I was born into a German family and grew up dining regularly on sauerkraut and sausages, snacking on cold cuts and sliced cheeses, and was unfazed when dinnertime vegetables were often served cooked or from a can. When I was just one week away from my 19th birthday, I married into a Mexican family, creating a union that has endured for more than two decades. In addition to the marital union, I also forged a culinary union with the fresh and wholesome flavors of Mexican cooking. It didn't take long for this tender young gringa to realize that what my in-laws ate at home was much different than the food one gets from your average Mexican restaurant. Not only does the Hernandez family make tamales from scratch at Christmastime, but freshly made salsa, guacamole, corn tortillas and chiles rellenos are regular treats throughout the year, too. To this day I am grateful for the introduction to the fresh flavors of authentic Mexican cooking that I received before I could legally drink beer.
After my husband and I were married, but before we had children, we used to meet with friends nearly every Sunday afternoon at Mission Burrito in West Hills, Calif. We'd start by calling friends mid-morning. "We're going on a Mission," we'd breathe cryptically into the phone. "Are you in?" Over combination plates and cold beers, we'd talk politics and solve the world's problems. There's a place in Boise where the food reminds me of Mission Burrito. Los Betos is that place. Darn it, they don't serve beer. But their food hits that consistently good blend of gringo-style and authentico Mexican fare that I became familiar with at the Mission. Look past the American-sized tacos ($1.80-$2.25) and standard refried beans and rice that garnish every combination plate ($6.25-$8.75), and you'll find a machaca breakfast burrito ($2.75) filled with shredded beef, scrambled eggs, onions and bell peppers. There's the chile rellenos plate ($7) made properly with chiles that are stuffed with cheese, carefully hand-battered and deep fried until light and crispy outside and oozing inside—just the way my mother-in-law taught me to make them. Big bowls of hot menudo ($5.75), a hearty hangover remedy, are served Saturday and Sunday. And a small assortment of cooked meats, like pollo, carnitas, carne asada and adobada served in tacos and burritos hit the spot every time. We are regulars at the Los Betos on State Street because it's closer to mi casa than the original store on Fairview or the newer place in Nampa. Although the two Boise locations differ in the way they look—Fairview used to be a drive-through one-hour photo shop, State Street was a hand-me-down drive-through restaurant—when it comes to the food, you can barely tell them apart. Besides serving a respectable fish taco ($2.25), they also have beverages ($1.49-1.99) like pina, mango, rice-based horchata and (my favorite) tamarindo.
Whenever we visit the local Los Betos our order usually looks something like this: one machaca breakfast burrito, two carne asada tacos ($2.25 each) and one cheese quesadilla ($2.75) with extra red chile sauce on the side, please. During the visit to the Fairview store for this review, my husband and I ordered a carnitas taco ($2.25) and a No. 8 combo plate of two carne asada tacos with rice and beans. While we waited, I headed over to the self-serve condiment bar and placed marinated carrot slices and jalapenos into a tiny to-go cup and selected a few tiny lime wedges to squeeze over the tacos. A couple of other condiments are available, like green chile, red chile, thinned out guacamole and radishes. Based on the crowd we regularly observe eating at one of our favorite Mexican joints in Boise, the food at Los Betos appeals to people of all sizes, shapes and colors. I guarantee I'll return again and again.
—Jennifer Hernandez once ordered a "polo" burrito. Once.