These are not your standard-issue tacos. The Funky Taco, previously of Airstream fame, just got a giant upgrade.
In case you’ve missed the ‘61 Airstream food “truck” bopping around town serving up delicious farm-to-table fare, you can now catch them in their shiny new brick-and-mortar location on the corner of 8th and Bannock in downtown Boise.
The building, formerly home to Mongolian Bar & Grill, has been completely transformed. Easily identified by the newly painted blue brick that now encases the highly stylized interior, the building was re-imagined and upgraded from the minds and vision of owners and founders Sheri and Justin Archambo. The architect, Bryan Bethem of Rough Workshop out of California, manages to capture that airy, laid-back California vibe while melding it perfectly with Boise’s quirk.
The modernized space features hardwood floors, large windows, funky, hand-blown glass dangling above the bar, and rotating local art on its walls. All of which make it worth a visit even if you’re not hungry. The second level houses state of the art music and sound equipment and a piece of artwork so grandiose and intricate, it’s almost impossible not to get lost in. “Cody Rutty has done the entire mural,” says Justin, the brawnier, bearded half of the innovative duo. Looking up at the artwork as we sit to discuss their newest venture, he divulges, “He was looking to do a big piece, and we’ve always loved his work. He works in geometrical fractions. He’ll write out algorithms on the floor, and then start painting. The piece is constantly changing, and every time you look at it, you see something different.”
The couple responsible for all this funkiness moved to Boise in 2004 from Tulsa, OK on what they say was a five year plan. “We had a five year plan when we moved to Boise, but that five year plan has turned into a 25 year plan. And then we bought a house, and now we have a daughter. We fell in love with Boise; we’re not leaving,” explains Justin. Which is a good thing if you’re a taco fan.
“We serve funky fare. We don’t put ourselves in a proverbial box. We do Asian, Indian, Mexican, and Southern food. Anything that we want. The culture that we’re developing in the kitchen here is that we’re all creatives. Never stop learning or absorbing knowledge. So that’s the culture we want to create among our cooks, and the food coming out of the kitchen will reflect that.”
Sheri, smiling and talking with her hands, leans into Justin’s words and peppers the conversation with her own take on their story and this life they’ve created. “When people have this food, they’re gonna be blown away.”
A statement reinforced by the menu items when I visited this past week. Korean Pastor Tacos with kimchi slaw, Thaico Tacos with thai curry and chicken skin, and more traditional Mexican flavors of house roja and lime crema all decorate the menu. Each just a sampling of the imaginative and delectable fare finding its way out of a kitchen no longer constrained by the square feet and limitations of a mobile unit.
When asked how they came up with the concept, Justin says, “It’s always been a dream. We had this dream of ‘Hey, let’s start a food truck.’ We loved all kinds of ethnicities of food, and we wanted to create something that would be kinda cool and funky and kinda like us and like our personalities. So we started working on food at home and creating menus from home.”
Sheri nods and refers to the movie Forks Over Knives, which inspired them to turn to veganism for over a year. “We were vegans for a year, and that started to help develop the menu that we have today because we had to learn how to use different types of proteins. So creating all these recipes from the desire to eat better, and eat better vegan food.”
Five years ago, The Funky Taco started out of a tent on a 36-inch grill at the Boise Farmers Market. The Airstream came along a few months later. The search for a physical location has been ongoing since their second year of business, but five years at the market has cultivated relationships with farmers that has made a giant impact on their cuisine. “We’ll have our regular menu items, but then a farmer will drop something off, or we’ll get some brisket in from Desert Mountain Beef, and we’ll work it into a special. We’ll be trying different things and partnering with different members of the food community. We’re working on a custom type of bread with Acme Bakeshop – they’re good friends of ours from the market,” Justin explains. “Our food will change with the seasons, and we’re committed to sourcing everything as locally as possible.”
If the food isn’t a good enough reason to visit, the music will be. “We love live music,” Sheri says. “It’s one of the things we had in common when we first met. We have ticket books of stubs. So, we thought, if we’re gonna be here all the time, we’re gonna bring life to us.” She laughs and shrugs her shoulders guiltily as if the rest of Boise isn’t also going to love tacos and live music in the same venue.
Justin interjects with the details: “We have top of the line equipment installed. We wanted a real venue, and wanted to make sure a band playing here sounds amazing. Our goal is to shut the restaurant down, have tickets at the front, and be serving food out of the side window food truck style.” He waves towards the back of the building near the kitchen where a previously unnoticed small, side window can be seen facing the sidewalk of Bannock.
“The wall that Rutty has painted is actually made out of recycled newspapers designed to absorb sound. Same for the dropped wood ceiling in the center of the space — it’s designed to help with sound absorption. So everything in the design of this space was done to also function as a music venue.” Justin and Sheri explain this in overlapping sentences, as two people who have worked together for a long time. When asked if it’s hard to work with someone you’re married to, they laugh and say, “It gets hot in the kitchen sometimes, but overall, we do like working with each other.”
“Live music will be happening on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays,” says Justin, “This is an all-ages venue too. We want this to be a family-friendly place. We have kids, our friends have kids, our cooks have kids. I think one of the best compliments we’ve gotten is when a friend stopped by and said, ‘It feels like we’re at your house,’ and that’s what we want people to feel.”
And while The Funky Taco, Airstream edition, is known for dishing up creative, oversized tacos in paper containers dripping with house-made condiments and toppings, in this new space, the food could easily be an afterthought. Come here to hang out with friends, listen to amazing live shows, check out the local art scene, and oh, by the way, you may as well grab some of the tastiest tacos in town while you’re here.
That said, I’m already dreaming of my next taco. See you there?
The Funky Taco is open Monday-Thursday, 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturday, 11am-11pm, and is closed on Sundays. The Funky Taco Airstream food truck will remain an active part of the business, appearing at the Boise Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and at various events around town.