.Firefly Tavern

Pub Grub Hub

Bartender Inga Thomas has spent her career in restaurants, calling it the “people industry.” Her love for taking care of guests makes her a perfect fit for the Firefly Tavern, opened in May and housed downtown in the space formerly occupied by 99 Bottles. Firefly’s menu is lit; Thomas defines it as elevated modern American pub food with Asian and Mexican influences.

Palette-awakening popular appetizers include furikake popcorn with housemade chili oil and classic truffle fries. A can’t-miss entrée is the “California-ized” poutine, waffle fries covered in mornay sauce, pork sausage and a fried egg.

A favorite dish is the soba noodles with chicken confit, chili paste and roasted brussels sprouts topped with sesame seeds. Closed Tuesdays, hours are 11:30am-8pm Mon-Fri, 11am-9pm Sat, 11am-5pm Sun.

GT asked Thomas about Firefly taking flight and her affinity for the industry.

Why do you love restaurants?

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INGA THOMAS I’ve been working in service since age 15, starting in coffee shops. There I learned that I love the public interface and making people feel welcome. There is also an internal comradery between the front-of-house and back-of-house, I love that feeling of teamwork and having others’ backs and knowing they have mine. And I really love knowing a guest had a great experience and then seeing them return time and time again.

How has business been going?

Phenomenal. Our soft opening was almost a little overwhelming because we had such a good turnout. Our evenings and weekends are usually at full capacity, and in the daytime, we often have a lunch rush, but it’s also mellow and relaxing enough for someone strolling by to have a seat. I remember coming here with my family when I was younger, and then when I came of age, playing trivia upstairs. It is truly an honor to work in such an iconic space in Santa Cruz that means so much to so many people.

110 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, 831-291-5880


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