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Cantina remodeling reveals historic details

Owner's primary purpose was to open its facade to views of Lincoln Avenue

A green patina of old copper flashing stamped with rosettes was revealed when workers stripped stucco from the front of the historic building that houses The Cantina restaurant this month.

Owners Kristi and Jeff Brown, with partner Glen Martin, reopened their Lincoln Avenue eatery Friday after a lightning-quick renovation that emphasizes some of the building’s historic qualities. The intent of the project was more about modern improvements to the Mexican restaurant that has been a fixture on Steamboat’s main drag since 1972.

The Browns were surprised and pleased to find the copper flashing on the front of the building, but their primary goal was to open up their restaurant to the streetscape.



“I think the restaurant will be much more appealing,” Kristi Brown said. “It was hard to tell if we were open and hard to tell if anybody was in there.”

The Browns have replaced small, dark windows on the front of the restaurant with large, glass French doors framed in warm wood. In summer, the doors will open onto outdoor seating contained within a wrought iron rail. In winter, the large glass panes will allow diners to gaze out on the street and will allow passersby to see the activity in the restaurant. The Browns will deliberately seat those window tables first.



Interior alterations to the restaurant will open up the bar seating area.

“We’ve taken out one of two stairways leading to the loft,” Jeff Brown said. That stairway formerly cramped patrons seated in the bar area. Once seated in the loft, diners will enjoy new windows that provide a view across Lincoln Avenue to the lighted slopes of Howelsen Hill.

With the Cantina closed for renovations, the Browns seized the opportunity to refinish a floor made from 9.5-inch heartwood pine.

“We thought it was going to be a one-day project, but 30 years of polyurethane took four days,” Kristi Brown said with a laugh.

The Cantina has borrowed a few pieces of history from another Steamboat restaurant. The accent lights in the dining room are large, pierced tins stars made in Mexico. But the copper-colored fixtures that supply the main light were moved over from the old El Rancho. The dining room also has been brightened by the purchase of hand-painted ladderback chairs.

Martin offered some new seafood entrees when the dining room reopened Friday night. The Browns recommend snow crab enchiladas in a sauce of jalapeno pesto.


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