“This is a safe haven for people to be adventurous,” says Hot Joy bar manager, Andrew Stofko. The barman, who most recently worked as bar manager at Victor Tangos, has a knack for melding unexpected flavors into cohesive, balanced cocktails. It’s how he was trained.
The San Antonio-based restaurant opened in Uptown in July in the space that previously housed Texas Land & Cattle, and it has since been cranking out playful takes on Asian-fusion fare. While many dishes left D Magazine food critic Eve Hill-Agnus “cold,” there’s something to be said about the lighthearted nature of Spam-fried rice, cheeseburger spring rolls, and crab-fat caramel twice-fried chicken wings. Sure, you can head north 12 miles and find yourself facedown in a clay pot full of roast duck and soft taro. (And anybody who hasn’t done that yet, absolutely should.) But when approaching Hot Joy, it’s important to keep in mind that this place exudes a tongue-in-cheek vibe. It’s campy. It’s fun.
The drinks at Hot Joy play into the kitsch, but without being tacky. In fact, if for nothing else, come to Hot Joy for the cocktails. Stofko’s menu is bright, whimsical, and plays homage to the thriving tiki revival that’s finally hit Dallas.
“Tiki is an idea,” says Stofko. “It’s a culture, it’s more than just a one-sentence definition…having not had experience running a tiki bar, I just did what I knew. I built a bar program that is loud and energetic and just throws it in your face.”
Some of the cocktails, like the Frozen Zombie and the Guava Mule, are from the San Antonio Hot Joy menu. But the majority of the drinks on the Dallas list were conjured by Stofko. The Pirate’s Booty, a mix of white and Jamaican rums, passionfruit, coconut crème, and lime, was inspired from the passionfruit gimlet at Victor Tangos.
“I was aware of what Hot Joy is about. I’ve been to the San Antonio location before,” says Stofko. “There was tiki everywhere—flowers in drinks, cinnamon syrup, the usual tiki bravado. When you finish your project you want to put your mark on it. [My menu] is like the Far East meets the Wild West.”
The menu was ultimately designed to showcase a vast selection of rums.
“People are still scared of rum,” he says. “They think it’s going to be too sweet. Some are great straight, others better for mixing. They all have individualistic expressions. I’m toying with the idea of a rum flight.” Stofko plans to continue rotating cocktails in and out and playing with recipes.
Head to Hot Joy, pull up a stool at the bar, indulge in the amusement of tiki, learn a thing or two about rum, slurp noodles covered in papaya and Spam, and most importantly, have fun.