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Now Open: Dairy Block Comes to Life with Kachina Denver and Poka Lola

Southwestern restaurant and swanky cocktail bar launch today, anchoring mixed-use LoDo development

Softly opening this past Saturday, the first dominos of the Dairy Block have fallen with the official launch of Kachina Southwestern Grill and Poka Lola Social Club today, adjacent to the lobby of the new Maven Hotel. Though both destinations have strong themes, neither are kitschy – a delicate line to avoid crossing.

The mixed-use Dairy Block project invites an infusion of pedestrian activity to a portion of Lower Downtown that has historically fallen flat – perhaps a testament to the surplus of surface parking lots. Redefining the lifeless hotel dining concepts of yesteryear, Sage Restaurant Group – who brought Cherry Creek North Departure alongside the Halcyon Hotel last year – aims to draw a diverse crowd of out-of-town guests, local urbanites, sports fans and others to flow through the spaces within the collective project.

Inspired by the culture and natural wonders of the four corners, Kachina Southwestern Grill arrives in Denver, using food as a vehicle to communicate the region's history, following in the footsteps of the original location in Westminster.

If you enter the restaurant through the hotel lobby – technically, the front door to the eatery is at the corner of 19th and Wazee streets – a whimsically peculiar patio ushers you inside, with twinkly lights and a tree colorfully covered in hand-knitting, thanks to the Denver graffiti artists, Ladies Fancywork Society.

Upon stepping over the threshold, a flicker of metallic may catch your attention as a parked vintage Airstream conjures images of cross-country adventures. The immobilized food truck will start serving on-the-go breakfast, snacks and margaritas in the coming weeks.

Designed by New York City-based Creme Design, the restaurant radiates the indigenous color and flair of the Southwest and Native American culture. A tastefully colossal mural made by local painter, Emanuel Martinez, depicts a sleek woman in sunglasses, surrounded by oversized, multicolored cornhusks. Stucco vases in different shapes, colors and sizes are suspended from the bar and line the dining room as well, containing succulents, lilies and cacti.

The dining room is soft, with warm green accents and light wood, perhaps subtly turning patrons' attention to the nucleus of activity, the open kitchen. Seating 120 inside, warmer weather will invite another 36 patrons to pull up patio chairs, though Kachina will not be taking reservations.

The cuisine combines culinary stylings of the American Southwest and the new world, showcasing the unique agriculture derived from the region as well as prototypical preparations for meats, with its in-house butcher program that reinforces a native respect for the land. The restaurant's partnership with Native American tribes, such as Ramona Farms, located on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona, brings originality to the fare and presentation.

House-made hot sauces in three flavors and varying levels of heat sit in wooden caddies on each tabletop. Featuring dishes like the New Mexican enchiladas, chipotle shrimp and jalapeño waffles, and crispy boneless Texas quail legs, executive chef Jeff Bolton brought roughly 60 percent of the menu over from the Westminster location. Kachina's signature Navajo tacos own a sizable piece of real estate on the menu, with a variety of fillings – from duck to carnitas – and toppings on fluffy fry bread. The remaining 40 percent of the menu includes more entrees, shareable items and a robust cocktail list. Guests can enjoy a selection of tequilas and mezcal, as well as a selection of Southwestern inspired margaritas, savory cocktails and sangrias, fashioned by SRG's Director of Beverage Operations, Brandon Wise.

For more thirst-quenching variety, cross the Maven's lobby into Poka Lola Social Club, a playful contrast to Kachina with some serious cocktail game.

Intended to be a neighborhood bar for "industry folks," the venue is sexy and inviting, a 1950s throwback with checkered floors, a luminous bar with minty panels of stained glass, antique bottles and mirrors serving as a backdrop to the open layout. A small recess for arcade games provides ambient noise and a corner of neon colors.

Poka Lola's menu, again crafted by Wise, offers a nostalgic nod with creative and classic cocktails, dubbed either "Fancy" or "Fountain." The aperol cocktail and negroni soda are both on tap, though you can't go wrong with the Windsor Egg Cream, made with fernet, chocolate, cream, egg white, seltzer and mint.

Bolton will present a limited food menu as well, including a timpano, or baked bowl of pasta with Italian sausage, bell peppers, onion, tomato sauce and white cheddar, as well as a smoked Colorado lamb rack of ribs.

Kachina Southwestern Grill

10600 Westminster Boulevard , Westminster, CO 80020

Kachina Southwestern Grill

10600 Westminster Boulevard, , CO 80020 (303) 410-5813 Visit Website

Kachina

1890 Wazee St, Denver, CO 80202 (720) 460-2728