June 30, 2009

Los Betos (Review)

I wasn't sure if I should review Los Betos. It is, after all, part of a chain of restaurants. But this was the first time since I started working on this blog (other than some Papa Murphy's pizza the wife brought home) that I had the opportunity to eat out, and I was itching to review something. That, coupled with the fact that it's not exactly a franchise giant (and after all, Boise's own beloved Flying Pie has two stores, which technically means that it's a chain as well) was enough to make it official. The small group of Mexican fast food joints based out of somewhere in Utah would be my first.



When the first Boise Los Betos opened, it changed my whole dining world. That may sound like hyperbole, but it's true. For while it's technically fast food, with garbled communication through a speaker and giant menu boards with pictures of food, the stuff that comes out of the kitchen resembles, well, real food. The sort of stuff that you get at a sit-down Mexican restaurant.

More to the point, it's open 24 hours a day, even most holidays. In a bigger city, that probably doesn't mean as much. I'm jealous of places that have 24 hour Chinese food-I think I'd even approve a proposition that would allow such a place to be constructed in a city park or wildlife habitat. In Boise it's slim pickings. Both Burger King and Jack in the Box have their windows open all night, but there's only so much over-proccessed crap you can eat before you crave something more. There's a Dennys, but it's out by the airport. That's it. So when I heard that an all night taqueria was going to open in an old photography shop, I had to check it out. And I've been checking it out ever since.

We arrived last Sunday at the State street location in need of a quick dinner that we could eat in the middle of our errands. The wife went for one of our standard options, the five rolled tacos, but I decided that it would only be proper now that I was considering myself a restaurant reviewer to try something I'd never had before. I thought about ordering the menudo (which they serve as a special on weekends) in response to my own blog from last week, but quickly decided that my first time trying an animal's intestines should probaby be somewhere other than a fast food restaurant, no matter how good their other food is. I settled on Lomitos Argentinos, mainly because the name didn't tell me anything about it. It was under the section of the menu labeled "Tortas", so I knew it was a sandwich of some kind, but that was about it. We had an average length wait, the kind that says made fresh and hustling, and headed home with our prize.

Before I opened my mystery meal, I decided to sample the wife's tacos. Research, I told her, despite having eaten this menu item many times before. Shredded beef is rolled in corn tortillas, which are fried and topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, and guacamole. When done right (as it was this time) the cheese melts to the hot oil, but the lettuce and guacamole manage to keep a cool freshness to them. Dipped in the fairly warm but not painful house red sauce, this simple food is always satisfying.

Speaking of hot sauce, one of the dissapointments of going through the drive through is not getting to take my time working over their condiment bar. In addition to the red hot sauce, which is the spiciest, there is a milder green sauce (still hotter than the stuff they call spicy at Taco Bell or other Americanized Mexican places), and a third sauce which seems to be a mix of said green sauce and guacamole. In addition, the options include fresh limes, pickled jalepenos, and pickled radishes, which make an excellent snack while you wait for your food.

The Lomitos Argentinos turned out not only to be a sandwich, but a gigantic one. The large slices of bread were grilled first, then topped with a large sheet of carne asada, ham, chopped bacon, fried eggs, lettuce, guacamole, cheese, and sliced tomatoes. After a bite to confirm that it was indeed as wonderful as it looked, I made a mental note to come back and reorder this beast the next time I'm sporting a hangover. My only real complaint is that the tomatoes were obviously placed on the sandwich early in the construction process, and they were warm and mushy. That gripe aside, the rest of it was perfect. The bacon was crisp, the egg was fried until the middle was fluffy and the edges had those little buttery crisps you get on a fully fried egg, and the carne asada's strong flavors stood out even against so many other tasty ingredients.

Los Betos has rarely let me down, whether I order the wonderful carne asada burrito or the fish tacos, the carnitas or my new favorite, the Lomitos Argentinos. My only regret as I finished, my belly stuffed but my mouth still wanting, is that I hadn't ordered a horchata to wash away the flavor and free my mind.


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