My initial thought re: vegetarian tacos was akin to the sentiments the cattle rustlers had in that commercial about the spicy hot sauce made ... in New York City?! (Read: incredulous outrage!)
But my coworker and taco trial cohort Nicole Foy (Canyon County and Hispanic affairs reporter) and I had made a promise to our vegetarian friends in the newsroom that we would one day have a vegetarian edition. And since we'd sort of run out of the meat fillings and even dabbled in a couple of exotic ones (beef tongue and pig skin), we couldn't hem and haw our way around it anymore. Plus, a promise is a promise.
So, welcome to taco trials, vegetarian edition: Jeanne vs. Nicole. We had to do some serious homework for this one (vegetarian tacos?!) and ended up venturing away from our trusty taco trucks where the food is more on the authentic side, and into gentrified, city slicker, ultra trendy taquerias.
As always, we each brought dozens of tacos to the newsroom, where our faithful taste testers were waiting with bated breath.
Jeanne Huff’s pick: Tin Roof Tacos, 115 S. Broadway Ave. in Boise; 1750 W. McMillan Drive in Meridian. tinrooftacos.com. Vegetarian tacos are $2.25 each.
The setup/Jeanne: Tin Roof Tacos was started by Sandy and Susan, two sisters from Texas who were pining so badly for street tacos like they remembered, they decided to open up their own place. All the tacos are made in-house and from scratch and include some pretty non-traditional ingredients along with traditional ones. For instance, the beef brisket taco is topped with queso fresco and cilantro onion mix, and the fried chicken taco has chile lime breading and a jalapeno ranch dressing. Most of the tacos there are $2.25; some are $2.50. "They are not only unique, but you get more taco for less Dinero," it says on the website.
TRT has three vegetarian tacos: Rajas — roasted poblanos, onions, mushroom and red pepper topped with queso fresco; Black Bean — black beans cooked with chipotle peppers, topped with pico de gallo and cilantro avocado sauce; and Roasted Corn — Roasted sweet corn blended with chipotle mayonnaise and queso fresco, topped with pico de gallo and cilantro.
I was surprised at how crowded this place was, it was wall-to-wall people, out the door and cramming the patio. That's always a good sign.
My take: I was impressed by the mushroom tacos from Nicole's place, but I have to say TRT's Rajas tacos outshined them on flavor, and the Black Bean tacos were the king of the plate. But my very absolute favorite thing was the hot sauce from Tin Roof — hot, yes, but really flavorful. I think it would make anything pop.
Nicole’s pick: Calle 75, 110 N. 11th St. in Boise; at The Village at Meridian, 3635 E. Longwing Lane. calle75tacos.com. Most street tacos are two for $7; three for $10.
The setup/Nicole: I was shocked at Calle 75's wide variety of vegetarian taco options. Here are the ones I selected for the competition:
Papas y rajas con crema (potatoes, roasted peppers, onions, cream). Three for $11.
Baja Portobello (mushrooms, cilantro, garlic, cabbage, roma pico). Two for $8.
Harvest Taco (squash, kale, pico, coriander cream, sunflower seeds) Three for $11.
Veggie street taco (yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, pico and lime.) Three for $10.
An important note: Calle 75 staff also informed me that they have vegan salsas and hot sauces. (A lot of hot sauce recipes call for chicken stock, but those don't.)
Nicole's take: Jeanne's tacos with black beans and rajas (smothered with the very spicy habanero salsa) were far and away my favorite of the bunch. I'll be honest, though — I wasn't a huge fan of any of the other tacos in this round. Part of the problem is that I would be a horrible, horrible vegetarian. Undeniably, Tin Roof and Calle 75 definitely have some interesting flavors and unique combinations. But you'll make me the happiest with tacos from a truck on the side of the road somewhere, with all the tastes and flavors of home.
However, since my favorite taco spots never seem to have vegetarian options, these two Boise favorites certainly fill that gap. I tried buy a few of each vegetarian option, but I eventually ran out of my boss's money.
More results are in:
Holly Beech, assistant editor: Veggie taco day was a treat! I loved the variety of flavors. I tasted all three of Jeanne's flavors, then had a meeting, and by the time I got back, all of Nicole's tacos were gone (newsrooms are full of vultures, I tell you).
The rajas were my favorite, bursting with flavor. But the bean tacos came in close second with the cilantro avocado sauce, and in the corn tacos, the mix of cheese, pico de gallo and roasted corn was perfection. I would not mind if every taco trial were a veggie one. It was refreshing and delicious — although I will say, I did not stay full for as long.
Erin Bamer, Nampa reporter: Honestly, I was very excited for the vegetarian edition of the taco trials. I was eager to see how different (taco places) got creative with their meatless recipe, and I was very impressed with the level of variety and different ingredients used.
It all came down to flavor for me. I really enjoyed the supporting ingredients and sauces of the tacos from Nicole's place. Red cabbage and sunflowers seeds may seem like odd balls to throw in a taco, but for me it worked. But, my vote ultimately goes to Jeanne's place, because they made the star ingredients of their tacos work so well. My favorite individual taco was the rajas tacos from Jeanne's place. The peppers and mushrooms were prepared so well and had such good flavor. Two thumbs up!
Emily Lowe, Canyon County public safety reporter: This week I learned that I most definitely prefer tacos with meat. I do enjoy vegetables, but in a taco, they should just be the toppings. My favorite hands down, was Jeanne's black bean taco. I thought it had the most flavor and it had the most substance.
I also tried the Rajas and Roasted Corn tacos Jeanne brought. I thought the roasted corn was nice, but it fell apart easily. Of Nicole's pick I tried the "baja" taco which included sweet potatoes and sunflower seeds. I was not expecting those ingredients to be on a taco, and honestly, I didn't like it. If you are going for a vegetarian taco, I'd definitely go with the black bean, it was delicious!
So, there you have it. Another Taco Trials come and gone.
Mosey on over to our website and check out our Taco Trials page, complete with a map — it’s got all the places we’ve sampled so far, so it’ll make your own Taco Trials tripping a little bit easier! Just go to idahopress.com and click on Taco Trials in the Community section.
Next up: Nicole and I are taking Taco Trials on the road.