For most Americans learning about Native American culture and history comes in the form of a eulogy. We go to class and listen to lectures about the fallen brave, the murder of millions and the disturbingly grave injustices. We visit museums and the sites of massacres, look at countless photos of Indians gazing back with stoic and haunting eyes and for the first time we feel a deep sense of shame for our past. Finally schools have been trained to teach the deaths of past Natives Americans and the injustices that occurred in the name of our country. However when this eulogy is taught by itself it also silences current and future generations because it neglects to celebrate what is left of their heritage . Rather we know Indians as ghosts and still lifes kept in museums and history books instead of real people living today. But despite our flawed conception there still are many native communities that celebrate their heritage in our society. It might be harder to find but it only makes it more precious and important to seek out. So here are a couple ways to experience Native American culture in Denver.
Eat: Within this desert of museums and memorials there is one place in Denver where you can actually experience Native American culture as it is today. Tocabe is that green leaf among the sand for the Native community in Denver. But if you’ve walked or driven by you might not even notice how special this place is. That probably is because on first appearance this fast casual eatery looks a little like your neighborhood Chipotle or Qdoba. It even has similar tables, menus and raw metal decorations. But unlike Chipotle or Qdoba, Tocabe is literally one of a kind. Because not only is this their only location but it is the only Native American restaurant in Denver (that I or Google knows about). Luckily their food does not disappoint. Priding themselves off of their Osage influenced menu, this place offers anything from a taco served on a sweet fried bread to a wonderful hominy and green chili soup. I personally would recommend their massive bison ribs that are served with a blackberry barbecue sauce. Yes blackberry, and it was so delicious and unique that I can see why this place is so successful. You must visit this place the next time you are in the Highlands/ North West Denver area because it is delicious, unique and an experience all on its own. This place definitely deserves your business.
Kachina- Although not Native American, this Southwestern restaurant is indirectly influenced by the flavors and culture of the American Indian. Using only local foods, Chef Patrick Harnett explained to me that he cooks “using indigenous ingredients” but executes them with “French technique”. You can definitely taste this unique approach in every single dish he puts on his tables, making this place one of
my favorite new restaurants in Denver. You must get his tamales made with a special mushrooms from Colorado own Hazel Dell Farms and the best tasting blue cheese sauce I have ever had. The fact he can turn such a staple food into one of the most unique things I have ever eaten is a testament to this place and Chef Harnett skill. It is definitely worth a trip- or two- up to Westminster.
Do- the place you must go for any Denver American Indian event is the Denver Indian center. Throughout the year they host powwows and cultural events like Farm Stand Days where Sprout City Farms sell many of the ingredients you would need to create a Native American meal. Their next powwow is tomorrow October 27th and it will be Halloween themed with a masquerade as well. Check their website out for more events throughout the year because they hold a new event almost every week.
Make: Tocabe makes a wonderful Hominy Salsa and luckily Diners Drive-ins and Dive’s recorded how to make it! Here it is as follows:
Osage Hominy Salsa
2 cups hominy, drained and rinsed
½ red onion, finely diced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Serrano chile, seeds removed and finely minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
freshly ground pepper
Directions Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate