Each morning at Tocabe, someone has the laborious task of pulling a massive pan filled with 20 to 25 pounds of bison out of the oven and shredding it.
"It’s the last thing we do each night and the first thing we do in the morning," explained chef-owner Ben Jacobs. "It goes in between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and sits in there for more than 12 hours."
After stripping the meat off the bone, the back-of-the-house team uses the sauce in several other dishes, including the chili beans, on salads, nachos, in bowls and, of course, on the fancy, the shredded bison taco.
This process of slow cooking is what Jacobs grew up watching:
"I used to go to my aunt’s house in Oklahoma during the summers. We would have meat cooking over an open flame, on top of bricks, all day long. I wanted to try to recreate that process commercially; somehow replicate it in the restaurant."
Hence the overnight bison.
At their Greenwood Village location, Tocabe – the counter-serve Native American eatery with build-your-own tacos – gets even closer to the real deal by cooking in cast iron skillets.
Tocabe is classified as a fast-casual restaurant, but it’s really neither fast nor casual.
"Even though we get food quickly to people once they are in the door, we put a lot of effort into it," said Jacobs.
Making nearly everything on the menu from scratch, using ingredients from tribal communities all over the country. This has taken incredible amounts of time, research and effort to build solid relationships.
The fancy taco is a representation of what they do best: the base is Indian fry bread, topped with shredded bison and chili beans, fresh tomato and hominy salsas, sour cream and chipotle sauce.
"It’s our most popular dish by far. We sell 40-50 each day," said Jacobs.
"I think people like it because there just aren’t many places you can eat bison that isn’t in a burger. It’s different because it’s shredded, and then the toppings all really build on one another. There isn’t one overbearing flavor – you can really taste each item in the dish."
Both brick and mortar locations – one in North Denver and the other in Greenwood Village – serve the fancy, and are open daily for lunch and dinner. If you’re on the move, follow Tocabe’s social media to see where their food truck will be popping up throughout the warmer months.