It’s not everyday you leave Boulder or Denver to venture out and dine at a restaurant in Westminster, let alone a restaurant in a hotel. Kachina Southwestern Grill may be that exception.
Kachinas, which are mystical spirit beings of Southwestern Pueblo, represent the belief that everything in the universe has an interwoven essence and life-force. The “Kachina spirit” is meant to coarse through Kachina Southwestern Grill represented through their design and food.
Barely open three months (opening day was September 6th), Sage Restaurant Group opened the restaurant in a space that is aesthetically reminiscent of the Southwest, particularly New Mexico. From their fire pits on the outdoor patio, to adobe design elements alongside pops of colored elements with yellow, bright red and blues to bison skulls and vintage lanterns hanging from the wood wall beams, the space is large but the feel is rustic and chic with direction from New York City’s crème design. There’s also a private space that is perfect for parties or events that opens to the patio with a sliding garage door and is behind a double-sided sand art wall installation off the dining room.
Nose-to-tail to a smaller carbon footprint at Kachina:
Chef Patrick Hartnett is not only an accomplished chef who has spent many years in the Southwest cooking New Mexican and Native American fare (he has lived in Taos and Santa Fe) but he is also a butcher who brings in the whole animal and does the work himself from scratch (he had a bison in his kitchen he was breaking down his first week). Nose to tail isn’t just enticing and picking up rapidly in prominent restaurants, but it’s the right thing to do and it’s what Hartnett is bringing to Kachina and guiding his staff of chefs on this philosophy – all 45 of them!
I’ve dined at Kachina and also sat with Hartnett to learn more about his cooking philosophy, alongside one of his food vendors, David Nigh who owns Extraordinary Ingredients, a gourmet pantry company out of Colorado Springs. Nigh, a man with a big smile, sun-tanned weathered face and square jaw, spent time working in the government as a Forrester and in 2000 veered off to into the food world. He’s been at it ever since.
Nigh now has 85 accounts across the Front Range and he firmly shared with me, “It’s about the relationship and my business is chef-driven,” by offering chefs what they need, when they want it. Nigh provides Hartnett with everything from green chile to olive oil to ancho chiles to anasazi beans. Sitting alongside these two men who are experts in their field, it’s self-evident that they have a strong rapport and are committed to providing each other the best service and their customers with quality ingredients.
Hartnett shared with me that his “footprint” is important in such a big kitchen, with a large staff. In Kachina’s first week of business he went through 35 cases of olive oil and he watched their trash overflow with the olive oil containers and waste. Through their collaborative relationship and resourcefulness, Nigh now provides a solution by delivering a 35 gallon drum of olive oil that resides in one spot in Kachina’s kitchen, and is picked up and recycled for the next drum which immediately saves on waste and consumption.
The eclectic and fun menu is also filled with local purveyors. Hartnett gets his bison and beef locally and through his work with folks like Nigh, allows him to pick the most seasonal ingredients, at a high quality level. Hartnett personally reviews the pantry items that make it into his kitchen from Nigh and occasionally if something isn’t up to par, Hartnett sends it back and Nigh accomodates a better batch.
Hartnett hand-made and designed every recipe from scratch and personally placed it on the menu. For those reasons, it makes it easier to accommodate allergies and those that are gluten-free because he isn’t using a processed ingredient or anything from a bag or can. Subsequently he knows which ingredients can be replaced for specific menu items since it’s all in-house. For a new restaurant with a large staff, part of his effort is educating the kitchen and even wait staff on the flexibility and options in the food.
One of my favorite items of the night were their Navajo-style tacos (also known as “fry bread”). While in New Mexico, Hartnett was invited to a Pueblo Feast Day and he asked one of the women who had been cooking the recipe for years to share with him. She obliged and although he put his own spin on it by adding yeast to ensure it was pillowy, soft and doughy (instead of flaky) it makes for an incredibly succulent and unique taco that is traditional to the Southwest.
They also offer “Street Fare” and you can catch the food cart that rolls around the restaurant offering the most seasonal cuisine. This allows for an interactive environment where you can hand pick and customize, table-side. We picked the fresh Colorado corn and had options to put toppings such as cilantro, cheese or a lime butter smothered across our corn.
With a full-service bar, Kachina also serves cocktails that pop and pay homage to the Southwest like the Native Sage with don julio reposado, sage infuesed honey, lemon and grapefruit or the Blackberry Singing in the Dead of Night with leopolds blackberry liquor, red wine, mango and sprite which is a play on sangria. I loved their iPad app for their drinks as it helped me do a little research, see photos of the drinks and also “save” a few that I was interested in so I could consult my waiter. Devlin Darlington Devore, a consultant who also helped Centro Latin Kitchen, helped design the cocktail menu.
Some unique menu items worth noting or ordering: Colorado bison empanada with chipotle honey-agave, capers, raisins and braised green agrodolce ($8). The Sante Fe Navajo Taco with smoked chicken, charred tomato salsa, asadero cheese, caramelized onion ($5). Chipotle shrimp and waffles with blue corn avocado, cilantro, cabbage, radish and tostados ($14).Bluecorn dog with house made lamb sausage, blue corn batter, yellow tomato ketchup, green chile mustard and smoked tomato polentafries ($9). For dessert we loved the Chocolate Chile Beignets with cajeta dipping sauce ($7).
After spending time with Chef Hartnett and another evening dining on an array of dishes, I was pleasantly surprised at Kachina’s beginning to end experience. With time, I know they have tightened up their process and their wait-staff understands even more the made-from-scratch and local mentality their kitchen emulates. You’re never sure of the credibility of a restaurant at first, but sitting with Chef Hartnett even for 5 minutes, it’s clear he loves Southwestern food (he calls it his “ultimate comfort food”), he understands the ins and outs of the food process, he has major street cred from a chef, to a leader to a butcher and to wrap it all up, he is humble as can be.
It’s worth taking that trip out to Kachina. Forget it’s Westminster and enjoy the incredible ambiance, sit in their patio alongside the fire pit or maybe even plan your next party in their private room. My cousin was so impressed with the unique vibe of the restaurant, she’s booking her 30th party there in December!
Kachina is open 7 days a week for breakfast lunch and dinner in The Westin Hotel in Westminster. They also offer a happy hour (2-6 PM) and late night menu (they’re open until 1 am Friday and Saturdays).
10600 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, CO | 303-410-5813 | http://kachinagrill.com