Since graduating from Boise's Bishop Kelly High School in 1980, Chef Louis Aaron has made quite a name for himself. In the mid-1980s, while working for Hilton Corporation in San Antonio, Texas, two of his recipes for wild game were featured on the national PBS series Great Chefs of the West. During the past 12 years, he has whipped up a weekly televised cooking segment for a local news broadcast. He also owns Westside Drive-In on State Street, where BW readers have headed for Boise's Best Burger two years running. Today, the local chef has another outlet for his creative energy: a new restaurant named Chef Lou's at 8th Street. Located in the digs formerly occupied by Koffee Klatsch and Bistro @ Bodo, the food at Chef Lou's at 8th Street is a clear step above the burgers, fries and shakes that have made his drive-in so popular. The new dining room features brick walls that complement areas painted in a sunny yellow hue. Comfortable booths are covered in brick-red Corinthian leather, and hardwood covers the floor. Interesting black-and-white photographs of a young city of Boise are scattered throughout the space.
Influences from both sides of Aaron's family tree are evident on the new menus, which offer breakfast, lunch and dinner options. The Italian flavors come from his mother, while the deep-fried Southern (as in Alabama) tastes come from his father. You'll have a tough time choosing breakfast from among dishes like lemon ricotta pancakes ($6.79), pan-fried trout and eggs ($8.99) and oatmeal brulee with a crunchy caramelized top ($4.99). Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and until 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Lunch choices include a triple-decker Monte Cristo sandwich ($6.49/half, $8.99/full), a Peacemaker Sandwich made with fried oysters ($8.99) and a homemade meatloaf sandwich ($8.39). Dinner entrees like pepper steak ($21.99), char-grilled salmon ($16.99) and Alaskan cod fish 'n' chips ($11.39) also tempt. The restaurant offers a selection of salads and appetizers on both the lunch and dinner menus. Beer and wine are also available.
My husband and I visited Chef Lou's at 8th Street on a recent Friday night with four other couples. We started our meal with an order of six tender panko-coated fried Pacific oysters ($8.99) and a plate of bruschetta pomodoro ($4.99). My husband sipped Wyndham Estate Shiraz ($6) while I nursed a nice hot mug of herbal tea ($1.89) to ease my cold. My original plan was to ask my friends nicely for a bite of their entrees, but once our dinner conversations started rolling, my plan disappeared, though I managed to take a few notes about the dishes my husband and I ate as well as my friend Julia's and her husband Paul's opinion about their food. We started with cups of Manhattan seafood chowder, which was the soup du jour. The thick mixture was loaded with potato, bay shrimp and white fish, and its tomato base seemed enriched by a buttery roux and a light hit of Creole spice that gently warmed my tongue even after the soup cups were cleared. Paul enjoyed the aromatic baked chicken penne rustica ($16.99) with prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms in garlic cream sauce, although he remarked the chicken was dry. Julia liked the Parmesan-crusted snapper ($16.99) with lemon and caper tartar sauce, but noted that it needed salt. My husband had the winner of the night, the delicious pork scallopini Marsala ($16.99). I thought the prosciutto-wrapped prawns ($18.99) were also dry but, with the prosciutto, delicious. For dessert, we ate ice cream potatoes ($4.99), creme brulee ($3.95) and a dreamy, dense pot au chocolate ($3.95). Despite a few missteps, our meal was enjoyable, the service was friendly and efficient, and I'd definitely go back.
—Jennifer Hernandez has mastered a dance called the misstep.