By James Coope Contributing Editor
As you walk into Tribe Riverwalk, you immediately notice the strikingly modern and uplifting décor, which is in stark contrast to the traditional stone buildings in historic Castle Rock, Colo. Your eyes are drawn to the eclectic bar and the expansive herb garden next to the open kitchen. After sitting down, you are handed a menu that is unlike anything in town. When you strike up a conversation with the staff, you will quickly realize that Tribe is more than just a menu and a fancy place. Tribe is the culmination of decades of learning, experimentation, hard work and adventures, all enjoyed by a passionate group of people.
Chef Arthur Gonzales grew up in California and, like many of Tribe’s leaders, was introduced to the restaurant industry early in life. Growing up, Chef Arthur was influenced by the cooking of his German mother and his Oaxacan grandmother. After starting his culinary career in California, Chef Arthur’s passion led him to Santa Fe, N.M., where he worked under James Beard Award winners and in famous restaurants such as Coyote Café and Geronimo. Chef Arthur fell in love with not only the unique flavors and sensations of New Mexico, but he also met his wife, Vanessa Auclair, who is now the director of operations at Tribe.
New opportunities led Chef Arthur and Vanessa back to California where they eventually opened up their first restaurant, Panxa Cocina. Panxa was highly influenced by Chef Arthur’s upbringing as well as his time in New Mexico and the flavors of Southwestern cuisine. Panxa Cucina also was the place where Chef Arthur and Vanessa met Nick Rowe, Nick Goins, Paula Goins and Tom O’Brien, a real “tribe”, who are all involved today at Tribe and are part of Tribe Hospitality Group.
Chef Arthur came to Castle Rock in 2019. His sister worked in wedding catering, and he came to Castle Rock to help. He was working out of a commissary in Denver and was drawn to Castle Rock’s local vibe. One day, he was driving down Wilcox Street and noticed a patio in a new building next to a creek, which seemed like the right spot for a new restaurant. A week later, he had a lease and two restaurants – Panxa and now Tribe.
2020 and the pandemic made life tough for restaurants, but Tribe managed to launch that December. Dodging shutdowns, restrictions and staffing shortages, Tribe focused on to-go orders and deliveries. While not ideal, it was a blessing in disguise as Chef Arthur could focus on fine-tuning his menu and meeting new distributors. Chef Arthur’s creativity and passion for sourcing locally and creating a memorable experience quickly caught on in Castle Rock, and it became a top destination for customers eager to get back out and experience life as the world opened back up in early 2021.
Tribe’s menu has something for everyone – great cocktails and appetizers, a range of great seafood, game and of course, beef. Tribe has the best brunch in town, but it’s very dinner focused. Tribe sources locally, with microgreens and herbs on-site, fresh vegetables from farms between Denver and Colorado Springs and beef sourced from Niman Ranch.
Nick Rowe, who came from Panxa in California to work at Tribe, explains how Tribe’s menu will change frequently, at least seasonally, and often weekly, depending on what is fresh and available. Customers are drawn to Tribe’s “Never Ever” program, which guides their vision of not using added hormones in their food. He says that Tribe “appeals to foodies, but also appeals to everyone.”
Tribe isn’t just a food experience. Mixologist Nick Goins is behind the bar creating some of the best cocktails around. Tribe is now the hottest restaurant in Castle Rock – a perfect place to meet friends to connect, celebrate and enjoy life.
Sadly, Chef Arthur passed away suddenly in 2022. The Tribe family has stuck together, and Chef Arthur’s presence remains front and center in every aspect of the business. Tribe is dedicated to carrying on Chef Arthur’s legacy with many of his favorite dishes and creations. They have also started trying new concepts that Chef Arthur always dreamed of – chef-created five- to seven-course meals, and an ever-changing menu inspired by the seasonality of farm-to-table ingredients. Tribe is a place that celebrates not only those who prepare and serve the food, but also those who play a role in bringing food to market.
Today, Tribe is one of the top destinations in Castle Rock. Thanks to a passionate group of people, however, the story of Tribe continues to be written.