I received an invitation a few weeks ago to a new local restaurant, Tocabe, an American Indian Eatery. While there is a location near Denver that was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, this new space in Greenwood Village, CO was located near my old home, only a half hour drive from where I live now so I arranged to meet some blogging pals and make it an adventure. So glad I did. Both locations are owned by Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs, tribal members of the Osage Nation from Oklahoma and we were fortunate to have Ben’s brother Jon chat with us during lunch. Jon was a wealth of information not just about their family journey but also shared with us some history of their tribe and how important it is that what they do both honors and inspires other tribal members.
Surprisingly, while restaurants of every ethnicity imaginable dot the American landscape, finding one devoted to American Indian foods is a rarity. I’m hoping that will change; this was such a fantastic experience. The restaurant is defined as ‘fast casual’ but still I had no idea what to expect before getting there. Everyone in our party was impressed with the clean, contemporary feel that included subtle touches that speak of the owners heritage; some as simple yet meaningful as framed boxes on the main wall that holds various beans that would be standard diet fare in their tribe. The menu has its roots in the Osage Indian tribe and while some might think the food closely related to Mexican cuisine; we found it completely unique. While both may have dishes called ‘tacos’ we found the Indian tacos a unique and delicious surprise and most decidedly not something one would find at a Mexican restaurant.
In addition to the tacos (made with either beef or bison) they serve Indian Nachos, Bison Ribs and this Green Chile Stew along with Indian Frybread. We had a tasting of all of their sauces even the hotsy totsy one (yes, hot but still such great flavor). There were four in my party and our meal was spent with a full mouth with the occasional moment to declare, again, ‘Wow this is good!’ Dessert? As much as we loved everything we tried, I do believe the simple dessert Jon gave us held our hearts. Indian Fry Bread Nuggets were dusted with powdered sugar and served with this luscious berry sauce. So very simple and yet a great compliment to our lunch; cooling down the heat a bit with something so delightfully sweet. My friend Holly of the blog A Baker’s House decided to recreate the Wojapi, an American Indian Berry Sauce; it’s next on my agenda. Holly kindly loaned me her beautiful photo above; but even better, if you scoot over to her site you can get the recipe too. I worry about making fry bread; it’s so addictive I fear someone would have to pull me through the door if I started making it on a regular basis!
We each chose from the menu for our lunch but Jon brought several samples of options we hadn’t ordered to our table. I loved everything but I knew even then that I would HAVE to make this Green Chile Stew if the Broncos made it to the Super Bowl. I read that people outside of Denver mistakenly think a Denver Omelet is our iconic namesake. Not to anyone in Denver! We like our foods spicy and love those green chiles (you should see the stands dotted all over the city during Hatch Chile time) so if looking for a dish that would be akin to a Denver specialty to serve at a Super Bowl party I think this is about as good as it gets. More standard fare found throughout Denver would be made with pork as is typical with the Mexican inspired versions, but this recipe uses ground beef and includes potatoes and corn from the Osage tribe traditions. I’m betting bison would be terrific too.
It is spicy; if you want a milder version you might consider adding all mild green chile sauce and then upping the heat to your liking with the hotter version. Remember, I’m a Midwest girl who grew to love Denver’s cuisine so when I say spicy I don’t mean mouth on fire spicy but certainly a nice warm tingle.
If you’re local, I hope you’ll try Tocabe for yourself; I just know you will not be disappointed. If you’re not local, well then three things:
- Make this delicious green chile stew for the big game.
- Root for my Broncos while you’re eating it OK? Thanks!
- GO BRONCOS!