“I had the same dream as Tiana in the Disney movie, ‘The Princess and the Frog,’” Li said. “We [both] made it!”
Like Tiana, Li worked hard, but unlike the film, she continued working for the same restaurant that relocated from Lakeline Mall to Liberty Hill, working her way up from server to cashier and host. Then, the owner opened a second restaurant, Red Lotus Asian Grille, at 6507 Jester Blvd., on Feb. 22, 2017.
“My boss built this restaurant to give to his son and daughter-in-law, but they did not want to work in a restaurant, so that is why he asked me to buy it,” Li said.
Li and her husband, Trieu To, a mechanical engineer, bought the business and kept the name and recipes the same without closing for a single day. The ownership transferred on Oct. 1, 2017.
Since then, Li became her own boss taking over the reins of Red Lotus, and To continued to work as an engineer, helping out evenings and weekends. “If something broke, [To] could fix it like most everything,” Li said. “We saved a lot of labor.”
The restaurant, which was still new, was only beginning to draw customers. Clients began coming back for the array of Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine the family-style restaurant offered. The restaurant is now in its fifth year.
Li said paying attention to detail is important at Red Lotus, with every meal prepared fresh and dishes made with each customer’s preferred spice level. Keeping prices affordable is also something Li said is important, with their specialty grilled lamb chops priced at $17.95.
“We care about our customers,” To said. “We keep the restaurant clean; we cook the food fresh by the order; and most of the vegetables we use are organic with delivery two times a week.”
With specialty items like battered, fried frog legs and Vietnamese pho as well as a customer following for its egg drop soup, Red Lotus has developed a repeat clientele, some of whom have standing reservations every week for business meetings and book clubs, making use of a party room that can be reserved for those dining at the restaurant.
Li has been in the restaurant business for 12 years, and her family has grown to five, with three daughters. While her family has grown, her business is flourishing. This year the wife-husband team opened a second location in Round Rock at 2601 S I-35, Ste. A500, on May 26.
To left his job and is now fully involved with the business, and Li has kept Tiana’s dream close. She named her youngest daughter Tiana. The children often eat at Red Lotus while the parents run the business.
Red Lotus Asian Grille
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.Austin1: 6507 Jester Blvd., Ste. 501, Austin
2: 2601 S. I-35, Ste. A500, Round Rock