If you believe the huge sign hovering over the escalator at the Boise airport, you’d think this is just the City of Trees. And it may well be. But Boise may also be known as the City of Food! We had no idea what two Southern food lovers would find in this Idaho capital city. When we asked locals for special, unique-to-Boise places to “chow down” in style, we were slammed with great recommendations. But we’ve narrowed it down to six — all with a little “somethin’ different.” Here are our six unique Boise restaurants that merit foodie bragging rights!
276 Bobwhite Ct.; www.barbacoa-boise.com
Go for the art, stay for the fabulous food, but arrive before sundown to catch the view from the windows. Chef Enrique Martinez orchestrates dazzling cuisine in this artsy, eclectic, over-the-top gallery/dining room/museum of a restaurant. From the tableside-prepared guacamole to the sweet corn bisque to the Certified Angus Beef, you’ll think you won’t have room for the creations they call dessert, but force yourself! It’s all good, and the evening will be way too short to take in the art (even in the bathrooms!) AND the gourmet dining experience.
Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery
610 Grove Street; www.bardenay.com
A distillery in a restaurant? You got it! On April 25, 2000, Bardenay’s served the first cocktail made in a U. S. restaurant with spirits distilled on site at its Historic Basque Block location — and still does! Even the name Bardenay was a term loosely used by sailors for the word cocktail. Watch distilling right near your table, and then sip away as you order from the creative menu with something for everyone. Pair a chicken, beef, salmon, or shrimp satay (grilled skewer) with soup or salad, and with a Bardenay London Dry. Won’t find this dinner anywhere else.
202 S. Capitol Blvd.; www.bargernika.com
Standing on the corner of the Basque Block of downtown Boise, Bar Gernika has served authentic Basque food, wine, and desserts for almost 20 years. In the tiny L-shaped space, folks gather in tiny groups or power up computers or, like us, hang out at the bar and chat with the bartender. You can even watch ’em cook those legendary fries — crisp, flavorful hand-cut Idaho spuds — that you don’t want to pass up. But then what do you do about the Basque food? It’s what you came for. So you order a Double Solomo Sandwich of piled-high marinated pork loin and pimientos and a side order of melt-in-your-mouth Croquetas, (little balls of butter, chicken, onion, and milk) deep fried and golden. And if it’s Saturday, you hope you get there before the beef tongue sells out so you can really get into that Basque thing in Boise. Yep. Boise.
Boise Fry Company
111 Broadway, Suite 111; www.boisefrycompany.com
We’ve written about this one, but what’s good bears repeating. This fry place that serves burgers on the side takes Idaho’s best crops of the day, posts them on chalkboards, tells you how they’ll be prepared, and you choose. If you want a side-order burger, they’ve got ’em: free range, grass-fed beef or bison burgers or veggie burgers made with black beans and high protein quinoa. Head over to the Seasoning Station for any combination of sea salts (flavored or unflavored), and then squirt some toppings like chipotle aioli or malt vinegar or seasoned sauce into little white cups and have at it. It ain’t fancy — bar stools and shared spaces — but it is some good. If you think a pile of fries can be a meal — and we do! — get there. Burgers optional.
Cucina di Paolo
1504 Vista Avenue; www.cucinadipaolo.com
Look for the washer woman on Vista Avenue (Click here for more info.) as she scrub-a-dub-dubs, and you’ve found this intimate, seasonally decorated little gem of a shop owned by the gregarious and talented husband/wife team of Paul and Mary Jean Wegner. Known for their take-out gourmet lasagnas (12 or more kinds) and chicken pot pies, the Wegners prepare on Sunday and Monday and then open for in-house dining or take-home orders Tuesday through Saturday. Entrees and sides change daily, so check the board for what’s in, but you’ll definitely eat well on Chicken Fiori (chicken breast stuffed with proscuitto, spinach, and mozarella served over noodles) or Chipotle Meatloaf with Potatoes au Gratin or Chicken Penne Gorgonzola. Whatever you do is really a don’t: don’t skip dessert. Get Paul to wax poetic on the virtues of peach pie made with hand-picked peaches from a farm in Emmett or peanut butter pie drizzled with chocolate or fresh rhubarb pie. And that’s just shelf number one!
Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro
108 S. Capitol Blvd.; www.goldysbreakfastbistro.com
As you may have read in a previous post, finding Goldy’s was happenstance. As we walked through snowy Boise in search of hot coffee and anything substantial one morning, we asked a well-dressed businessman where to find breakfast. What ended up being a short recommendation (Goldy’s is the best breakfast in town!) became our morning home for three days of gluttonous start-the-day sustenance. It’s hard to beat my first order of hash browns and basted eggs or my husband’s three-egg omelette, but when you get the chance to return, you also get to try the specials like a Cajun Omelette or the generously loaded blueberry pancakes. Swift service, steaming mugs of coffee, and walls lined with awards from Boise Weekly make this restaurant a go-to for morning goodness. Thanks, Randy and Wanda Martinat, for breakfasts that hold you ’til suppertime and hospitality Boise-style!
If you’ve got a favorite place to dine in Boise, Idaho, leave us a comment. We hope to get back and try more great places to eat in the City of Trees!
For more on our travels in Idaho and Washington, check out the Page at the top of this post labeled Inland Northwest.
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