Bésame replaces Cantina, bringing new look, new taste to downtown | SteamboatToday.com

Bésame replaces Cantina, bringing new look, new taste to downtown

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The surroundings will look familiar to those who have walked through the doors of the Cantina in the past, but that is where the similarities end.

"The ultimate goal is to bring something new and fresh to Steamboat," said Joseph Campbell, executive chef at the new Bésame restaurant. "We wanted to do  something that has not been done before and something unique."

Bésame is expected to open the second week of March, and Jeremy MacGray and Hannah Hopkins are owners of the new restaurant.  The two are also business partners in Mambo, another downtown Steamboat Springs eatery.

The Cantina, which has been in business since 1973, closed down last fall. Hopkins said its location and space are perfect for Bésame.

"I love the building, I love the brick, I love the floors," Hopkins said. "It just needed a lot of TLC."

The hardwood floors have been stripped and refinished, a fresh coat of paint was applied, and soon, artwork created by a Cuban artist from Miami and reproductions of art by Pablo Picasso, who pioneered the Cubism movement, will grace the walls.

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Gone is the standard Mexican fare of the past 45 years. The new menu will feature a selection of Latin dishes inspired by places people like to visit while on vacation, including Spain, Portugal, Peru, Argentina, Cuba and Brazil. There will also be dishes from Southeast Asia, India, Africa and the Caribbean as part of a section on the menu called the “hot zone.” 

"It should be like you stepped off the plane, and you're are coming out into Spain," manager Nicci Curd said. "This is a place where you can sit down and have a Pisco sour and tapas with your friends and enjoy the Latin experience."

Bésame will also feature new art, music and lighting to create a lively ambiance.  

“We want this to be almost like an interactive dining experience.” Campbell said. “We are going to be doing some cool stuff with dry ice and smoke, and then, we have paella pans, giant ones that will serve the entire table from six to eight people. We want to have lots of good smells coming out of here, lots of good visuals coming and have it be a really great dining experience for a large group of people or a small group of people.”

Hopkins said the selection at the bar will complement the menu with classics such as Pisco sours to conjure up images of Chili and Peru, Caipirinhas ushering in the taste of Brazil and sangrias that will have diners dreaming of Portugal or Spain. To make sure the drinks are true to their origins, Hopkins said customers will find a fresh sugar cane juicer behind the bar and Spanish selections on the wine list.

"People will find a family-friendly environment with lots of great music, tapas, shared plates, cold plates, Latin cuisine, paella and Cuban cuisine," Hopkins said. “That will be served with the same friendly, outgoing atmosphere that was here before with new food, a new food, a new concept."

She hopes the changes will appeal to locals and visitors alike.

"We are trying to do something different, period, not just in Steamboat," Hopkins said.

Campbell, who is also the executive chef at Mambo, is a driving force behind the menu from the paellas to the homemade empanadas to the patatas bravas and the croquettes.

The menu also features house-made chicharrones, ceviche, the Cubano and Hamburguessa de Cordero — a lamb burger featuring apricot jelly, harissa, goat cheese, aji criollo, roasted garlic aioli and a chocolate bun.

Hopkins said that the beef, pork and lamb will all be locally produced in the Yampa Valley, Hopkins and Campbell have been working on the menu since before Christmas and Campbell feels like it has been whittled down to the winners.

"A lot of the liquor and spirits are going to be from Latin America, and we even have a boss cider coming on tap here,” Hopkins said. 

Hopkins said the work inside the building is just about completed and she is hoping to have the doors open in early March.

"It has good bones here," Hopkins said of the building. "Nothing had to be done structurally. It was just restoring the building and giving it a little love."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.