SERVING UP THE BEST WINGS THIS SIDE OF BUFFALO

BY MICHAEL ELLIS

Wash Park just got even hotter with the opening of Fire on the Mountain! And believe me, this is not your regular wing joint. Fire on the Mountain’s new location at 300 S. Logan St. is warm and inviting. From the 100 year old exposed interior brick to the mural of music icons, we have a new place to call home any night of the week. Their off-the-charts amazing food is only mirrored by their noteworthy values. Owner Andrea West gives us a little taste of this new location.   

Tell us how this all began. When did you realize that this was the path you’d take?

Our good friends started Fire on the Mountain in Portland, OR, in 2005. We used to visit a lot and loved the vibe of the place, their commitment to sustainability, the emphasis on good tunes and friendly staff, we knew it would do well in Denver. My business partner and long time friend, Craig “Cheech” Oberlink were both ready to move on from the jobs we were in. We decided to give it a shot and go in business together to bring great wings to the good people of Denver. We got really lucky to come upon our Highlands location for rent, and opened there in 2012.  We just opened our second Denver location in the former Trevino Mortuary at the corner of Logan and Alameda in late August 2019.

Both Cheech and I worked in food-service throughout college and neither of us imagined we’d ever return to the restaurant world, particularly as owners.  But really, very little of what we do every day has to do just with food. For us, Fire on the Mountain is a vehicle for sustainability, community and putting our values to work in a business setting. We always ask, “is Fire on the Mountain the kind of place we’d like to visit? Do our friends like it?” Our goal is just to create something genuine and fun and meaningful.

We’ve honestly been insanely lucky, too. The Denver community has supported us from Day 1, and that support grows every day. There’s something about Fire on the Mountain that inspires a high level of enthusiasm from our guests, so we do our best to reciprocate and make sure they have a legendary experience every time. We feel like people really seek out that person-to-person connection they get here. It’s not manufactured. We have really amazing people that want to work here, and in turn, rad folks that patronize the place.

Let’s talk about your name. We’re guessing it was inspired by the Grateful Dead song. How did this come to fruition?

Yes, the Grateful Dead song was the primary inspiration for the name. But there’s also a great Charlie Daniels Band song of the same name. I mean, how better to allude to the great music that inspires us while evoking the magic of spicy food at the same time?

What we love about your brand is your commitment to quality. Quality ingredients, people and standards. Can you tell us a bit about your Green Efforts?

We were the first Certified Green Restaurant in the West Highlands, and are proud to have recently been certified here at our Wash Park location. Our commitment to environmental sustainability underlies every business decision we make. All our chicken is cage free, hormone free, antibiotic free and we use only 100% Colorado grass fed beef. We are super mindful about our waste stream, and over the years we’ve diverted nearly 80% of our waste from the landfill via our composting and recycling program. We’re super inspired by other Colorado concepts doing amazing things in the sustainability department – Snooze, Leopold Brothers, and, of course, New Belgium are some of our Green Heroes.

Even though our menu is fairly simple – wings, burgers, sandwiches – we make everything from scratch with really high-quality ingredients. Our twelve house-made wing sauces have won in multiple categories at the National Buffalo Wing Festival and have been featured in USA Today, the Food Channel and several other local publications and TV outlets. We are proud to have won Westword’s Reader’s Choice award for Best Wings in Denver for six years running!

You’re big believers in community. How do you see this mission growing as you settle into your new location in Wash Park?

We’re a neighborhood restaurant and want everyone to feel welcome here. We live around here, too, and we have always aimed to make Fire on the Mountain feel like a fun, casual place where everyone can gather for a good time. We owe so much of our success and community vibe to our staff, several of whom have been with us since day one. Over the years we have focused on improving compensation and offering benefits, including health/dental insurance, a 401k plan, and paid time off to all staff. Our employees are generally super stoked to be here and our retention rate is much higher than industry standard.

We also believe businesses should give back to the community that supports them.  We donate to neighborhood non-profits and schools and pay our employees to volunteer with local groups. Our philanthropy focuses on organizations that are working toward the health of people and the planet.

What are some of your top dishes and how do you come up with such unique recipe ideas?

First and foremost, wings are our signature item. But we have a really wide-ranging menu. We make a ton of awesome veggie and vegan fare from scratch, too, including seitan and cauliflower wings, so vegetarians and vegans can come enjoy the wing experience, too.

We have a bunch of super creative folks in our kitchen who are always coming up with the next fun thing. Most of our menu items started out as specials that were too popular to take off. We do a lot of taste testing and tweaking to come up with the flavor profiles we feature on our menu.

When you’re not at work, what are some of your favorite meals to make for your family?

Ha, I have a 3 and 4 year old, so lots of mac ‘n’ cheese mostly! No really, especially this time of year, at our house we mostly just eat lots of fresh produce. We have a farm share through FrontLine Farming in Arvada and every week we have to come up with lots of creative ways to plow through an epic haul of beautiful veggies. I don’t always have a ton of energy to cook when I get home so mostly we eat simply: roasted or grilled veggies, slow cooker pork, fresh salads, fruit, cheese, plenty of wine. I love finding ways to sneak vegetables into my kids’ food. It’s like a tiny victory every time they actually consume a full meal.

It is clear that you are inspired by music. What is currently on your playlist?

Seeing live music is quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. There is an energy and connection I get from seeing shows that I will never tire of. Recently I’ve gotten to see a bunch of bucket list artists: Willie Nelson, the Rolling Stones, John Prine. I feel tremendously lucky to have Red Rocks in my backyard, and now the Levitt Pavilion and Mission Ballroom to round out the Denver music scene, wow!

Most of my favorite people are folks I see shows with, and it’s really the origin story of Fire on the Mountain, too. We were all just a crew of friends that traveled to see live music (mostly Widespread Panic) together. So yeah, we’re all a bunch of hippies.

Speaking of playlists, this is one of our favorite games to play at the restaurant: whoever gets in first gets primary control of the music for the day. We all have veto power, but our crew has super eclectic taste in music so it’s a great way to learn about lots of cool new sounds. Artists we can all agree on include David Bowie, Talking Heads, Little Feat. I personally gravitate toward bluegrass, twangy stuff, Reggae, Americana and jam bands. So my playlist has everything from Billy Strings to Widespread Panic to Dolly Parton to Sturgill Simpson to Lee Scratch Perry. And of course, the Grateful Dead.

Good food, good music, good people, we are all in. Welcome to the neighborhood!

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