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Food Network to Feature Native Eatery Tocabe

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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.”

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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.