Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tocabe - An American Indian Eatery

8181 E. Arapahoe, Greenwood Village, CO

As I was researching places to eat when I briefly passed through Denver, Tocabe was the second place I found and it marked the end of my search.  I only expected to have at most two meals in Denver and probably only one.  I never got to go to Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs, the first place I found, so  I never got to taste the Alaskan Reindeer Dog or the Jack-A-Lope dog, said to be mythically delicious.

As alluring as those dogs sounded, the Bison Ribs and Fry Bread at Tocabe were calling my name more insistently.  I chose a hotel right there in Greenwood Village for my overnight stay, just so I'd be close by.

When I was a kid my family traveled across the southwest several times on the way to visit relatives up and down the west coast.  We stopped at Navaho Curio shops but never experienced even Fry Bread (actually, mostly we cooked our own food on a Coleman camp stove as we camped out often.  Finding reliable roadside eats was a lot harder when I was a kid than it is now).  So eating American Indian food at Tocabe was a first for me.

I expected hulking ribs but they were not large; there was a lot of meat on them.  (There's a better picture on the website).  They are apparently braised and then finished on a grill.  Bison is a very lean meat, of course, and the ribs were very well done but not to the falling-off-the-bone stage.  The seasonal berry (blueberry) barbecue sauce that accompanied the ribs helped, but I missed the juicy fat of pork or beef ribs.  I had no trouble finishing all three ribs I was served and the barbecue sauce was also good for dipping the Fry Bread.

As for fried bread - but of course.  Fry Bread makes every thing better.

For a side I went with their rice.  It's not listed on the online menu and I can't remember if it was called Indian Wild Rice or just Wild Rice on the menu board.  It's a black rice with kernel corn, diced red onion and a berry or grape for sweetness.  It wasn't tart enough for cranberry but I couldn't decide if it was a kind of cherry or red grape.  But it was delicious.  According to this article they use Red Lakes Nation rice from Minnesota.  That article and this one reveal more of their ingredient sources, too.

The eatery has been compared to Chipotle.  Never having been inside a Chipotle I'm not positive what the comparison is but I think it has mostly to do with the service line, where you pick all the toppings you want on your Indian Tacos.  They have 2 locations and a mobile unit now.  If there is to be another Denver chain make it to Houston, I hope it's this one.


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