Until recently, Santa Fe was a gastropub desert. Taprooms offered beer, and gourmet food abounded, but there was a dearth of places that combined the two, particularly at affordable prices. Then, in 2013, Duel Brewing opened. The subsequent year both Loyal Hound and Fire and Hops followed suit. These three establishments have quickly elevated the Santa Fe gastropub scene.
Entering Fire and Hops feels like coming home, assuming your home features Celtic music and an extensive libations menu! Tucked into a converted house that is more than one hundred years old, this gastropub exerts a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere. The menu caters to all appetites, offering everything from snacks and small plates to full-sized entrées. In the snack department, the mildly sweet acidity of the pickle plate holds up well to alcohol. However, the pork tacos are the star of the small plate selection: chile gently singes the mouth as cilantro simultaneously floods the nostrils. For large plates, the sorrel dominates the golden beet and goat cheese risotto and provides a reminder that Fire and Hops is dedicated to serving local and sustainable cuisine.
Drink: Le Cumbre Elevated IPA (for hoppy beer fans).
Address: 222 N. Guadalupe Street
Tip: There is parking for Fire and Hops at Bert’s Burger Bowl, providing the latter is closed.
Duel Brewing concentrates on producing Belgian beers, which often have a high alcohol content (the Goya has an ABV of 15.9%)! So it makes sense that the brewery’s food is on the hearty side. Forget the soft pretzels served at ballgames or in the mall. The pretzels at Duel Brewing are positively gourmet, with a soft, fresh interior and a hard crust topped with salt and crunchy beer grains. Pair it with one of three dipping sauces — the sweet dijonaise is a winner. For something a little, well, actually, a lot more filling, embark upon a waffle cristo, a ham and cheese baguette soaked in waffle batter and then grilled. Whether you think of it as a “wafflette” or a “baffle,” it’s indulgent and delicious. To end the meal, order ice cream bobbing in root beer or as part of an Italian soda, or have it served in beer!
Drink: Fantin, a golden-colored, Belgian-style double pale ale.
Tip: Don’t visit Duel Brewing if you’re in a hurry. It’s a sipping rather than a chugging experience.
Address: 1228 Parkway Drive
While the Loyal Hound lacks the darkened nooks and crannies of a traditional pub — sunlight pours in through the windows — the abundance of dog pictures create a pub-lite vibe. This establishment offers the most extensive menu of the three. The Loyal Hound takes old school dishes and elevates them in creative ways. For instance the corn pops, a twist on corn dogs, resemble cake pops and are accompanied by a cooling cucumber and onion relish. The Wil-Burger combines ground beef and pork, is topped with a gravity-defying hunk of bacon, and is served on an English muffin. Whether you order a burger or the delectably light and flaky fish-n-chips, you won’t be disappointed by the fries, which are sufficiently thin and crunchy for my dining companion (a Midwesterner) to eschew ketchup. Complete the meal by dunking cinnamon-crusted, steaming beignets in a dark chocolate sauce!
Drink: One of the California wines available on tap!
Tip: Note that salads are on the small side if ordered as an entrée (but it’s still worth ordering the Mixed Greens).
Address: 730 St. Michael’s Drive (hidden behind Pizza Hut).