I woke up at eight o’clock. I was getting my hair cut at ten, but I had something I wanted to accomplish first. You see, a year or so ago I was driving through Eagle and came across a bright yellow trailer with “El Habanero” emblazoned on the side. There were no hours, menu or any indication of what the trailer was for, but I made a mental note to look them up later…which I promptly forgot. However, I did stumble across that same trailer months later in Boise, set up in the parking lot of Eddy’s Bakery on Five Mile. I was on my way to Pad Thai House for dinner so I didn’t stop, but this time I did remember to look them up. The menu was interesting, and I was interested in checking them out. As happens so often though, circumstances conspired to keep that visit from happening. On this bright Saturday morning, that would finally change. Sort of.
According to their Facebook page, El Habanero opens at 8:00 am, and there are a few breakfast items available. Which is why I was so disappointed when I showed up at 9:30 counting on a breakfast burrito, and found the trailer deserted and locked up tight. I went on to my appointment, and spent 20 minutes in my car reading a book rather than cramming a bunch of chorizo and eggs into my face.
After having my hair tamed a bit and running a couple of other errands, I buzzed back by to find them open. Things continued to get more interesting. Here’s their Facebook menu…
…and here’s the menu that’s actually posted at the trailer…
Long story short, no breakfast options. Also, no enchiladas, sandwiches, hot dogs, tostadas, or menudo. I could deal with this though, because I had a very specific direction in mind with this review. I wanted to try a torta, if that was good then I wanted to return and try a gyro, and if THAT was good I would return a third time and try to convince the cook to build me a bastard hybrid of both. Maybe it would turn out so good that it would become a regular menu item. Maybe he would even name it after me! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this almost four years and there’s not a menu item named after me somewhere. Just in case you were wondering, I’m literally DRIPPING with sarcasm here.
I approached the window and juggled the two torta options in my mind. The Cubano, with three kinds of meat, or the single-meat Guajillo, which is finished by being dipped in a chili sauce. The guy was staring at me so I said that I would like a torta, buying myself a few more seconds of internal debate until he could ask me what kind I wanted. Instead, he told me that he couldn’t make me a torta that day because he was out of bread. It wasn’t even 11:00 am yet, so I asked him if he’d had a run on tortas that morning, and was told that he was out of bread because his distributor wasn’t making it any more. I thought about mentioning that you can usually buy bolillo rolls in the bakery department at Albertson’s, but decided not to bother. I told him I supposed I would try one of his gyros instead, and he told me that he didn’t have those, either.
I blinked at him. He smiled back at me.
Every instinct in my body told me to just turn around and walk away, but I’m a stubborn mofo. I stood my ground and asked him what he DID have. He said they no longer made the gyros or burgers anymore, he only had the Mexican items now (except the tortas, at least for the immediate future). I guess that’s why the prices of the non-Mexican options are whited out, though crossing them off entirely would seem to make more sense. I looked at the white board next to the window where the specials are written.
All things considered, fish tacos seemed rather ambitious for what remained of the menu, so I was compelled by my cursed morbid curiosity to order them. I busied myself by catching up on what passes for my Facebook newsfeed these days until I was called back to pick up my food. I would have to come back again, the proprietor said, to try one of the tortas once the bread situation was resolved. I finally asked him why he didn’t just start buying from any of the numerous places that make the rolls that everyone else in town uses. “I use ciabatta rolls,” he said.
I blinked at him again. He continued to smile back at me.
He went on to explain that he doesn’t like any of the traditional breads used for tortas. And of course, he added, that means that his tortas aren’t those big ones like everyone else serves. He said this like it was a good thing. I looked back at the menu to verify that he was still charging as much as everyone else does for those big ones, then I wished him good day and headed back to my car.
I’ll say this for the fish tacos: they don’t skimp on the toppings. The cabbage was crisp, the avocado was good, the pico de gallo had big chunks of ripe, red tomatoes. And of course there were three kinds of cheese, the beloved MexAmerican cheddar/jack combo as well as some crumbly Mexican cheese. The fish itself was battered, deep-fried, a little oily, and a little overdone in spots.
I can’t help but wonder if it’s a good or a bad thing that I didn’t hit them up last year when they had all of those other options. Suffice it to say that I have no plans to return at this point.
Food: Not bad. Not great, either.
Value: Pretty standard.
Service: Very friendly, even in the face of adversity.
Atmosphere: They’re in a parking lot surrounded by road construction, I suggest taking your food to go rather than pulling up a piece of curb and doing the al fresco thing.
Final Grade: C