.

How would you describe the crowd? People from all over the world stop in, making it sort of a melting pot, which I think makes it really interesting. A lot of people might expect our crowd to be just a bunch of college students, and we do get a lot of students, but we have an older crowd, too. This is a place for everyone. Even if you go sit at the bar by yourself, there will always be other people to meet and talk to. Everyone is really friendly.

Could you tell me a little about the building's history? I've heard a lot of stories, but the most interesting is that it was Houston's first strip club in the '60s. Where the jukebox is...that was the stage. It was also an orphanage at one point.

To work at Ginger Man, you have to be able to ______. You have to know the beers so you can best help the customers. We get new beers on tap every two days or so, and we have weekly quizzes. It's always changing.

What's your favorite beer on tap right now? Out of everything we have right now, I'd say Live Oak Liberation -- it's an IPA. It's dry and piney with a citrus touch, but just a hint that lingers on your tongue. It's so good. Something else we're selling a lot of right now is Karbach. The word is spreading so fast. Before Karbach, I'd say our best-selling IPA was the 512, but now it's definitely the Hopadillo. Everyone loves it. It's one of those things that makes me proud to be a Houstonian.

Do you have a favorite menu item? We actually have a newly expanded food menu, which many people might not know about. One of the three new sandwiches we have is the pesto cheese, which I love. We've upgraded our meat and cheese plate, the beer companion, and we have a bratwurst plate. My favorite thing here is the French dip sandwich. It comes with au jus, caramelized onions and beer cheese. This one guy that was visiting from California came in and had one for lunch and was back five hours later for another. It's that good.

Favorite spots to get a drink or something to eat? I like Hobbit Cafe. They offer a lot of healthy choices, I love the patio and they have good beers on draft. The beer is important to me.

Rapid Fire: Whiskey: Irish or American? Irish. Lemon or Lime? Lemon. Straight up or on the rocks? Straight up. Domestic or Import? Import. Light or dark? Dark.

The Ginger Man is located at 5607 Morningside Dr. in Rice Village. Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m., when $1 is knocked off most drafts. They have weekly specials, too -- Wednesday is logo pint night, when, starting at 6 p.m., if you buy the beer, you keep the glass. If you're lookin' for a deal, Thursday might be your best bet, when all Texas drafts are discounted $1 all day. Swing by, say hi to Whitney, bring your four-legged pal and enjoy a cold brew on the patio. For more info, visit them online or follow them @Gman_Houston.

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