The new menu at Kawi Café has got locals talking, after the tribally-owned restaurant revamped its offerings, inspired by Cherokee culture.

Austin Patton, Cherokee Nation Community Tourism manager, said the cafe has partnered with Chef Nico Albert, a CN citizen and owner of an Indigenous foods consulting and catering company, to bring authentic and original recipe designs of Cherokee fusion food to downtown Tahlequah.

“Visiting the Kawi Café is now not only about the great-tasting modern Native dishes offered, but it is just as much an introduction to culinary cuisine that places emphasis on Cherokee traditions,” Patton said. “A visit to the Kawi Café will enlighten anyone interested in Indigenous ingredients, traditional uses, sources, and the culinary history of the Cherokee people.”

For a farm-fresh breakfast, the restaurant is offering wild blueberry griddle cakes; scratch biscuits and gravy, with the option of adding a bison sausage; a breakfast burrito, crafted with the house-made bison sausage, eggs, beans and seasonal salsa; a unikta power breakfast bowl; and a roasted pepper omelet. Hungry customers can find a kanati and selu salad; Ani salad; roasted corn chowder; and turkey and tepary bean chili. And for lunch, guests will find fried catfish tacos; bison lettuce wraps; a four sisters hummus wrap; NDN taco sliders; bison burgers; a rose hip-brined turkey sandwich; and ancient grains bowls.

“In addition to the new everyday menu, the Kawi Café also offers a new Indigenous-inspired catering menu for events,” Patton said. “Seasonal specials sourced from Cherokee Nation Heirloom Garden crops – such as Cherokee tan pumpkin, sunchoke, Georgia candy roaster, and more – will also be available on a limited basis.”

For early-morning risers who need their dose of caffeine, Kawi offers a variety of coffee and espresso blends, including the Red Fern blend from Rose Rock Coffee; cafe lattes; red eyes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and frappees. Customers can also sip smoothies, hot tea and sodas.

Several years ago, the Cherokee Nation started a program to give budding entrepreneurs hands-on experience through a business incubator. It’s a chance for people interested in the food service industry to get training in all aspects of running a restaurant at the Kawi Cafe, which is staffed via the Cherokee Nation Career Services.

The cafe is right next to the Spider Gallery, where guests can check out works from more than 140 Cherokee artists before or after their lunch. The gallery recently started featuring a new artists, Trenton Boston, who has multiple pieces that include paintings and baskets.

The Kawi Cafe is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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