Decorative three hands on wall at Tocabe in Denver. The hands symbolize both the three villages of the Osage Nation and the extended hand of friendship. (Photo by Carol Berry)

Food Network to Feature Native Eatery Tocabe

Carol Berry

An American Indian fast-casual restaurant in Denver has found its time in the limelight after a two-year trajectory toward recognition.

Tocabe, a name derived from the Osage word for “blue,” will be featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” at 7 p. m. Mountain Standard Time on September 12.

Large illuminated hands grace the walls of the eatery located in a gentrifying area of northwest Denver, and symbolize both the three villages of the Osage Nation—the tribal affiliation of Tocabe’s co-owner, Ben Jacobs—and the extended hand of friendship.

“I think it’s such a big moment for such a small establishment," Jacobs told Indian Country Today Media Network. “It’s pretty incredible for us.”

His fry bread, from his Native grandmother’s recipe, is cooked in a blend of corn and canola oils, so it has zero trans fats and is a relatively healthy alternative to the familiar lard-laden confection omnipresent at pow wows and other events throughout Indian country.

The menu at “Tocabe: An American Indian Eatery” also includes Indian tacos that feature not only ground beef, but also a choice of buffalo, chicken breast, or shredded beef and several salsas, among them a type featuring hominy. No traditional meal—at least Plains-style—would be complete without wojapi, a thick berry dish, so it is offered as well. Another popular menu item is a rich, satisfying  corn soup.

Jacobs, whose parents once operated a Native-oriented, food court eatery in downtown Denver, gives free ad space to local American Indian events and serves food at affairs that have ranged from federal/Native conferences and indigenous film festivals to academic venues.

Before opening Tocabe, Jacobs researched Native fast-casual spots and found only about 20 nationwide, some of which may have closed, he said.

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