The two-month-old Tocabe American Indian Eatery (www.tocabe.com) n Denver may put an end to any ignorance or confusion about the foods of the country’s native inhabitants. The West Denver outlet has taken the Chipotle model of fast, fresh, fun food and found a new niche.
Tocabe is the creation of Ben Jacobs, a member of the Osage tribe in northeastern Oklahoma, where his mother still lives. The restaurant’s name means “blue” in the tribal language.
Jacobs, a history major with a keen interest in traditional foods, has built an approachable menu around native ingredients, including Medicine Wheel Nachos using red, blue, white and yellow corn chips, fry bread tacos (stuffed or not) with a choice of beans, meats and vegetables, a daily soup menu that includes sweet corn, green chile and other varieties, fry bread pizzas, and fry bread dessert nuggets. The stuffed fry bread has been compared to a fluffy calzone or empanada.
Don’t let all that fried bread turn you off. Everything’s flash-fried, not deep fried, so it comes out crisp, not sodden with grease. The bread is made fresh throughout the day. Jacobs has said his recipes are authentic Osage with input from his mother and influences from other Western tribes.
Jacobs is hoping to eventually reach agreements to use Native American suppliers for his ingredients, including, rumor has it, a Native American winery. At the moment, Tocabe does not yet have a liquor license. Entrée prices range from $5.95 to $7.25.