Utter the words "carne asada" anywhere in Boise city limits and nine times out of 10, someone will blurt out that Campos has the best. (The other guy still gets his south-of-the-border fix from the gringo SoBo restos that dish up gratis chips and salsa.)
But one thing Campos isn't known for is its restaurant.
Cooks who've hit up the butcher counter at Campos know that in addition to fixin's for meals, shoppers can slide one counter over and get a plate of hot tacos. For the rest of you, here's a secret: You've been missing some of the best Mexican food to come out of a brick-and-mortar eatery in the city.
Campos is a simple taqueria, a place that has been called a "taco truck without the truck" by its fans. During lunch, when the place starts to bustle, when Spanish is the first language among most patrons, when the pop music is cranked, it's easy for a diner with wanderlust to pretend Boise is miles away.
Navigating your way to the Campos restaurant, however, is easier than charting a course to a small-town Mexican food stall. Steer through the market's aisles, blow by the bin of bright green cactus and home in on the festive orange-and-yellow dining area, above which dangles the flimsy paper tethers of Dora and Diego pinatas. The taqueria is bordered by a wall of glass-doored refrigerators filled with Jarritos and Coca-Cola, displays of fresh fruits and vegetables, and by the heaps of bright red meat in the butcher's case.
The menu selection is deeper than it looks at first glance. Broad choices include tortas, huaraches, flautas, sopes, burritos, tacos and quesadillas with meat options like asada, cesina, pollo, chorizo, al pastor and tripe. Weekends promise menudo and caldo de camaron.
It's difficult to discern what the house speciality is--everyone has a different opinion. Chatting up one clerk led me to a huarache ($5.99) for two reasons: the promise of a fresh, handmade tortilla and the option to pile on both asada and cesina. The oblong fried masa base, far thicker than the sort of tortilla you'd find holding together a taco, was a soft and hefty foundation for layers of salty refried beans, small folds of asada, heat-tinged cesina, bite-sized globes of sauteed onions, and dustings of cotija and finely chopped cilantro. With the addition of a few stripes of punchy red sauce and the subtler green sauce, a meal that begins big enough for two ends as leftovers that a diner will selfishly not want to share. Our advice? Swing by the meat counter on your way out and pick up some carne asada to share instead.