Bouquet, Bucket, Bouquet
The Bouquet is a long-standing Boise icon that's seen its share of changes during the last few decades. The old wooden bar is a beautifully hand-crafted reminder of times long past. The ex-owner of The Bouquet kept the place in step with the 21st century, and thought a name change might be just the thing to give it a whole new persona. He announced that he planned to call the place The Bucket. Very little time passed before he announced that his plans had reversed and The Bouquet would remain The Bouquet. We're glad. Even if out-of-towners do think it's a flowershop. 1010 W. Main St., 208-345-6605, thebouquet.net.
BEST PLACE TO HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN UNDER A VELOUR LAST SUPPER
Velour Catholic kitsch? Check. Old school pop/punk anthems? Check. Really strong drinks served in pizza-joint red plastic tumblers? Uh, Checkmate. Warning: combining all of the above ingredients at the Red Room might lead to your picture being posted on the bar's MySpace page, giving Jesus the wink and the finger gun. 603 Main St., 208-343-7034, myspace.com/theredroomboise.
BEST USE OF A JAGERMEISTER FLAG
Every smoky, black-hole bar in Garden City should have a mascot with a boozy cape like the Ranch Club does. Then they should all get together and form a drunken, crime-fighting superhero team. With magic flasks. Just saying. 3544 W. Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-343-7447.
BEST "IT'S IN BOISE?"
When word got out that Knitting Factory had purchased Bravo Entertainment and its Spokane and Boise Big Easy venues, a handful of folks murmured, "What's a Knitting Factory?" But many more shouted, "Seriously? Knitting Factory? Here in Boise? Are you kidding?" (Clearly those people were not afraid to ask questions). Those who had patronized either the New York or L.A. locations were familiar with the caliber of music the bicoastal venue brought through its doors. What makes it even sweeter is that unlike the more expensive LaLaLand and NYC markets, it doesn't cost a mint to see a great show here. Instead of forking over hotel and airfare, for a couple of Andrew Jacksons—enough for a ticket and a cab ride—locals can see some of the newest and freshest musical acts touring the country. 416 S. Ninth St., 208-367-1212, bo.knittingfactory.com.
BEST BINGO IN A DRESS
Drag Bingo, Balcony Club
With the economy down, it's tough for a drag queen to find work. But Minerva Jayne's regular Tuesday gig at the Balcony will help get a player through hump day at least. It's dirty, but it's still B-I-N-G-O. 150 N. Eighth St., 208-336-1313, thebalconyclub.com.
BEST PEOPLE THINK IT'S THE BEST JOB EVER, BUT IT'S NOT
Boise Weekly Coldest Beer Testing
Every year for the last seven, BW staffers and freelancers have trudged through some of Boise's best and worst pubs, taverns, clubs and dives with a thermometer in one hand and a scorecard in the other. We are but spokes in the wheel of the annual Boise Weekly Coldest Beer issue, spreading across the valley to measure the temperatures in nearly every bar in the valley. As we move from joint to joint, we wave to passersby many of whom shout out, "Hey! How do I get your job?" It may appear to be a dream occupation, and yes, there is definitely something to be said for a job that requires you to down a few cold ones. But anything a person has to do becomes work. Traipsing around town dealing with suspicious bartenders who aren't familiar with the annual event isn't all just fun and games. But it's all in the name of research.
BEST CHEAP WINE FOR LOBBYISTS
The old adage that power corrupts is false. What corrupts is being 800 miles away from your little hometown constituents all winter. If you want to meet one of Idaho's rural lawmakers, Leku is a good place to start. On any given night, legislators throw a few back and maybe smoke a stogie with staffers from the Governor's Office or Boise's old-school lobbyists. And when the Legislature leaves town, not to worry. The party just gets started an hour earlier. 1175 Sixth St., 208-345-6665, iparagon.com.
BEST EUPHEMISTIC BAR SIGNAGE
The Dutch Goose already sounds like something from the "kinky corner" chapter in the "Guide to Getting it On." What exactly? We're not sure. But combine that with State Street signage advertising "steamed clams" and "finger steaks," and the Goose gives a whole new meaning to the term "hole in the wall." 3515 W. State St., 208-342-8887.
BEST HIGH/LOW END DRINK
Modern Hotel Bar
Please bring back the Miller High Life martinis, Modern; our need to consume ironic cocktails is becoming almost unbearable. Though the "champagne of beers" already ranks high on the classy-o-meter, combine it with Chambord, strain over ice and you've got a drink that combs its mustache, squirts on some Old Spice and bums a ride from the trailer park right to Swankytown. 1314 W. Grove St., 208-424-8244, themodernhotel.com.
BEST IT'S A BAR? IT'S A STRIP CLUB?
Dirty Little Roddy's
What's the difference between a Boise strip club and Thursday night bikini bull riding at Dirty Little Roddy's? We'd like to say a pair of chaps, but we're pretty sure the former has made use of a pair of chaps now and again. Rather than get all gussied up just to take it off between gravity-defying pole stunts, the Roddy's girls keep it scant from the start and stuff their dough into the bar's tip jar instead of their underwear. The overall difference? The male clientele looks a lot better on a bull than a pole. 100 S. Sixth St., 208-338-6604.
BEST OUTDOOR GAME SELECTION
McCleary's on State
If we weren't seasoned bar people, it would be easy to mistake the bar at McCleary's Pub on State Street as an afterthought. Recreation, of course, would be the main event. In fact, we think we'll start referring to McCleary's from here on out as the rumpus room with a drinking problem. And we mean it endearingly. Two horseshoe pits, video games, dart boards, a pool table and more outdoor fun than you could shake a stick at—or maybe a pool cue. Play. Drink. Play. 9155 W. State St., 208-853-9910.
The pirate bar on Vista Avenue draws a diverse crowd. Patrons file in for ultimate fighting events, and plenty of workers head in after a long day. The Plank has everything you need to let off a little steam, including an expansive recreation area out back. You'll find horseshoe pits and a sand volleyball court, but the biggest draw is cornhole. The object of the game is to chuck a beanbag into an opening. Add a little competition and some self-coaching in the form of liquid encouragement, and you've got yourself a good way to spend an afternoon. 650 S. Vista Ave., 208-336-1790.
BEST HOST OF A PRIDE EVENT
Boise's Gay Pride celebration organizers nearly reinvent the wheel each year to put on the annual event. But the willingness to celebrate everyone's differences was no better exemplified than at this year's Queer Idol contest at Humpin' Hannah's. The singing hopefuls were buoyed on by a raucous crowd of merrymakers while the judges both commended and condemned the crooners. As each contestant stepped up on the stage that Rocci Johnson has commanded nearly every weekend for almost three decades, she stood, resplendent in a long feathery fire-engine red dress and huge matching hat greeting each one as if they were a star. And, for that night at least, they were. 621 Main St., 208-345-7557.
BEST BAR IN A NEIGHBORHOOD
Little Dutch Garden
It doesn't get much more home-away-from-home than the Little Dutch Garden. The Bench bar is tucked between houses and apartments. It's the kind of place anyone can saunter into and immediately become one of the regular brew crew. Serving beer, beer and beer, the LDG only offers snack foods to absorb the hops, but if you get hungry just head home. Most likely, it's right around the corner. Little Dutch Garden, 1910 S. Owyhee St., 208-342-9034.
BEST "THEY HAVE A FULL BAR?"
The downtown Boise Chinese food favorite may not be the first place you think of when you want to bend an elbow with a froufrou martini in hand, but just know that it's possible. 305 N. Ninth St., 208-384-0384.
BEST ALWAYS CROWDED OUTDOOR BAR
Way back in the day, Sunday was the day to invite 55 of your closest drinking buddies to Parrilla. Now, it's every day. With cheap vittles and drink specials a couple of nights a week, it's often a complete madhouse on the Hyde Park destination's new semi-enclosed patio. You'll want to spend all week slimming down a few pounds just so that you can better slink your way from the chair you'll have to share with your best friend up to the bar and back. 1512 N. 13th St., 208-323-4688.
BEST PLACE TO HIT ON BAND BOYS
Unlike other venues in town, Neurolux is small enough that you can casually bump into your favorite chisel-cheeked, tight-jeaned guitarist before his set and strike up a conversation under the romantic orange glow of a neon crown. If that doesn't work, try and chat him up after the show. By that time, he'll be so sick of talking to fawning fans, he'll give you his drink tickets just to make you go away. 111 N. 11th, 208-343-0886, neurolux.com.
BEST NIGHTLIFE WE WISH WE HAD
We want Humphrey Bogart 20 feet tall on the side of a building looking into the watery eyes of Ingrid Bergman and saying: "Here's looking at you kid." We want a much-larger-than-life-size Malcom McDowell sucking down milk in A Clockwork Orange while we watch barefooted on a blanket in the park as dusk creeps into the city. Sure you can pull up a piece of grass at Meridian's outdoor family-friendly movie night, but if we could squeeze them together into one concept for downtown Boise, we'd be happy. Free movies in the park one night a week? We wish.
BEST BAR YOU CAN STILL SMOKE IN
10th Street Station
The '50s image of a handsome couple lounging out on their lanai while enjoying a martini and an unfiltered Lucky Strike is so over. The general consensus about smoking now would be depicted by a slob in a dirty undershirt reclining in a torn-up lounge chair, a Pall Mall in one hand and a Natty Ice in the other, glaring at an overweight woman in ratty sweatpants brandishing a carton of Newports over his head. Smoking is no longer cool. That does not mean cool kids don't smoke. It just means they band together, clinging tightly to places like 10th Street Station where they can still light up, order a stiff one, hang out with others of their ilk and worry about the effects of their bad habits another day. 104 N. 10th St., 208-344-2677.
BEST BOWLING ALLEY BAR
20th Century Bowling
Ah, the bowling alley bar. With the din of TVs and the thwack of balls smacking pins all over the wooden floors, and the smell of alley wax, cigarette smoke and odor-eliminating disinfectant shoe spray, the Gaslight Lounge may not be the ideal hangout for a romantic date. But with bowling pin stools, a full selection of liquor and some of the most experienced bar help, it's definitely a good place to spend a night out of the house. 4712 W. State St., 208-342-8695, 20thcenturylanes.com.
BEST ONCE YOU SMELL 'EM, YOU'LL HAVE TO ORDER 'EM
O'Michael's garlic fries
Part of the charm of O'Michael's Pub and Grill is its hole-in-the-wall atmosphere. They serve up a bevy of basic pub food options perfect for when you're just looking for a simple burger or sandwich. The drinks are strong and cheap, which makes it a favorite place to curl up with a glass of Jack Daniels. And if a burger isn't on your agenda for the night, but you need a little something to soak up the booze, try the garlic fries. The smell alone will make you glad you stopped in. 2433 Bogus Basin Rd., 208-342-8948.
Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery
The front of Bardenay on the Basque Block is an optical illusion. The patio fronts doors that give no indication of the cavernous interior. Inside, a cacophony of voices clamors against the sound of plates, glasses and silverware as business folk conduct meetings or friends gather after work over delicious satays or savory black bean and sweet potato chimichangas washed down with a Caribbean Cassis martini or classic gin martini made with spirits from the in-house distillery. But if we worked there, we would look forward to the moment when the last patron stumbled out. We'd lock the doors, pour a glass of Stella Artois or mix up a mojito and yell a favorite word or phrase into the high, huge space and count how many ghostly echoes we received. 610 Grove St., 208-426-0538, bardenay.com.
BEST HOPS HEAVEN
Sockeye Grill and Brewery
Hopheads throughout the land bow at the feet of the mighty Hopnoxious, revered double IPA and mighty thirst quencher. Pilgrims once ventured out from comfortable neighborhoods throughout the city to pay homage to the Dagger Falls. And the winged creatures of the heavens enjoy a brew of their own, the newly created Widowmaker. Hop heads have a home, and it's on the Bench under the sign of the fish. 3019 N. Cole Rd., 208-658-1533.
BEST WET DREAM
Vodka. Gelato. Need we say more? Gelato Cafe, 2053 E. Fairview Ave., Meridian, 208-846-8410.
BEST REASON TO HAVE A DESIGNATED DRIVER
Diamond Lil's/The Longhorn
Let's be honest, having a DD (as in designated driver rather than a cup-size reference) is completely unnecessary in the city. Inevitably, the DD's "just one shot of tequila" turns into five, and you end up getting a cab anyway. We say cab it all the way when you're in Boise and leave the rock-paper-scissors for the times when cabfare is cost prohibitive. Like when you want to drive "the loop." Stop one: Ben's Crow Inn. Stop two: Kodiak Grill (formerly the Hilltop Cafe). Stop three: The Rocks Lodge. Stop four: Diamond Lil's in Idaho City. It's best to make stop four a long one with food, an extended potty break and a lesson in the history of U.S. currency. Once you're fed, relieved and learned, you're on your way to Lowman. Hang a right at Crouch. Abrupt stop at "the joint," formally known as The Longhorn. Hang your hat long enough for homemade pie. On your way out of town, pull into the Dirty Shame for a game of shuffleboard and a round of shots. High tail it south on Highway 55, stopping in Horseshoe Bend if you can, sissy.
BEST ONE-STREET BAR CRAWL
Wind down Parkcenter Boulevard to the very end, and there's a surprise waiting. Sandwiched between giant mansions and perfectly manicured lawns is a Stepford shantytown known as Bown Crossing. Skip the candy shop and exotic pet store for the best bar crawl outside of downtown. Grab a beer at Flatbread Community Oven, a martini at The Tavern at Bown Crossing, another beer at Kessler's, a margarita at Casa Mexico and a glass of wine at the Tavern Wine Market, and you'll have to catch an ambulance home. Or, you know, you can pay slightly less money for a cab back to your 'hood.
BEST NEW BEER ON TAP
Old Chub, Front Door
Just the name Old Chub leads grown men to guffaw and grown women to groan. A few glasses later, the women are giggling and the men can barely speak. Front Door serves it on tap, but it's worth ordering a can to read the label which claims OC stands heads above more watery pusillanimous canned beers. Don't know what pusillanimous means? Neither did we, but after three or four cans of research, we agreed. Of course, at that point, we could have had a heart-to-heart with the tablecloth, too. Front Door, 105 S. Sixth St., 208-287-9201, thefrontdoorboise.com.
BEST INFUSED VODKA
With combos like blackberry-mint, cocoa-cayenne and rosemary-lemon, Pair has infused its martini menu with tasty originality. So, if you're having a hard time reaching someone at the BW office, wander over to Pair and check between the comfy couch cushions. We're probably sunk down, dreamily clutching an empty pear-nutmeg-and-orange-curacao infused Pair Pear. 601 W. Main St., 208-343-7034, eatdrinkshare.com.
BEST "WHAT ARE YOU IMPLYING?"
It's not cool when bars start calling you out for being a boozer. Your mom or your boyfriend? Sure. Your boss or your kid's preschool teacher? Maybe. But one of your favorite bars? Well, we guess it could be worse. You could've called us responsible adults. Shudder. Now that would just be a lie. 760 W. Main St., 208-342-5874, lushboise.com.
BEST WAY TO HOOK YOURSELF TO A HOSE
Eons ago, one BW staffer returned from a trip to San Diego singing the praises of the hookah bar. People thought she was crazy. Although the hookah bar trend is fairly new to Boise, it's a concept that's been around for centuries in most countries, including our own: laze around and smoke up. Put on some good music for effect, scrub out tobacco's bad reputation with the sale of smokeable stuff in a million different fruity flavors and voila, you have a pretty chill party.
BEST THIS IS NO LAUGHING MATTER
Really? Really? We still don't have a comedy club in town? Where are we supposed to go to get the release that an hour of stand-up and an overpriced bucket of beer can offer? Since the Funny Bone closed, a few area bars and restaurants have opened their doors to comedians and we're grateful. But what about those touring funny folks who don't know about these places? They're driving right through Boise, stopping only for gas and a Slim Jim. It's tragic to think about the comedians we've missed out on and who may give up on Boise for good before we get a new comedy club. It's not funny to think the likes of Auggie Smith or Ian Bagg may never grace a Boise stage again.