We are wrapping up taco and burrito week (get it?). I kicked off this week with a rundown of downtown Boise’s sorry burrito situation. But you may recall that the taco situation was better…
…much, much better.
This week I sampled the fare at two of Boise’s hot new taco spots. Calle 75 and The Funky Taco have strikingly similar stories: beloved food truck turned brick and mortar establishment. Both are focused on honoring their street food past and creating eyebrow-raising taco innovations. Their culinary goals are so similar that I’m surprised they opened just a few blocks apart. They will have to pull from the same taco loving demographic; I hope the population is large enough for both to flourish.
Because these are good tacos.
But I’m not here to hand out participation awards. Here at Eating With Henry we pursue excellence and we choose winners. So where do you go when you have $11.73 in your pocket (remember, these are upscale) and a hankering for tacos?
My answer is provided in 6 distinct categories:
CATEGORY 1: VIBE AND MINUTIA
Funky is truly a beautiful space. The entire front of the restaurant opens up, which is absolutely lovely on a warm spring day. They nail the details, down to chairs that perfectly hug your love handles and encourage smooth digestion. Funky is strictly an order behind the counter and find your seat affair. An upstairs stage provides an unconventional venue for live music, which also figures prominently into the Funky experience.
Calle isn’t as swanky as Funky, but it’s a nice place to eat a meal, and it provides the classic sit down experience.
CATEGORY 2: MENU AND PRICE
The Calle menu is more complete. It offers four burritos, tortas, appetizers, and desserts. Calle also gets a slight edge on price – it costs $8 for two tacos, $11 for three. More importantly, you can freely mix and match tacos.
Funky charges $10-11 for two tacos, and you are required to order two of the same type, but they are notably bigger. As I’ve griped before, Funky only offers one burrito, and it is only available sporadically.
CATEGORY 3: MEAT
A taco only goes as far as its meat. Luckily, both establishments deliver. Funky’s chicken is better; the meat is grilled to the point of tenderness and swaddled in a mild but pleasant red sauce.
Calle’s rather plain chicken doesn’t demonstrate the same attention to detail and relies more on surrounding ingredients to pick up the slack. I wasn’t able to try Funky’s beef offering—a tasty pile of shredded brisket, but Calle’s Carne Asada is classically executed and the grease is grunt worthy (and that’s a good thing).
CATEGORY 4: SALSAS AND SAUCES
Funky disappointed slightly here. The salsa they served with chips was bright, pleasant and unremarkable. The sauce on the meat was good but too mild. The green sauce on the table tasted like Tabasco, and their mango habanero sauce didn’t improve on a bottle of Melinda’s. On the whole, everything was just too mild.
Calle stomps all over Funky in this department. Their salsas are fiery and flavorful. The sauce on the gringa style taco was a creamy wonder – one part mayo, one part habanero, one part citrus. They even handed my friends and I a sauce made from ground nuts and arbol. Incredible.
CATEGORY 5: TORTILLAS
Funky makes delicious homemade flour tortillas. If you want corn, they can do that, but you’ll be settling for store-bought. This is my biggest qualm with the Funky experience – the combination of flour tortilla and punch-less sauces threaten to undermine their meat and toppings.
Calle makes their own tortillas too–corn tortillas. They are better than flour and deliciously thick. I consider both of these tacos strengthened by their homemade enclosures, but Calle is on another level.
CATEGORY 6: THE FIXINS
Funky serves Thai tacos with curry and chicken skin, tacos stuffed with fried cauliflower, and nachos slathered in unconventional queso and pickled red onions. Funky also gets extra points for the vegetation atop their chicken taco, which includes radishes and scrumptious fresh greens.
Calle’s gringa style tacos are blanketed in an unprecedented layer of grilled cheese, and the menu adventures to places as wild as an octopus and chorizo taco. Oh, baby.
SO WHO WINS?
The upscale taco market is in good hands. But two restaurants entered the octagon today, and only one may leave.
In order to make a decision, I considered a hypothetical: if one of these establishments left town tomorrow, which one would I mourn more deeply? And right now, by the slightest of margins, the answer is Calle 75.
But I implore you to dash downtown and decide for yourself.
Banner photo: Jesse Maldonado