Breakfast and Brunch

Brunch of the Week: Kachina Cantina Lets You Be the Bartender

Start brunch with a margarita you made yourself.
Start brunch with a margarita you made yourself. Bridget Wood
If you've ever watched a bartender create a beautiful margarita and wanted to make your own, Kachina Cantina has the solution: It hosts a build-your-own-margarita bar during brunch every Saturday and Sunday. With an artful margarita station stocked with fresh fruits and mixers, building your own boozy brunch beverage never seemed so possible!

The BYOM bar is bottomless and only costs $15. Once you order, your server will present you with a little coffee creamer full of tequila sitting inside a glass tumbler (no, you're not allowed to pour from the bottle). Take your tequila shot over to the BYOM station and choose a rim: a quick dip in lime juice followed by salt, black salt or chili salt. If you want a naked glass, just skip the lime and salt, grab a shaker and fill it with with ice, tequila and housemade margarita mix. Add strawberry purée, mango or a little extra agave to sweeten your beverage — and then it’s time to shake it up! Top with limes, blackberries, strawberries or jalapeños; I skewered my garnishes and placed them artfully on top of my glass. Am I ready to quit my day job and become a bartender? No, but the result was as delicious as it was lovely to behold.

With drink in hand, it’s time to move on to food. Start with beignets filled with ancho-spiked chocolate. They're a sweet freak's dream, coated in sugar and served with caramel sauce. I went a little light on the caramel when dipping my beignets, leaving plenty of sauce to drizzle on other dishes.

Tacos at Kachina are a must, whether for dinner or brunch. The Broken Yolk taco comes overflowing with charro beans, eggs (you call the style), bacon and cheddar, all doused in pork green chile. Meatier options include the Pueblo, with tequila carnitas, or the Santa Fe, with smoked chicken. Whichever you order, you get to choose between traditional corn tortillas or Navajo fry bread. Kachina’s specialty, the fry bread is fluffier than a tortilla and seriously ups the taco game. I subbed the standard side of rice and beans for light, crispy Brussels sprouts flash-fried to a deep brown for added flavor.

Blueberry blue-corn pancakes make for a filling but fruity breakfast. The batter is studded with blueberries and the pancakes come topped with maple syrup and even more berries. (This is where the leftover caramel from the beignets came in handy — although that just begs for a sugar coma for the remainder of the day.)

“One of my favorite parts of brunch is watching customers make their own drinks," says manager Tawatha Valentine. "Everyone has so much fun experimenting with flavors; it’s really fun to watch people take to it.”

Valentine also explains the story of the kachina, a small, colorful doll that represents spirits in the Pueblo heritage. You can find many kachina figurines displayed around the restaurant.

Beyond brunch, Kachina's mole negro is worth a return trip for dinner. “We call it a family reunion sauce, because you only make it for big events," notes chef de cuisine Cesar Tamariz. "It takes about one week to make and includes over fifty spices.” The chef adds that the sauce needs to be cooked three times before being served, but thankfully Kachina makes the effort every day; you can try it on the chicken flautas.

Kachina Cantina is located at 1890 Wazee Street at the base of the Maven Hotel. Call 720-460-2728 or visit the Kachina website for more information. Hot tip: Valentine points out that the patio is dog-friendly, so bring your four-legged friend along.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bridget Wood is a contributor to Westword’s Food & Drink section. She can be found wandering Denver, mimosa in hand, searching for the best brunch spots the city has to offer. She spends her weekends shopping for obscure records and working on the Sunday crossword puzzle. Despite her Boston roots, she is learning to love green chile.