Joe Vostrejs knows fry bread
Long after my review of Tocabe was safely in the can, I was still dreaming about fry bread. I was also eating fry bread -- having made at least three post-review visits to Tocabe's home at 44th and Lowell just to "check my facts."
One that almost slipped by me? That one of the fellas responsible for putting Tocabe on the map is Joe Vostrejs -- a man generally associated with the goings-on around Larimer Square, but also a developer of other addresses around town. And Joe really knows his fry bread. How? Because he lives close by the Jacobs (the founders of Tocabe) and every once in a while, the family would cook up a little fry bread and invite Joe over for a snack.
Joe recognized that the Jacobs family had something with their fry bread. And he was confident enough that others would like it just as much as he did that he became a partner in their business -- even going so far as to put Tocabe into one of his properties, at 3536 West 44th Avenue.
"I didn't just put them in my building because I owned it," Vostrejos says. He put them in his building because he really believed that the neighborhood would cotton to their particular take on Native American cuisine.
That building happened to be available because, for the longest time, no one else wanted it. The problem? Every time Vostrejs brought a prospective buyer through, said buyer would ask him, "What's that dive across the street? Do you get a lot of trouble from that place?"
The dive in question: Billy's Inn. And to its credit, Billy's really had become quite a dive toward the end, before it finally closed after the smoking ban took effect.(For a slidehow of regulars who posted their photos on the wall over the decades, click here.) After a while, Vostrejs told me, getting the same question over and over again got annoying, so he did what any reasonable man would do.
He bought Billy's Inn.
And renovated it into a great neighborhood spot. Today, Billy's Inn is a place to catch an order of fish tacos -- not something from your bar stool that will require a full course of penicillin to beat. And Vostrejs' formerly unleasable space across the street is home to the first Tocabe -- the only place in town where a person with a serious hunger can score some cinnamon-topped fry bread and Indian tacos.
Vostrejs told me that owners Ben and Tom Jacobs have already been getting customers coming in from as far away as Boulder, Highlands Ranch and the mountains just to get a fix. And he's hoping it won't be too long before they all start looking for additional locations.
Seeing as he and the Jacobses currently have the market cornered on fry bread in this town, I think it would be foolish of them to wait too long. And if they're looking for a location they can turn around fast, I'd like to mention that my garage is still available, and I'd be willing to give it up for nothing more than all the fry bread I can eat, every day for a year.
After that, we can re-negotiate.
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