Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tocabe (8.25)

Many of you know I am a Chipotle FAN. So much so that I made sure my first job out of the pen was with the burrito giant. There's something about the simplicity of what Chipotle does. It is a well-oiled machine that pumps out personalized dishes faster than you can throw your credit card over the counter.  And we all have our routine there, you know your fancy.

You'd have to be blind not to notice that a number of other restaurants have entered the land of  stainless steel inserts, spoons and ladles. Why? Because it's the efficiency and personalization of an experience that keeps people coming back.  But case in point: your food still has to be delicious.

So what do you get when you mix this sub-genre with authentic (I mean authentic) American cuisine?  You get Tocabe, and what a brain child it is.  I argue that Tocabe is by far my recent favorite from this category of casual dining.  Jess and I ventured up to the Highland's one Friday night as our inner fry taco began homing in on us. As we walked in, we encountered a decor of contrasted dark and light woods, clay red seat cushions, smooth lighting and unique modern native art. Also, a flat screen television with footage of (you guessed it) Native American dancing boasts about in the dining room.

We ventured up to the prep line and waited our turn. I couldn't help but be enamored by fry-bread after fry-bread flying fresh out of the kitchen window in front of me. I also couldn't help but salivate.  As I'm sitting there snapping photos and getting an odd look or two, we were humbly greeted by the line cook.  After determining that this was in fact our first time (apparently I looked like a 5 year old at Disneyland) he proceeded to introduce us to what they do and how they do it and offered us samples of each meat so we could make a decision instead of just guessing. I always love a good service experience. 

The menu is relatively simple, with 4 meat options: ground beef or bison, shredded bison, and grilled chicken. You then have your choice of a fry bread taco, stuffed fry bread (think calzone), salad, nachos, or soup. 

On this certain night, I opted for the chicken while Jess went with the traditional fry taco option of ground beef. I just couldn't pass up the cumin-rich curry-like sauce that the chicken was marinated and simmered in.  It meshed amazingly well with the smoky grilled flavor of the chicken itself. Built on top of this you have lettuce, cheese, a variety of salsas (anything from green chili to hominy), and definitely don't skip out on the sour cream and adobo drizzle at the end.

Silly me- I actually tried to eat it like a taco.  With so much on top of the fluffy fry bread, your old buddies knife and fork (made of corn at that) get their shot at this one. But either way, I enjoyed that they build the taco in layers because you get a little of everything in each bite. If you opt for variety on your toppings you get a bunch of taste sensations all at once; from sweet to salty, sour and spicy.

So next time you're up around 44th and Lowell, stop in to Tocabe for one of these unique dishes. I'm sure your stomach won't be disappointed.

They also have beer on tap. Can't go wrong with that. 

Dish it up. 

Food: 8.25
Service: 9.0
Ambience: 8.0

Tocabe on Urbanspoon

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