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Enchanted Dining

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Even before the patio season expanded capacity, Fire & Hops’ first-year sales were tracking 25 percent ahead of projection.

By Ellen Koteff August 2015 Chef Profiles

Sensing a void in the Santa Fe market, partners Joel Coleman and Josh Johns launched the aptly named Fire & Hops, a gastropub that serves fine-dining fare and interesting brews at prices reasonable enough to draw patrons back time and again.

“Santa Fe is very seasonal, so to make it here you have to get the locals in, and we have a really solid local following,” says Coleman, who is chef and co-owner. “We have people coming in two, three, sometimes even four times a week.”

Adhering to four guiding principles—local, sustainable, quality, and friendly—Fire & Hops has exceeded first-year projections by more than 25 percent.

“On slow nights we projected we would do $1,600, but we routinely are doing $2,000, and that is on a Monday, for example,” Coleman says. Speaking with FSR in early spring, he reports the restaurant’s biggest daily haul was $5,300, and that was sans patio. “We turned the restaurant almost four times that night, and we are hoping to top that once the patio is open,” Coleman explains.

Fire & Hops seats 50 inside and during the warmer months opens up the patio that accommodates another 24 guests. Santa Fe’s peak season is June to September, and Coleman estimates up to 200 people can be served on a busy night during that period.

Coleman and Johns both enjoyed local followings from their previous restaurant jobs before joining forces on this, their first restaurant venture.

“Josh had a following and I had people who followed me,” says Coleman. “So now we have this cool eclectic mix of people on any given night. Our guests really like supporting what we are trying to do here.”

A big part of that effort revolves around working with local farmers, composting, and recycling. “For me it is not something I have to think about too much,” says Coleman. “I do these things, not because they are popular and trendy, but because I have always thought that way.”

Self-taught in the kitchen from the age of 16, Coleman worked in a variety of restaurants around the country before returning to his New Mexico roots.

Coleman embraces an eclectic style of cooking, with lots of Asian influences. “I like big flavors but rely on simple ingredients. We do everything here that I did at fine-dining restaurants: the food and the presentations. Some people who come here looking for a regular pub are disappointed, but the vast majority have really embraced our food.”

Coleman changes the menu seasonally and tinkers on new dishes in-between. Best-selling menu items include Crispy Brussels Sprouts, $5; Poutine with green chile gravy, cheese curds, and bacon, $8; Fresh Ground New Mexico Beef Burger with caramelized onions, Fano bakery bun, and fries, $13; Fried Mac & Cheese with Brussels sprouts and tonkatsu, $7; and Kalua Berkshire Pork Tacos with kimchi, radish, and green onion, $9.

“We do a lot of very good small plates and most people end up sharing them,” says Coleman. “I really like the tapas style of dining because it encourages guests to try new things.”

About 40 percent of revenues come from beverages and 60 percent from food sales. Coleman estimates food costs hover between 25 and 30 percent. “I shoot for 25 percent but sometimes it goes a little above that because there are some dishes I don’t make that much [profit] on.” Coleman says he also is creative with portion sizes and cuts of meat.

Tickets average between $23 and $25 at Fire & Hops, which is open seven days a week for dinner plus brunch on the weekend.

Beers on tap include varieties from two local breweries—La Cumbre Brewing Company and Bosque Brewing Company.

Regular guests range from hipsters to Baby Boomers and everything in between. “We definitely attract a pretty broad age range of customers,” Coleman says.

Fire & Hops, which is named as a nod to the two integral elements of a gastropub, is located in a 107-year-old building in downtown Santa Fe.

The restaurant’s interior features wood floors and tables, exposed beams, and a variety of local art. “I think we have a great vibe and the atmosphere is warm and inviting, very cozy,” he says.

Moving forward, the two partners would like to open a second restaurant that would be large enough to accommodate a brewery inside.

Ideally, that’s our goal down the road, but we are not in any rush,” Coleman concludes. “We’re still enjoying all the buzz we are getting for our first restaurant.”