Coleman's been part of the dining scene ever since his now-classic restaurant, the Blue Star, first opened on Colorado Avenue. He's since opened Nosh downtown, and two La'au's Taco Shop locations. He's also a major partner in the conversion of Ivywild Elementary School into a community and food space.
Indy: How would you describe the current dining scene in the city?
JC: Improving, but could still improve.
Indy: Where is it good, and what needs to get better?
JC: I think we need more locally owned restaurants. I think we need different selections — we need more depth and we need more breadth. We need a wider spectrum, and we need more choices within each category.
Indy: What would you most like to see that's not around?
JC: I think that we have lots of room for better vegetarian food. I think we have lots of room for more locally sourced food. I think we have room for a meat shop, a cheese shop-type place. I think we have room for all sorts of good stuff.
Indy: Among the Blue Star, Nosh and La'au's, which takes up more of your attention?
JC: I would just tell you this, because I'm not gonna answer that question directly: Joseph always goes where the problem is. If there's a problem, I'm going to that store. ... [But] I go to all of them every day, dude, every day. It's like going to church.
If I haven't checked on the Blue Star on a Sunday, or if Nosh is closed, I'll check on La'au's during the day. Even on Sunday night when it's slow at the Blue Star, if I don't go in there, even if it's for an hour, or half-hour, and check on the staff, check on the customers, you know, it's tough to fall asleep.
Do you have kids? There you go.
Indy: It seems like there's lots of places with limited hours, or they're closing early during dinner time. Do you think if you're open, the people come?
JC: We actually did a science-fair experiment on this once. If you are open Tuesday through Saturday, let's say you do $10,000 a week. So you're closed on Sunday and Monday, and everybody knows that. So let's say you pick you're gonna be open on Monday: You're probably going to increase your sales about 5 percent. But everybody still thinks you're closed two days a week, they just can't figure out which one ... so you get [only] a slight increase.
As soon as you open seven days a week, in a normal location like Blue Star ... you'll increase your sales 15 to 20 percent over your five-day-a-week.
Indy: What do you see the atmosphere as, for people looking to open a restaurant?
JC: If you want to open a restaurant, open it. You better love what you do, because it's a hard business.
Indy: You don't think you wait for a better economy, or something else?
JC: No, if you wait for a better economy, your rents will go up, and then your landlord will get greedy, right? There's a counter to everything — there is no right answer. There's 173 ways to get to 10. You just have to have an equation that works.
Indy: Other than your own, what's your favorite local restaurant?
JC: Roman Villa for Italian, Vallejo's for Mexican, Curry Leaf ... and Marigold's. Those are my four favorite, for different types of food. But I love those restaurants.