Concept is clear: At Smoke & Mirrors, Jeremy Hansen moves Santé from bistro to saloon
Jeremy and Kate Hansen are prolific members of the Spokane culinary scene, known for their concepts Inland Pacific Kitchen, Hogwash Whiskey Den, Biscuit Wizard, Common Crumb Artisan Bakery and now Smoke & Mirrors Saloon, which replaced Santé Restaurant and Charcuterie and opened for business last month in downtown Spokane.
Jeremy Hansen chatted last Wednesday morning at Common Crumb, which is in a transitional phase and has become his focus now that Smoke & Mirrors is up and running. “This place just kind of fell apart,” Hansen said while sweeping the kitchen, and he hopes that Common Crumb will reopen by next month.
The couple, then newlyweds, opened Santé, their first restaurant in Spokane, a decade ago. While talking at Common Crumb, Hansen also discussed his love for travel. He’ll be back in New York soon to help a colleague with a new restaurant, and his travel wish list this year includes Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as spots in Africa and Asia.
For now, though, the focus is on Smoke & Mirrors and its meat-centric menu, which runs from brunch to late night. Popular items include pork skins with chilies, meatballs and the Saloon Burger. The cocktail list features classic drinks and specialties like the Ruby Red Slipper (with Vodka, strawberry syrup, Campari, Maraschino, rhubarb bitters, pilsner). There’s beer on draft and desserts, too.
Smoke & Mirrors is your sixth concept, correct?
Yes, this is our sixth concept, although Smoke & Mirrors is in the same location as our former Santé.
How is Smoke & Mirrors different from Santé?
Santé was a French and European bistro with local and quality-focused products. With Smoke & Mirrors, we’ve taken it to more of a bar style – late-night-bar themed and meat-heavy and -centric. We’re still a charcuterie – I still have my butcher shop in the basement. I wanted to keep the same standards and philosophy but just in a bar setting.
How did you come up with the name?
Our Hogwash is a place where you can get good whiskeys and tell some stories. Most of the time when you tell stories, it’s a bunch of hogwash.
When we came up with Smoke & Mirrors, it is another bar, and Smoke & Mirrors is a play off Hogwash. I’m political, and I put it out there – just not as much anymore. A lot of stuff is just smoke and mirrors, and we don’t know what’s true or false coming from the left or right or who is telling the truth.
What information do you take and from who? That’s where Smoke & Mirrors is from, but, at the end of the day, I just try to do the best I can with my own mind and with my own heart.
How has the first month been at Smoke & Mirrors?
It has been great. Our lunch and brunch business has dropped off, but our late night has picked up. It’s busier, and we’re seeing more people. Smoke & Mirrors is more approachable, and that’s a big difference from Santé. People looked at Santé as a special-occasion place. I do like that, but, business-wise, we want to be more approachable, and we hope that people are here once a week or once a month instead of once a year.
What are must-orders on the menu at Smoke & Mirrors?
It depends on what you’re in the mood for to eat. Our half chicken is a good deal and pretty tasty. We have meatballs and tomato sauce. Our Saloon Burger, I hear, is the best in the city – people are going crazy over it. I created it during our transition because I wanted something special on the menu. It’s an $18 burger, but it’s a meal – it’s 10 ounces of meat. It’s delicious.
Santé was your first restaurant in Spokane a decade ago. What have you learned in 10 years in the restaurant scene here?
I’ve learned a lot, a lot of daily lessons. What I’ve learned about Spokane is that its residents want to know what they’re eating. Spokane loves creative food, and they love people who care about what they’re doing. The people of Spokane have treated us very well and supported us through the years.
In 2008, I pushed my limits and the limits of the people of Spokane with the new concept of Santé. I pushed the limits of my chefs, too, because I wanted to push the people of Spokane into a more open-minded food community. I also learned that chefs are resilient, and they want to be led and learn. Spokane is a great place to be, and it is growing.
Will fans of Santé like Smoke & Mirrors?
I think so. It’s completely different from what it was, so you’re not going to have the same experience as Santé. But the good news is that I’m not going anywhere, so there could be an opportunity in the future to bring back that style. For now, I’m focused on Smoke & Mirrors, Common Crumb and my employees.
What is the appeal of Spokane to you?
That’s another good question. I see what’s happening here, and I’m excited for the growth. We get bigger and bigger every year, and I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like in the future. I like the outdoors, I like that downtown is growing, and I like that we have a river right here. I like being in Spokane. It can be tough being a restaurateur here, but if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.
Where do you find your inspiration as a chef?
Oh, man, everywhere. I find it everywhere. I find it walking down the street. I find a lot of inspiration in my employees when I talk with them. They inspire me to help all of us grow together. If I see something cool like a piece of art, I think about food and how I could build a menu around it. Anything and everything is inspirational – I’m inspired by everything. There is no limit to inspiration.