“When people come to the Sherpa House, they shouldn’t feel like they’re walking into a restaurant; they should feel like they’re coming into my home,” says Lhakpa Sherpa, the founder and owner of Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center in Golden. When Lhakpa and his wife Dickey started the restaurant in 2009, they designed the space to represent the layout of a traditional Sherpa house in the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal, tucked high in the Himalayas at an elevation above 14,000 feet. (Fun fact: “Sherpa” is a surname used in Nepal, India, and Tibet and references an individual’s origins.)
Enter the main dining room, and you’re greeted by a faintly crackling fire surrounded by rows of gleaming copper mugs, seasoned pots, and rustic, wooden cooking utensils, all brought from Lhakpa’s home in Nepal. Look to the bookshelf and you’ll find tomes on high-altitude mountaineering mingled with traditional Nepalese tales like Pema and the Yak and tons of other themed décor, including statues, flags, and even an Everest-shaped rock painted with paths to the summit. Around the corner sits a shrine room, a space in every traditional Sherpa home that’s reserved for morning offerings and home-cleansing, incense-burning rituals.
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What you won’t find on the walls? TVs. Instead, Lhakpa filled the walls of the newly added bar area with murals highlighting scenes from his childhood backyard. “That’s what I see from my bedroom when I go home,” he says, pointing to a depiction of yaks grazing beneath towering snow-capped peaks.
There have long been ties between the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the Sherpa peoples’ native Solu-Khumbu region of the Himalayas—and it’s the reason Sherpa House landed in Golden over 10 years ago. Since the first summit of Chomolungma (the Tibetan name for Everest) in 1953, Sherpas have been sharing their expertise with Western climbers to help them achieve extreme mountaineering goals. While guiding treks and climbs in Nepal shortly after high school, Lhakpa met a couple from Colorado celebrating their honeymoon in the Himalayas. The trio quickly hit it off, and the couple invited Lhakpa to visit their home in Golden the following summer. During that visit, he fell in love with the Centennial State and returned the following year to attend Red Rocks Community College and Metro State University. He met Dickey at a Sherpa New Year celebration in 2006, and they’ve both called Golden home ever since. “Golden is my village now,” says Lhakpa, who was born in the Solu-Khumbu region.
Colorado’s ties to the high mountains of Nepal have inspired many Sherpas like Lhakpa to make Golden their home base. In fact, many members of the restaurant’s staff are guides and make the trip back to Mt. Everest during spring’s peak climbing season. “Many Sherpas come here to meet with Westerners that they’re going to climb with. Then they find the Sherpa House and decide they want to come back and work here,” Lhakpa says. “I think between our staff of 22 Sherpas, we’ve done 45 summits in total.” Lhakpa himself has completed two summits of Mount Everest.
While Sherpa House’s cultural features are a bonus, the food alone is worth the trip. “Besides salt, all of our spices are imported from Nepal and India,” says Dickey, who crafted the restaurant’s menu to bring traditional flavors and dishes of Nepalese cuisine to the Front Range. The silky-smooth sauce coating the chicken tikka masala is best savored with a slice of puffy, cloud-like garlic naan alongside a warm mug of creamy, sweetly spiced chai tea. Or try the hearty yak stew, made from a traditional recipe that’s been passed down by many generations of Sherpas.
Lhakpa and Dickey have settled in Colorado, but they continue to support their roots. In 2011, they started Hike for Help, a nonprofit organization that brings volunteers from the U.S. to Nepal for small-scale service work. Tasks include building trails, schools, and public restrooms—efforts that have a high impact on local communities. The organization partners with Colorado School of Mines to offer for-credit study abroad programs in Nepal, all led by Lhakpa. “We started doing trips with the Colorado School of Mines students, and they came back saying, ‘wow, this really changed my outlook on life,” Lhakpa says. “To me, this is the most meaningful thing in my life. It’s not just about you, it’s about others. And people here, they really want to help; they want to make the world a better place.”
While a visit to Sherpa House has inspired many patrons to plan an adventure to the Himalayas, Lhakpa says, it also offers a place of belonging for Lhakpa and Dickey.
“It’s our spiritual place where we have our belongings,” Lhakpa says. “These things came from our grandparents, and they say something about us, the Sherpa people, so we have to dedicate ourselves to preserving our culture and food and sharing it with our visitors.”
Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center is open for lunch daily, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and dinner, Monday–Thursday, 5-9:30 p.m. and Friday–Sunday, 5–10 p.m.
To support the Sherpa House’s’ nonprofit, visit hikeforhelp.org.