Condensed by Native Village
Colorado: Ben Jacobs and Matt Chandra are co-owners of Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery. Located in Denver, Tocabe focuses on health as well as taste to please its growing clientele.
“That fry bread is the bomb,” said Guy Fieri, of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” He visited Tocabe when featuring Native American foods for his TV show.
Fieri knew little about Native foods, but he filled the knowledge gap with zest. He proclaimed Jacobs’ blueberry barbeque sauce “to die for” and said the sauce, paired with sage-rubbed bison ribs, revealed “huge, huge flavor.”
He praised the corn salsa with cranberries, the hominy salsa, the marinated, grilled chicken and other Tocabe offerings.
Jacobs, a member of the Osage Tribe, told Fieri that coming together and feasting is a Native pastime. This tradition is celebrated in Tocabe’s menu. Choices range from green chile through bison ribs, Medicine Wheel nachos, Little Osage pizza, and the ever-present fry bread—in American Indian tacos and stuffed tacos or as a dessert when topped with honey, cinnamon or powdered sugar.
Tocabe's offers a healthier version of traditional frybread. The dough is fried for 20 - 30 seconds in canola/corn oil instead of four minutes in lard. Each piece absorbs less than one tablespoon of oil. It is flavorful, comparatively healthy “and it still comes out fluffy,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs’ emphasis on fry bread freshness is equaled by other Tocabe offerings. Lettuce, cheese, and salsa ingredients like tomatoes and onions are purchased locally and prepared on the spot. Beans arrive dry and are soaked and cooked at the restaurant. Dry corn for corn soup does come from a distant source—Pennsylvania—in 50-pound boxes.
Fresh chicken, locally grown, and beef are marinated or dry-rubbed on the spot. A local business supplier provides bison in units of 250 pounds of chuck meat and 12 cases of ribs.
“People think—or at least used to think—that Native cuisine is unhealthy, but we make it healthy,” Jacobs said.
The eatery traces its heritage back to his parent's food court establishment and to his Osage heritage. “Tocabe,” is derived from the Osage word for “blue.”
Three hands adorning the walls symbolize the three villages of the Osage Nation: Pawhuska, Hominy, and Greyhorse. Each hand is extended in friendship. Other Native influences are seen in textured wall covering reminiscent of prairie grass, cloud-like ceiling fixtures, and the use of sage green.
Institute has included Tocabe in its
Development.” Watch it on YouTube.