‘Tocabe’ brings its Native American cuisine to the road

In 2008, Ben Jacobs opened Tocabe, which would be distinct in that it would be the only American Indian owned and operated restaurant in Denver - now there’s a truck

As described on the Tocabe website, Tocabe is a restaurant “setting in a clean, warm, open space with connections to American Indian cultural elements, infused with a contemporary atmosphere.”

The site also says Tocabe takes it origin from Grayhorse: An American Indian Eatery, established in downtown Denver in 1989 by the Jacobs family. The Jacobs are tribal members of the Osage Nation. Tocabe uses some of the same recipes from Grayhorse and has expanded on Osage family recipes to create a new and unique take on American Indian cuisine. Tocabe is owned by Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs.

And now a big purple Tocabe food truck

Video transcript

Voiceover: Where do you go in the Mile-high city and need some home cooking? Tocabe. After nearly a decade of pioneering Native American cuisine, Tocabe takes its show on the road.

Ben Jacobs, Tocabe Co-Owner: So we have had our restaurants for almost 11 years now, this December. Two brick and mortars and the food truck now. The whole concept originated with my parents, who had a restaurant called "Grey Horse American Indian Eatery." So we always say they were the prototype for what we do today. Most people do food trucks first, then brick and mortars after, but we had the two brick and mortars, then we got the food truck.

Most of that was because we were doing a lot of on-site cooking, lots of event cooking and for years we piled equipment and coolers into a van. Like most people do, finally we had enough events and enough reasoning that the food truck became a viable option for us. So there you go, now we are about 3yrs into the food truck!

Voiceover: The lines form when Tocabe is near, providing that taste of home in the heart of the big city.

Rod Velarde. Jicarilla Artist: The breakfast/lunch of champions. A Navajo or Indian taco and a coca-cola.

Tocabe customer: I got the frybread, I had a 2nd piece but I ate it already.

Tocabe customer: I got the fancy Indian taco and it was great.

Tocabe customer: I hear a rumor there is a secret off the menu vegetarian option with like double the beans green chile and hominy salsa and I've been thinking about it since this morning.

Ben Jacobs: I would describe our food as super flavorful, approachable for the general public, Super flavorful and well rounded, are kinda those buzz words. For us, the food is super meaningful, contemporary. It's pushing for progression, but remaining in its presence of where it comes from, what the story is, what the true recipes come from and the stories of the people is what is most important about our food.

It's huge for us, not only from the Native food standpoint, Culinary standpoint and just the restaurant community, it is important for us to continue to drive and tell the stories of our food and people mostly in a community, so you wanna make sure what you do is driven by where you come from, and now that food is hip and cool and interesting, we want to make sure our food is from our voice. That is incredibly important for us to be doing what we are doing, especially in Denver, a major metropolitan city and Denver, especially as a relocation city. We have a huge Native population for an urban center, we have people from the plains regions and beyond. So for us to have a space that can be shared communally for identity sharing, communication, and just food and friendship. That is incredibly important to us to have the support of the community for this long and to have built many many friendships through this process here and beyond. We couldn't be more grateful for the opportunities that have been given over the last 11 years.

Voiceover: So next time you're in Denver stop in and see the fine people of Tocabe at either of their two brick and mortar establishments or if you are lucky you can find the Tocabe truck at an event near you or parked downtown.

Eating Indian tacos and reporting on behalf of Indian Country Today, I'm Jonathan Sims.

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David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead

"‘Tocabe’ brings its Native American cuisine to the road" First they will need to put some air in the tires of their food purple truck...