Words & Deeds

FYI: This new Eagle restaurant is not a chain. Or from California. (But its customers are.)

When new customers wander into Blue Toro looking for a taco or hamburger, owner Brandt Casey offers kids a quarter to ride the coin-operated bull.

Then he smiles and prepares to clear up possible misconceptions.

“I still get asked all the time here if I’m a chain,” he says. Nope. The blue-colored, bull-themed Eagle restaurant, which also serves burritos, salads and bowls, is “just kind of a funky, fun place.”

Also, for the record: Casey is not a newcomer. He’s an Idaho native — the son of Jeff Casey, who started Cafe Ole Restaurant & Cantina in Boise 37 years ago. Blue Toro, which opened July 1 at 600 S. Rivershore Lane, is Brandt Casey’s first restaurant venture on his own.

“We have people keep saying, ‘Welcome to Boise,’ like I’m from California,” Casey, 45, says. “It happens once a day. It blows my mind. I’m like, ‘No, I’m actually from Boise. I moved to Eagle a couple years ago. I’m like all of you guys from here.’ ”

Er, wait a minute.

“They’re like, ‘No, we’re from California,’ ” he continues with a laugh. “I would say 90 percent of my customers are from California.”

That’s partly a reflection of Eagle’s residents, Casey says. Plus, Blue Toro’s food “is probably reminiscent of a San Diego taco shop. My fish tacos are definitely Baja-style.”

Either way, he hopes the 78-seat gathering place fills a family-friendly niche in western Ada County. Although 40 percent of business has been orders to go, Blue Toro is a full-service restaurant.

“There should be a place in Eagle people can go on a date night after work or with their family,” he says. “It’s completely chill. We’re completely relaxed. People can be loud. I priced the beers beyond cheap. I want people to stay, relax, have a couple drinks. And all my items — my average item is $10 or below.”

Some folks assume Blue Toro is a chain. “The logo looks maybe like a national brand,” owner Brandt Casey explains.

Casey still helps run his family’s two Cafe Ole restaurants — primarily the Meridian location. But most of his time is now spent at Blue Toro. The fresh endeavor lets him use different marinades and meat cuts than at Cafe Ole, where customers are not fond of change.

“This was just a way for me to do things the way I’ve always wanted to do,” he says. “It’s things that me and my cook have been eating ourselves for the last 20 years. It’s more of a hybrid. There’s no claim to authentic Mexican at all.”

Consequently, Blue Toro has generated spirited discussion on neighborhood social media “about us not being authentic Mexican,” Casey says, “and the California controversy has somehow gotten mixed into it. It’s pretty wild.”

Either way, he’s having a ball introducing diners to those Killer Fish Tacos ($10.99), as well diverse menu items ranging from the Hippy Quesadilla ($8.99) and Burrito Bowl ($8.99) to the Toro Burger ($9.99) and Cholula Fried Chicken Sandwich ($9.99).

Blue Toro’s most popular item? Street Tacos ($9.99). “I’m going through a case of cod a day,” Casey says. Authentic Mexican or not, Blue Toro’s tortillas are shipped in raw from Utah, which makes all the difference, Casey says. “The texture and the taste is absolutely so good. I love them.”

Another Blue Toro eccentricity? “We’re doing chips and salsa with the meal, not before,” he says. “Not because I’m cheap, but because we throw so much food away at Cafe Ole.

“If you want it ahead of time, just ask. We don’t have a problem. My motto is whatever somebody wants, absolutely, as long as it’s within reason.”

Hoping for mariachi music in the background? You’re more likely to hear Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” playing at Blue Toro.

Unique touches like that add to the “funky” vibe.

Even if some folks will still mistakenly think that Blue Toro is a chain run by a friendly transplant.

Casey, who started working at Boise’s original Cafe Ole when he was 12, chuckles again.

“I live out in Eagle, and all my neighbors on my cul de sac are from California,” he says. “Again, I’m pro-growth, so that’s great.”

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Michael Deeds is an entertainment reporter and columnist at the Idaho Statesman, where he also has been a sportswriter, entertainment editor and features editor. Deeds co-hosts “The Other Studio,” a one-hour music show, at 8 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.