If you live near Ustick and Five Mile roads, the question, "Where can I get a decent chile relleno?" may be answered at Cinco de Mayo, a pink stucco stand-alone restaurant perched on the corner of a newish housing development.
On a Tuesday night, a solicitous server brought over a basket of homemade tortilla chips--slightly charred on the edges--and two small dishes, one of chunky red salsa and the other of bland refried beans, and explained that the restaurant's subtitle "La Casa del Chile Relleno" was well earned. "We have the best in town, senorita."
The chile relleno ($9.95) arrived ("The plate is hot, senorita. Be careful.") exactly as described on the menu. Stuffed with jack cheese, the large green chile had a light batter coating and was topped with a drizzle of sour cream sauce. It was plated with more of the same refried beans and a serving of dry Spanish rice with peas and diced carrots. The tangy jack oozed through the fleshy chile, and while flavorful, it would have been even better with another drizzle or three of sour cream sauce. I pushed aside the Spanish rice to find a wee pile of chopped tomato, onion and cilantro. A forkful of that with each bite offered a bright welcome crunch to the soft chile and cheese.
With the green walls, sombrero decorations, loud Spanish-language music playing overhead, long tables, steady supply of complimentary chips and salsa, a huge menu with flaming dishes that arrive tableside and Corona specials in the separate bar, Cinco de Mayo seems the place to appease a large family with differing tastes. Or to have lunch with colleagues.
Drawn back by a big vinyl banner out front announcing $4.95 lunch specials, I invited five workmates to join me for a midday repast. We were greeted by a cheerful host and his jubilant if not surprising series of "Hola! Hello! Merry Christmas!" We dug into more baskets of tortilla chips as I ordered that day's special: tacos a la plancha "authentically grilled," topped with cotija cheese and red sauce. My lunchmates ordered a combination of combinations including enchiladas with verde sauce and chicken mole. Our new guy smartly asked if he could substitute whole beans for refried and I followed suit.
The light red sauce was baked into the thick, delicious homemade tortillas folded around the chicken, but the cotija cheese looked like a sprinkling of powdered sugar and had little impact on the dish; another giant spoonful would have taken the tacos to a new level. I pushed the accompanying orange rice aside and devoured the dish of well-salted beans, thanking the new guy for thinking of that.
Take away the Spanish rice, substitute the beans, add more cotija cheese, sour cream sauce and cilantro and keep the prices reasonable, and even people on the other side of town might consider Cinco de Mayo an answer for, "Where can I get a decent chile relleno?"
--Amy Atkins has added cotija cheese to her list of favorite toppings.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Cinco de Mayo.