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Native American Restaraunts - do they exist?

gandro Sep 8, 2009 04:33 PM

I was in South Dakota recently on a road trip and I was searching for a Native American restaraunt with no luck.
I was anxious to try dishes from the Lakota and Sioux tribes.
Does anyone know where to find native american food in this country?

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  1. Pei RE: gandro Sep 8, 2009 05:14 PM

    This is going to be WAY more watered down than what you're looking for, but I had a great meal at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC (on the Mall with the other Smithsonians). The various parts of the cafeteria are marked with what region's food they are serving, and there were some really delicious things.

    I know, I know, I'm suggesting museum food. But these days, museum/mall/hotel food is getting to be so fancy, it might be a starting point for your research.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pei
      jmckee RE: Pei Sep 11, 2009 09:31 AM

      Oh I totally agree. We went on a Chowhounders recommendation last spring and it was extremely good. I had baked oysters and celery (Pacific northwest) and the wonderfuly named Salad of the Three Sisters (corn, squash, beans -- from the great plains, which I've successfully recreated at home), and Navajo fry bread.

      Then my son took his buddies when he was a delegate to the National Young Leaders Conference in October, and they were blown away.

      Actually, it occurs to me that he called me most days around lunchtime to ask where they should eat...... Hmm. Some dads give stock tips. I give eating tips. Guess which dad is most memorable to a group of hungry high-school boys?

      1. re: Pei
        Bada Bing RE: Pei Jun 8, 2010 09:03 AM

        The Smithsonian is also the only place I've ever seen a Native American themed eatery. It was very good as museum food goes. But I'm really glad to see this thread come up.

        1. re: Pei
          archstreet RE: Pei Jun 8, 2010 09:19 AM

          I enjoyed the meals I've had at the Museum of the American Indian.

        2. Veggo RE: gandro Sep 8, 2009 05:50 PM

          I had the same shocking and disappointing experience as gandro, years ago, on an extensive road trip through many states and through numerous reservations. I had higher hopes than cigarettes, beer, Slim Jims and gas.
          I hope to learn here that some do exist. Fingers are crossed.

          1. Gio RE: gandro Sep 8, 2009 06:05 PM

            There are native American restaurants...you just have to know where to look. Years ago I saw Loretta Barrett Odin on a PBS program when she demonstrated how to cook bread in an outdoor oven....and again when she was interviewed....

            Here's her bio:

            Native American Restaurants:

            More... and her picture:

            I love this woman...She's engaging, authorative and authentic.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Gio
              Veggo RE: Gio Sep 8, 2009 06:17 PM

              Thanks, Gio. The Corn Dance Cafe in Santa Fe sounds like the pick of the litter. I have been to a few of the other NM ones.

              1. re: Veggo
                Gio RE: Veggo Sep 8, 2009 06:24 PM

                Ahhh...lucky you, V.! I only wish I could have done when I was travelling.
                Next life maybe.....

                1. re: Veggo
                  Tropigal RE: Veggo Sep 9, 2009 10:54 AM

                  One of my favorite meals I had in Santa Fe was at Corn Dance... haven't been in a couple of years though

                  1. re: Tropigal
                    fmcoxe6188 RE: Tropigal Sep 9, 2009 11:14 AM

                    Oh good! This is what I was going to suggest as well! One of the many bright spots in the cuisine of Santa Fe! Ohhhh now I remember how much I want to go back there!

              2. Caralien RE: gandro Sep 8, 2009 07:05 PM

                We've had fried bread and Indian Tacos in Nevada at booths at the side of the road to Gerlach. It's not as far north as you described, but good none the less.

                1. tatamagouche RE: gandro Sep 9, 2009 12:48 PM

                  I haven't been, and admittedly the menu doesn't sound too legit to quit, but FYI.


                  Meanwhile, like GIo, I've heard a lot of good stuff about Odin, and I can't imagine she's the only one in NM with that emphasis.

                  1. mrbigshotno.1 RE: gandro Sep 9, 2009 02:48 PM


                    1. ipsedixit RE: gandro Sep 9, 2009 03:09 PM

                      Kai in Phoenix, AZ.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        grayelf RE: ipsedixit Sep 9, 2009 05:30 PM

                        From late spring to late summer you can have a North West Coast Indian meal in Vancouver at Wild Salmon, a student run restaurant:

                      2. Dagney RE: gandro Sep 9, 2009 09:59 PM

                        Romo's in Holbrook, AZ has homemade fry bread, which they serve with honey. Scary good.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Dagney
                          jumpingmonk RE: Dagney Sep 10, 2009 05:56 AM

                          If you're ever on vacation I've heard there's a resturaunt in Mexico City (called 1491 I think) that specializes in the Pre-Columbian cusines of the Aztecs and other native peoples.)

                        2. j
                          jujuthomas RE: gandro Sep 10, 2009 06:04 AM

                          how cool! we are thinking about going to Phoenix next year! :) Thanks for asking this.

                          1. r
                            rockycat RE: gandro Sep 10, 2009 06:10 AM

                            I've had Native American food at a restaurant on an Arizona reservation. The restaurant was attached to a Holiday Inn or some other such chain motel. The menu had two sections - one was your standard blah motel cafe food, the other was Navajo specialties. Nearly every diner was ordering the Navajo food. I learned two things from that dining experience. One is that I find Navajo food fairly bland and uninteresting. Two, always take an antacid when eating fry bread and/or Navajo tacos. On the same trip I had other experiences with Navajo food that reinforced those impressions.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: rockycat
                              meatn3 RE: rockycat Sep 10, 2009 11:25 PM

                              I think I ate at the same place - the decor was very '60's drab IIRC. The food didn't excite me. I think this was south of Phoenix?

                              1. re: meatn3
                                rockycat RE: meatn3 Sep 11, 2009 05:47 AM

                                Eight years ago this week, as a matter of fact, (yes, it was THE 9/11) I was on a 10-day 2,000 mile motorcycle trip through the Southwest desert. We started and ended in Phoenix although we went north from Phoenix up into Utah and west into Nevada before heading back around to Phoenix. IIRC, which I might not, the restaurant was somewhere near Canyon de Chelly National Park.

                                I never know what to think about today - the incredible trip and the magnificent scenery, being pregnant while doing this, or the awful tragedy and uncertainty of being in the middle of the desert and unable to contact our families in NY. I remember so clearly my utter disbelief when hearing the news and my inability to stop crying when seeing the footage later that day. What a day.

                                1. re: rockycat
                                  meatn3 RE: rockycat Sep 11, 2009 08:28 PM

                                  The utter incompreshension turning into realization turning into horror...That day is like Pearl Harbor or Kennedy being shot. All who experienced it will always remember.

                                  Your experience being in the midst of such an amazing trip must have been mind boggling surreal.

                                  So here's a toast for the living, a drink for the dead and the hope that this day will never be repeated...

                                  1. re: rockycat
                                    Striver RE: rockycat Sep 14, 2009 10:48 AM

                                    Yes, there's (was? - we were there in 2005) a Holiday Inn in Chinle AZ, right near the entrance to Canyon de Chelly, with that menu. The Navajo tacos (on fry bread) were decent.

                                    A more extensive menu with Navajo options can be found at the restaurant of The View hotel in Monument Valley. The green chile pork stew was pretty good (and a good option for dipping chunks of the ubiquitous fry bread).

                              2. s
                                Steve RE: gandro Sep 10, 2009 11:24 AM

                                In Ottawa there is a tourist attraction called the Aboriginal Experience, and they serve lunch on picnic tables. Items like a 3 Sisters Bean Salad and Bison Burgers. I believe there is also a rather prominent Native American restaurant in Ottawa, but I did not make it there.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Steve
                                  PaulV RE: Steve Sep 13, 2009 07:24 AM

                                  I believe the restaurant you're referring to (the second one) is Sweetgrass Bistro:


                                  I haven't been there either but many people rave about it.

                                  1. re: PaulV
                                    foodiesnorth RE: PaulV Sep 13, 2009 12:12 PM

                                    Been there three times...impressed each time. Nothing terribly authentic in my view. Rather it is a modern take on traditional ingredients.

                                    1. re: PaulV
                                      Steve RE: PaulV Sep 15, 2009 08:22 PM

                                      Yes, thanks for jogging the memory cells.

                                  2. SaltyRaisins RE: gandro Sep 13, 2009 08:34 AM

                                    A poster who goes by the name Tohono Rat on these boards has covered this subject for the southwest. Here's the link to that topic:


                                    1. rworange RE: gandro Sep 14, 2009 11:31 AM

                                      Search chowhound for Native American food. There are threads from time to time. There was a thread a few years back that had some good selections. I have the flu and am just to sick to deal with searching, but I know there are some excellent threads out there.

                                      1. LeahBaila RE: gandro Sep 14, 2009 11:48 AM

                                        Ruidosa, New Mexico has some options


                                        1. John Manzo RE: gandro Sep 14, 2009 02:31 PM

                                          You have to understand that not all cultures are restaurant cultures. That said, you'll have better luck in Canada, which has roughtly ten times the native population, per capita, that the US has.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: John Manzo
                                            Veggo RE: John Manzo Sep 14, 2009 02:50 PM

                                            John, I think you nailed it when you said "not all cultures are restaurant cultures". I'm sure there is great native american home cooking every day that most of us will never have the privilege of experiencing. What are some of your favorites?

                                          2. Gio RE: gandro Sep 15, 2009 10:25 AM

                                            Years ago (I have a first edition) I bought a wonderful Native American cookbook, "Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking," by Martin Jacobs and Beverly Cox which gives an idea of what Native American cooking was all about. The chapters are divided by tribal regions and include many of the old recipes which were handed down through the generations. I've cooked a few of the fish dishes and bannock, in fact it was the first time I read about grilled planked salmon. The photographs are gorgeous. Time to revisit this beautiful book.

                                            I see it's still available:

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Gio
                                              KrissyL RE: Gio Sep 20, 2009 08:52 AM

                                              I'm originally from the Northwest Territories, where the primary population is Native American. If you are looking for authentic NA food - I recommend making friends with an elder who would be willing to show you the ways. Recipes are passed down in their culture, and everyone adds their own little twist. Bannock is an anytime treat, and can be made just about anywhere. Dried/smoked game and fish are also big in northern Canada - their ingredients are local and very simple as the access to fresh markets and spices are limited even today. My own favourite is dried and smoked caribou (much like deer - but better, I think) which you could make with your own dehydrator and liquid smoke. I would really recommend having someone teach you if you are interested - normally they are quite willing to share their culture and homemade bannock over a fire is worth it!

                                              1. re: KrissyL
                                                tatamagouche RE: KrissyL Sep 20, 2009 11:59 AM

                                                How cool, Krissy L! Can you tell us about some other local specialties?

                                                1. re: tatamagouche
                                                  KrissyL RE: tatamagouche Sep 20, 2009 01:41 PM

                                                  I like bannock with fresh blueberries - because they are grown around a lake where I'm from. Caribou stew is also a popular dish, the reason I like caribou is because it doesn't have the 'wild meat' taste and it's good for you (really lean). Moose, Musk Ox, Buffalo, Dall Sheep (depending on the area) are local game that people eat but tougher meats that definitely need to be cooked properly and practiced to get it right. Dried meat with lard is also a favourite but not mine! I need to have some flavour and can't get past the pure lard. If you're ever in the NWT - try the Wild Cat Cafe in Yellowknife (Summer Only Restaurant), Cabin Lounge at the Finto Hotel in Inuvik - they both have wild meat on their menus. Be warned that dining in the north is expensive and there really isn't a way around it. If you find yourself in a smaller community - take advantage of the opportunity and by all means tell them you're interested in the local food! There's a good chance someone will invite you to dinner and "Mahsi" is how you thank them :)

                                                  There are some great bannock recipes here:


                                            2. t
                                              Tohono Rat RE: gandro Sep 20, 2009 03:48 PM

                                              YES! We exist. Desert Rain Cafe is in Sells, Arizona on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. It features traditional tribal foods. See www.desertraincafe.com. I have an entire post on Native American foods here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/643271. There I talk about Kai (a Mobile Five Star Resaurant) that features Native foods, the Celebration of Basketry and Native Foods Festival, etc.

                                              Corn Dance Cafe (mentioned here) was Loretta Barrett Oden's place in Santa Fe; unfortunately it has been closed for a few years. She is the host and producer of the Seasoned With Spirit program listed here. Loretta was also a consultant for the opening of Desert Rain Cafe.

                                              The Creative Cooking Academy in Scottsdale, AZ has been developing a Native foods program for the past few years. They have two very talented Navajo chefs: Bertina Cadman and Freddie Bitsoe.

                                              If you have more specific questions, post them here and I may be able to help.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Tohono Rat
                                                Tohono Rat RE: Tohono Rat Sep 20, 2009 03:55 PM

                                                Also.... here is a link to the PBS series "Seasoned with Spirit" which was a five-part series about Native American foods. http://www.nativetelecom.org/seasoned...

                                                1. re: Tohono Rat
                                                  bookgrrl72 RE: Tohono Rat Nov 16, 2009 12:36 PM

                                                  I just looked at the menu for Kai and I find it problematic. I think it's great that they source produce (and other ingredients?) from the Gila River Indian Community, but holy crap! Those prices are berserk! I question the ethics of fetishizing the local Native communities while also profiting off their stories and very existence, especially when it's probably safe to say that most of the folks in the Pima and Maricopa tribes can't afford to eat at Kai.

                                                  1. re: bookgrrl72
                                                    Jen76 RE: bookgrrl72 Nov 16, 2009 02:32 PM

                                                    "I question the ethics of fetishizing the local Native communities while also profiting off their stories and very existence, especially when it's probably safe to say that most of the folks in the Pima and Maricopa tribes can't afford to eat at Kai."

                                                    The restaurant/resort/casino complex where Kai is located is on the reservation and owned by the Gila River Indian Community so they are profiting from their own culture and businesses.

                                                    1. re: Jen76
                                                      bookgrrl72 RE: Jen76 Nov 17, 2009 07:28 AM

                                                      Oh, cool! I did not know that. Thanks for clearing that up!

                                                2. a
                                                  alitria RE: gandro Nov 16, 2009 12:59 PM

                                                  Something I don't see suggested here is to look for local pow-wows or cultural festivals. Some food is more authentic than others, but I've had some great food that way. That being said, even in the remote Alaskan villages the little cafes or restaurants (such as they are) serve "gussuk (white) food" and the native foods are made at home. Fortunately, most villages don't have much in the way of restaurants so I was lucky enough to eat some delicious, delicious, food made by local cooks when I was living there.

                                                  Frybread is the most ubiquitous of "native" foods but in reality, it's not really traditional to any culture except for reservation culture when tribes had to learn to survive upon commodity foods from the government. That being said, there are probably as many recipes and ways to "correctly" make frybread as there are families and there are few foods on earth as delicious as fresh frybread. Especially when it's served the right way, with moose soup. ;)

                                                  1. b
                                                    Beckyleach RE: gandro Nov 16, 2009 01:39 PM

                                                    It's not owned by Navajo, but the Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff, Utah (it's so gorgeous and peaceful, there!) has a lot of semi-authentic to authentic Native American foods on its menu...at least they did the last time we ate there, six years ago.

                                                    1. j
                                                      John C 22 RE: gandro Jun 7, 2010 03:16 PM

                                                      Looks like a fry bread restaurant is sprouting up in Southern California...


                                                      1. Gio RE: gandro Jun 8, 2010 08:01 AM

                                                        I've been doing a litle research and here's what I've found so far:

                                                        1.) The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler AZ, was designed to be an authentic representation of the Gila River Indian Community's heritage and culture.

                                                        2. Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro in Ottawa, Ontario

                                                        3.) Navajo Hogan Restaurant, South Salt Lake City UT

                                                        4.) The following list of Native American Indian restaurants some of which are still open:

                                                        1. Melanie Wong RE: gandro Jun 9, 2010 07:51 PM

                                                          Pueblo Harvest Cafe in the museum in Albuquerque, NM.

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