La Kiva Opens Then Closes

It has been a long time since I posted an update and I have been waiting until I had something of importance to say.  It seemed for a long time that I was simply posting to tell you all what had gone wrong or was delayed  or what new disaster had befallen us.  I am delighted to say that I not only have no bad news but I have some good news.  La Kiva opened for the Viva Terlingua music festival running from August 20th through the 23rd.  We enjoyed four days of fabulous music that was an absolute delight.  During the festival we met an amazing number of wellwishers.  Thank you all.

On opening night the bar was staffed by three old friends of the community.  We had our prime contractor, Jack Sullivan, our amazing bulldozer driver, Fred Porter and Jimmy from Passing Wind (the pirate ship on FM 170).  These three got us off to a fantastic start and we could not have had a better crew to get us going.  They laughed and joked their way through the entire evening on the first night and somehow managed to keep everyone served.  Truly some great talent.  I just wish I could find a way of keeping all three behind the bar.  That would be a riot.  As some wag noted, the bar at La Kiva was staffed by a blind man, a deaf man and a drunk.  I leave it as an exercise for you to figure out which was which.

We got a few criticisms on the new La Kiva and I mostly agreed with the people criticising us.

First, the bar was too bright.  True.  It may have been the bright sparks we had behind the bar or it could be that we had temporary lighting up over the bar and buffet.  When we get the final lighting in place we will be far less bright and it will be on a dimmer and we won’t have our stars behind the bar so it should back it off quite a bit.

Not enough bar stools.  True.  We only had three.  We will fix that.

It was too hot in the kitchen.  True.  It was infernally hot but the reason is that there was a minor power outage.  In recovering from the outage one of the three large AC’s tripped over into heating mode and pumped a LOT of hot air into the kitchen before we figured out what was happening.  Ooooops.

The rumor mill was in high gear and a number of new rumors surfaced.  I am not going to run over the satellite dish with a bulldozer or anything else by Wednesday, I never was going to and I certainly never threatened to do so.  I promised it to Anna almost a year ago and it is being held in safekeeping for her.  Other rumors included large quantities of MJ and racists and I may be the first restaurant ever to get a health complaint BEFORE OPENING.  When you hear one of these rumors consider the source and the motivation.  We have a small group of mischief makers out there and nothing seems too outrageous for them.  Many years ago I had a bar in England.  One night a very upset lady came blasting into my bar demanding to know what I was going to do about her Fred.  It seems that Fred had absconded with the payroll from the nut factory taking my wife and the company Mercedes with him.  I was astonished and in frank disbelief.  I walked into our adjacent living quarters and invited my wife, Josie, to join us in the bar and to hear the story first hand.  Whilst the rumors about Fred proved to be true, the ones about my wife did not.  On yet another occasion I was reputed to have a string of hookers working for me in London.  If I did, they weren’t very good because I never got a penny from any of them.

The problems we had with the opening were minor, the food was great and despite the fact that it was a simple buffet we got rave reviews across the board.  I may be biased but I greatly enjoyed the food myself and if this is a sample of what our chefs can do we will be in for some treats.

A corner of the new kitchen.

The new location for the indoor stage worked well and both musicians and audience were happy.  The sound quality and the ability to watch the band were vastly improved.



The old restrooms were replaced by new facilities.


What you can’t see is that there are two new waterless urinals.  That saves around 4,500 gallons each per year and in the desert that matters.

DSC_3983None of this is quite finished but we have made huge progress.  Now that the Viva Terlingua festival is over, we are closing again for a few weeks while we finish off the kitchen and a few other odds and ends that need attention.  If everything works out the way it should, we will be opening up for good towards the end of September.  In the meantime, laugh at the rumors but don’t get too irritated at the rumor mongers.  Generally their intention are thoughtless , not unkind.

Stay well, stay safe and be happy.



29 thoughts on “La Kiva Opens Then Closes”

  1. So glad to read this great news! Sorry you’re having to deal with troublemakers, but your attitude is fantastic. I’ll be down with my family in March to celebrate my 50th birthday. I can’t wait to bring them to La Kiva. The place looks beautiful.

  2. The food was fabulous and service impeccable! I miss the rocking stump bar stool but will live through it….the place looked great.

  3. Wonderful update and it’s great hearing it directly from you. Congratulations on your “soft” opening. And as for “a blind man, a deaf man and a drunk” behind the bar, I’ve only met Jimmy and I know he’s deaf in one ear. Not sure who could be blind, and I just can’t imagine WHO would be drunk in Terlingua. Cheers and continued success! Rita Burton (Houston, TX)

  4. Wonderful! We plan to be there in early October to celebrate my 81st birthday. LaKiva has always been one of our favorite places to dine and enjoy ourselves. Can’t wait to check out the new/old place. :-)

  5. John,
    Was so delighted to get to met you and, yes, the food was delicious, especially those bourbon apples….I personally love what you are doing to the La Kiva…..I can feel the love you have for it and hope I can come down for the “official” opening…..keep us posted.

  6. I owned two restaurants in Van Horn for 30 years, managed the Edelweiss and Limpia after that. It never changes, the jealous ones are always first to try and make things look bad to try to make their miserable lives feel better. I have actually heard nothing but good things over here in Alpine…am excited to visit when your going again. Congrats and keep up the good work, you will come out on top!!!

  7. Good to hear things are working well now. Hopefully “… towards the end of September.” will be on or soon after 20th September so we can visit a couple of times during our short visit.

  8. Herman and I wanted to stop by and see your beautiful restaurant and bar however with the chili cookoff and our music happening at High Sierra we just couldn’t make it happen :(. It was good to see you judging chili on Saturday! Congratulations on your opening and look forward to the re-opening! Cheers to you and Josie!

    1. Thank you so much. We keep passing at various public venues. We must make a determined effort to get together at some point. You always seem to be in such high demand wherever you go. Things will be a little saner once we get open for real then you must come and dine here as our guests to try out our new menu. I think you know one of our chefs. Stay well and stay happy.

    1. Grin. Let me know when your place is getting close to opening so that I will have lots of time to start some good rumors.


  9. On the bright side, the temporary lighting made for outstanding indoor photos on social media. Check them out! The rock work really comes through as well as the musicians and the guest’s.

  10. Congrats on your first opening! Four of us from San Antonio will be in Big Bend in October, and we’re looking forward to an evening at La Kiva. Can’t wait!

  11. I’ve been coming for the Tolbert Behind the Store Chili Cook-Off since the 1970s and have always enjoyed my stops at La Kiva.

    The view from the porch of the Terlingua Creek has always been one of the attractions at La Kiva I even showered in the rental showers there. Which brings up the obvious question: do you have or plan to have coin operated showers for RVers and campers? Congratulations on getting the old place up to date and back in business.

    1. No showers yet.

      We are planning opening the campground again and we already have dry camping available. Opening La Kiva is taking all our time right now but as soon as we can we are going to do the campground. We are planning an RV’ers toilet block with showers.

      Thanks for your kind comments.


  12. Hi John,

    Excellent update, glad to see things are progressing.

    Laurie and I are still talking about coming in Oct, I will let you know as plans firm up.

    We are really looking forward to the changes since our last visit and seeing you and Josie.



  13. Glad to see the old place back in operation. I remember when it was first built by Felts and visited with him when I was down there at this place across from the restaurant. He was a unique personality and very creative. I hope some of him is left in the remodel, by the pictures it looks like it. Will drop by when we are down for two weeks in November. Congratulations on getting it up and running.

    1. “I hope some of him is left in the remodel”

      A very great deal of him is left. We changed what had to be changed plus we added a new kitchen. All of our guests so far have approved of what we have done and I hope you will the next time you are here. He certainly was a unique personality and clearly had a vision when he built La Kiva. We have made a conscious effort to follow what we thought Gill would have approved of in our remodelling. How successful we have been is for others to judge.

      I am looking forward to meeting you in November.


  14. Greetings
    It would be great if you could be open by Sept 26 which is National Public Land Days. We come to BBNP at least twice a year, one of them always on NPLD’s. We volunteer and then would spend Saturday night at your restaurant. Usually there is quite a lot of volunteers, you could have quite a crowd.
    Good Luck,,,,,,,,

    1. It is our intention to be open by then but we still have some problems to deal with. Putting up the large hoods in the kitchen is proving to be a technical challenge and we also have to take into account the Ansul fire suppression system. Finding someone who knows what they are doing and is willing to travel to Terlingua to install the equipment is proving challenging. Keep your fingers crossed.


    1. Hi Charlie,

      I don’t know but we are seriously trying. We may have the bar open but we will not have the restaurant open by then. It is a year and a half since we last had an open mic.. That tradition is not one that I am going to let die. I think it is pretty clear that our customers expect us to have an open mic night. In the last eighteen months, other places have laid claim. This could result in Wednesdays having more than one open mic. venue. That may provide an interesting option. We’ll have to see what happens. Whatever happens we are going to try and have some fun doing it.


  15. That sounds good. There is going to be a conference the week of September 15-18 at Study Butte. Look forward to seeing La Kiva. Seems like I have been stopping in off and on since 1981 or 1982. Have a good day.

    1. Charlie,
      If you are in Study Butte then you must drop in and see what we have done even if we are not yet open. You can almost always find someone around during the day and early evening if you come round to the patio at the back.


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