Native American Restaurants in North America

Native American Restaurants in North America

Every year around Thanksgiving, most American schoolchildren re-enact the famous 17th-century feast where English colonists and Indigenous people living on this land for millennia shared large dishes like turkey, squash, and venison.

However, mainstream recognition of Native American cuisine hasn't grown much further except in recent years.

Native culinary heritage has largely been overlooked, though Indigenous chefs around the country have begun to feature Native foods and recipes more prominently. In addition to focusing on the many tastes and ingredients that distinguish each culture, groups remain determined to emphasize the cultural importance of Native American cuisine and its community aspect.

A Culinary Revival: Preserving and Innovating

In the United States, more than 570 Native American tribes are federally recognized, each possessing distinct culinary traditions and flavor profiles. These days, many Native chefs are digging deep into their peoples' centuries-old cooking techniques and honoring tradition with dishes built around flavors from vegetables native to the Americas—beans and squash.

Chiles, tomatoes, potatoes, and corn, along with proteins like buffalo and salmon. For these new-school cooks, fitting Native dishes in means proving that the food isn't inherently “survival” but actually rich with variety and anything rote. 

Chef Sean Sherman And The Sioux Chef

Chef Sean Sherman, who started The Sioux Chef, is a significant figure in this culinary revival. Sherman buys from Indigenous producers locally and nationally to contribute as much spending as possible to the local food system. It is not only about food; it's a way of raising the standing of native communities.

Sherman's Owamni, a restaurant whose reputation has received international praise, took top honors of Best New Restaurant at this year's James Beard Awards in 2022 and showcased how Indigenous cuisine can coexist with white tablecloths.

Notable Indigenous/Native American Restaurants in North America

Here are some standout Indigenous/Native American restaurants across the United States and Canada that are worth a visit:

1. Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery (Denver, Colorado)

At Tocabe, co-owner Ben Jacobs whips up modern takes on his grandmother's recipes from the Osage Nation. The menu includes Posu Bowls with wild rice, a choice of bison, beef, or chicken (or beans/veggies), and Native specialties like Osage hominy and sweet corn; it is Denver's only “American Indian-owned and operated” restaurant. One of the signature dishes is the bison ribs, cured for a day and glazed with drunkenberry barbecue sauce served on fry bread.

2. Black Sheep Cafe (Provo, Utah)

Chef Mark Daniel Mason, who is half Navajo and half Hidatsa, mixes Southwestern and Navajo foodways at Black Sheep Cafe. Situated in Provo, approximately 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, the café also serves as a gallery showcasing works by Native American artists.

The rotating menu includes grilled pork chop, roasted poblano chiles wrapped in traditional nanniskadii (Navajo bread), and Navajo Tacos topped with green chile. Mason’s cooking principle is always to use the “three sisters” of Native food—corn, beans, and squash.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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3. Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe (Washington, D.C.)

Housed within the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe offers a seasonal menu in a cafeteria-style setting. Led by executive chefs Richard Hetzler and Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo), the cafe offers a tour of cuisines from across the Western Hemisphere, including dishes like a pulled buffalo sandwich with chayote squash slaw from the Great Plains.

4. Cafe Ohlone (Berkeley, California)

Cafe Ohlone, founded by Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, offers seasonal menus based on ancestral recipes and pre-Columbian times. The duo, part of the Ohlone community, source ingredients entirely from the Bay Area. Guests can enjoy dishes like tan oak acorn bisque, crispy duck breast seasoned with bay laurel, and yerba buena sorbet.

5. Indian Pueblo Kitchen (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

Formerly known as Pueblo Harvest, Indian Pueblo Kitchen is run by chef Ray Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo). The menu includes buffalo short ribs, white corn and sumac porridge, and other dishes that mirror present-day food culture while including ancestral Puebloan ingredients. The restaurant also hosts cooking classes and wine-pairing dinners.

6. Bison Coffeehouse (Portland, Oregon)

Portland’s first Native-owned coffeehouse, Bison Coffeehouse, serves beans from Native roasters across the United States. Owner Loretta Guzman, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, envisioned the coffeehouse as a community space representing her ancestry. The cafe serves lattes and biscuits and features Native American art, raising awareness and funds for causes like wild bison preservation.

7. Off the Rez (Seattle, Washington)

Mark McConnell, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, turned his childhood memories of fry bread into Off the Rez, a food truck that evolved into a brick-and-mortar restaurant at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. The menu includes fried bread with various toppings, wild rice with braised bison, and seasonal vegetables.

8. Red Oak Steakhouse (Quapaw, Oklahoma)

Red Oak Steakhouse, located in the Downstream Casino and owned by the Quapaw Nation, is a fine-dining establishment featuring dry-aged beef and other locally sourced ingredients. The menu includes hormone-free meat, bison, and a variety of dishes that reflect the Quapaw Nation’s commitment to land stewardship.

9. Owamni by The Sioux Chef (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Owamni, established by Chef Sean Sherman, features a decolonized menu that exclusively utilizes ingredients native to North America prior to European colonization. The offerings include elk choginyapi, bison tacos, and various dishes made with heirloom corn. Owamni has received numerous accolades, including being named Best New Restaurant at the 2022 James Beard Awards.

10. Wahpepah’s Kitchen (Oakland, California)

Chef Crystal Wahpepah, a member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, runs Wahpepah’s Kitchen. The menu includes Kickapoo chili with bison, blue cornbread, and bison and blue corn meatballs. The restaurant emphasizes acknowledging stolen land, reclaiming Native foodways, and educating communities on the health benefits of Native foods.

11. Miijim (La Pointe, Wisconsin)

Situated on Madeline Island, Miijim is led by Chef Bryce Stevenson, who is part of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The menu features traditional Ojibwe dishes with a French flair, such as venison striploin with mushrooms cooked in duck fat and bison heart steak with red potatoes and spring turnip.

12. Indigenous Eats (Spokane, Washington)

Indigenous Eats is a relatively new restaurant, having opened in August 2022. The menu, crafted by a Yakama Nation member, includes traditional Native American fare such as fry bread, Indian tacos, and huckleberry sauce desserts. Customers can customize their meals with a base of rice, beans, or fry bread topped with a variety of proteins such as beef, venison, chicken, and a selection of vegetables and cheeses.

13. Gatherings Cafe (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Gatherings Cafe, overseen by Diné Chef Brian Yazzie, is located in the Minneapolis American Indian Center. The menu features dishes made with wild game, wild rice, and native plants. In addition to operating the cafe, Yazzie manages a catering business and is committed to supporting and feeding elders in the Twin Cities region.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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14. Kai Restaurant (Chandler, Arizona)

Kai, located in the Sheraton Grand Hotel at Wild Horse Pass, translates to “seed” in the Pima language. Chef Drew Anderson honors the Pima and Maricopa tribes by using ingredients procured from local farms in the Gila River Indian Community. The menu includes dishes such as grilled buffalo tenderloin, sassafras-smoked Wisconsin pheasant, and 60-day Pima cornbread.

15. Red Mesa Cuisine (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Red Mesa Cuisine, a catering service located in Santa Fe and headed by Chef Lois Ellen Frank, Ph.D., specializes in merging traditional Native American ingredients with modern Southwestern culinary styles. Their menu features items such as wood-smoked trout, sweet yellow corn soup, stuffed quail, and elk tenderloin, blending historical flavors with contemporary cooking methods.

16. Tiwa Kitchen Restaurant and Bakery (Taos, New Mexico)

Tiwa Kitchen, a family-operated restaurant in Taos, is constructed with traditional Pueblo adobe techniques. The menu highlights classic Pueblo and New Mexican cuisine, including Blue Corn Tacos and Phien-tye, a traditional dish consisting of fried bread filled with buffalo meat and chili.

17. Native Root (Winston Salem, North Carolina)

Native Root, headed by Cherokee Chef Jordan Rainbolt, specializes in catering services. They provide pop-up dinners, a supper club, and private chef experiences. Their goal is to deliver genuine experiences that celebrate food and community, utilizing traditional Native American ingredients and cooking methods.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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As you plan your next culinary adventure, consider visiting one of these Indigenous/Native American restaurants. Each offers a unique dining experience beyond food, providing a deeper connection to the land and the people who have nurtured it for centuries. Supporting these establishments helps preserve a vital part of North America’s cultural heritage, ensuring that Indigenous foodways thrive for generations.

Last Updated on July 3, 2024 by Paul G

About Paul G

Paul G is the founder PowWows.com, who wears many hats as a business coach, photographer, and collector of quirky shirts. Paul started PowWows.com in 1996 while pursuing his graduate degree. With a passion for travel, he and his family hav  traveled the world, capturing unforgettable memories and photos. When he's not coaching or clicking, he's indulging in the magic of Disney.


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