The restaurant is Sage's second Kachina in metro Denver, but general manager Luis San Martin explains that the new version has a distinct personality, and a menu that includes only about 60 percent of the dishes served at the original in Westminster. While the first Kachina draws families from the surrounding suburbs, San Martin notes, the new incarnation is designed with downtown denizens, travelers and businesspeople in mind. So it has a brand-new cocktail menu from Brandon Wise, Sage director of beverage operations, and some new dishes from executive chef Jeff Bolton.
Kachina fans should know that the Navajo fry-bread tacos have made the leap from Westminster to downtown, only there's one more on the list here: the Mojave, made with duck confit, pickled nopales, Manchego cheese, spicy-sweet chipotle agave, and a duck-chicharrón garnish. The puffy tacos can be ordered individually or on mix-and-match platters of six or twelve (at a significant discount, so bring friends).
Staying true to regional Southwestern ingredients is important to Bolton, who is using some uncommon items from Native American farms to round out his menu. Olive oil and elderberry balsamic vinegar come from Seka Hills, an artisan food company run by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. Pima corn grits, wheat berries, tepary beans and a product called ga'ivsa (smoked, dried and cracked corn) come from Ramona Farms in Arizona. (Bolton says that to his knowledge, a few of these can only be found in one other kitchen in Denver: that of Tocabe American Indian Eatery, which has locations in north Denver and Greenwood Village.)
To match the Southwestern spirit of the menu, the decor — executed by Creme Design — and details have a distinct local flair. A large mural by artist Emanuel Martinez has a woman in reflective sunglasses overlooking the main dining room, while smaller details like hand-tooled leather accessories (cocktail menu binders, satchels for waitstaff and coozies for margarita glasses) were made by Valentich, a Denver company specializing in handmade leather and fabric gear. "It all speaks to the DNA of our restaurant, the adventurousness," says San Martin.
But look past the typical lobby seating areas where travelers linger with their luggage to a jewel box of a bar: the Poka Lola Social Club, Wise's new cocktail playground. The beverage director brought on Mike Henderson, who most recently headed the beverage program for Ophelia's, Root Down and Linger, to design a menu that captures a Midwestern soda-fountain style through sophisticated cocktails based on phosphates, egg creams, lactarts and seltzers, as well as vintage mixed drinks like re-imagined highballs and vespers.
Kachina is open daily for lunch and dinner, while Poka Lola opens daily at 4 p.m. (closing hours are not yet firm). For more photos, see our Kachina Southwestern Grill slideshow and our Poka Lola Social Club slideshow.