Two young actors are hoping to add a theatrical flair to the Winston-Salem bar scene.
Madeline Fox and David Bowen, graduates of UNCSA, opened Ginger Fox downtown at 400 West Fourth St.
That’s the space that Village Juice closed last year during the pandemic — but still plans to reopen. Ginger Fox has contracted with Village Juice to operate in that space under Village Juice’s liquor license. Village Juice plans to reopen the Fourth Street cafe by the end of October—meaning then it will operate as Village Juice during the day and as Ginger Fox as night. (In the meantime, Village Juice’s location at 205 S. Stratford Road remains open.)
Ginger Fox started last year, doing pop-ups and special events for SECCA. The couple was starting to put out feelers for a permanent place of their own when the folks from Village Juice contacted them. They said yes right away.
“For me that corner of Fourth and Marshall is classic downtown. So it’s nice to be in that space,” Fox said.
The name of the business comes from Fox’s name, obviously, but also from Bowen’s hair. “I’m the redhead and she’s the Fox,” Bowen said with a laugh. He can make that kind of pun because he and Fox are married.
Their journey, and that of Ginger Fox, goes back several years. Right after graduation in 2015, Bowen got a job with the House of Dancing Water, a kind of circus water show in Macao, China, on the other side of the world. Fox went to New York pursuing acting roles.
They kept up a long-distance relationship for a while, but eventually Fox joined Bowen in Macao, where they stayed until 2017. Along the way, they fell in love with the bars of Southeast Asia. “Hong Kong at that time was our weekend getaway. The bars there are just amazing,” Bowen said. “There’s this crispness, attention to detail, in the design and the service. You don’t go to a bar to just get drunk. You go for the experience. It’s kind of like theater in a way.”
“And the palate is more expansive — they’re playing with spice and vinegars and offbeat flavors,” Fox said. “Once I got a cocktail with shaved tuna bonito flakes. I started ordering cocktails for the crazy ingredients.”
Eventually, Bowen and Fox realized that the experiences of visiting a good cocktail bar and visiting the theater weren’t so different.
In 2017, they returned to New York and did catering, bartending and waiting tables in between acting jobs. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, they were immediately affected. “Maddie had just started working in a Michelin-starred restaurant. And I had started as beverage director for a catering company,” Bowen said. “We were really just hitting our stride in the beginning of 2020 and then everything shut down.”
They decided to move back to Winston-Salem, where Fox grew up. Eventually, they started doing small events and pop-ups for SECCA and others, gradually developing the Ginger Fox concept.
Moving into a brick-and-mortar space pushed the concept one step more, because Ginger Fox doesn’t just use Village Juice’s space downtown, it also uses the company’s cold-pressed juices in its cocktails.
“A lot of our cocktails are based on their flavor profiles. In some cases, we’re actually taking the pulp from their juices — what would have been thrown away — and using it to flavor our cocktails,” Bowen said. “Seven of our 10 cocktails use their juice flavors.”
So Ginger Fox’s Reboot Paloma ($13) incorporates the flavors of Village Juice’s Reboot (grapefruit, pear, fennel, mint, basil, cilantro, ginger) with tequila and agave. “This is our take on the Penicillin cocktail,” Bowen said.
The Feistier Rabbit cocktail ($13) features rye whiskey and amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur, with the flavors of Village Juice’s Feisty Rabbit juice (carrot, ginger and apple).
Using the juices, Bowen said, gives many of the cocktails a jump-start on flavor, making them more complex. “This also makes our mocktails that much more exciting because the juices already have so much flavor,” Bowen said.
The bar’s signature cocktail, the Ginger Fox ($13), is based on Village Juice Sting immunity shot of ginger, lemon and turmeric with blended scotch and mist of single-malt just before serving.
The Bleeker St. Happy Hour ($11) combines red wine, lager, basil and white-wine shrub.
The bar also has a limited selection of beer and wine.
For some small food plates, Ginger Fox teamed with Kami Leslie, a theatrical producer they knew through UNCSA and who also worked in Macao — and who ran a food truck in the south of France. Leslie developed the menu and serves as kitchen manager. The menu rotates seasonally and includes a half-dozen small plates. They include patatas bravas ($5), made with spiced potato wedges with a homemade aioli, and burrata bowl ($10), which is made of marinated tomatoes, garlic, basil and toast. There also is a sweet: a warm chocolate cookie served with vanilla ice cream ($5).
Bowen and Fox said they have seen how Winston-Salem has changed over the years they were away. “We see a lot of people who have moved here from other places, and that’s probably a good thing,” Fox said. “We want to give people another option. Something like a big-city bar.”