Idaho might be synonymous with potatoes, but there's more to the Gem State than deep-fried gems. Here's a guide to a quintessentially Idaho day of dining out--with a pile of potatoes thrown in for good measure.
Start your morning bright and early at Goldy's Breakfast Bistro (108 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise) We say bright and early because if you drag butt getting out of bed, you're going to pay the price of waiting in the long line to get a seat in Boise's best known breakfast haunt. Try the veggie benny or smoked salmon hash and wash it down with a mimosa or a hearty cup of Goldy's Backcountry brew.
After you've worked through your hollandaise haze, make room for fries (and a burger) at Boise Fry Company (111 Broadway Ave., Ste. 111, Boise), which takes pride in its fried spuds, serving its "burgers on the side." Select from a list of potato varieties like Yukon Gold, purple or sweet. Then, pick a cut: curly, shoestring or home-style. Finally, doctor them up with gourmet salts and sauces galore. The burgers ain't bad either--choose from local, free-range, grass-fed beef and bison, or a vegan option made with black beans and organic, fair-trade quinoa.
If you somehow still have a hankering for fried bits, hit up The Dutch Goose (3515 W. State St., Boise) for a few cold brews and a plate of unabashedly Idaho finger steaks.
Nap off your beer buzz and jump back on the brews-and-food wagon at Boise's favorite late-night Basque haunt, Bar Gernika (202 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise). The tiny temple of northern Spanish cuisine honors Boise's sizable Basque community with a rustic menu of Basque staples like croquetas--fried balls of chicken roux--lamb grinders and one of the rockingest tuna melts in town. The small and constantly rotating tap list will keep you in high spirits.
If you're licking your lips for one more libation, stagger across the street to Bardenay (610 W. Grove St., Boise). The eatery happens to be Idaho's only distillery/restaurant. Beyond serving fresh, hearty meals, it turns out its own hooch at its three Idaho locations, producing gin, vodka and rum. Try your favorite in a signature cocktail.
On the Cheap
You don't have to dish out a lot of dough (or fill up on it) to dine out in Boise. Here's a guide to stretching your cash while also stretching the waistband on your pants at some of our filling and frugal faves.
Maybe you weren't born yesterday, but the pastries at Big City Coffee (1416 Grove St., Boise) were, which makes them only slightly less sprightly than the full-price scones smiling smugly from the case. Tear into a monstrous Sunrise or Pumpkin Chai muffin and gloat as you sip your latte and smile at less fiscally prudent diners.
If you have a hankering for Vietnamese grub on the cheap ($4-$5), hit up Baguette Deli (5204 W. Franklin Road, Boise) for barbecue pork, scrambled egg or vegetarian ham banh mi topped with pickled daikon, carrots, slices of fresh jalapeno and a sprig of cilantro, all encased in an airy, freshly baked baguette. If you still have room after wolfing down the long sammy, snag a pack of fresh spring rolls to go.
Meridian's Momo Dumplings (3223 E. Louise Drive, Meridian) might be a drive from downtown Boise, but the Nepalese nuggets--filled with steamed lamb, pork, turkey or veggies--are well worth the trek for a hearty and inexpensive dinner. And don't skimp on the sauce: Momo blends roma tomatoes, soy sauce, orange marmalade and honey to create a delightfully spicy drizzle. For a fuller meal, get the Combo Confession, which mixes an order of momo with a rice bowl.
Now that your belly is bulging with momo, get your butt back downtown to Neurolux (111 N. 11th St., Boise) for happy hour. Boise's hipster black hole offers $2 PBR and $3 wells until 8 p.m. But beware: The bartenders at Lux don't waste your time with weak drinks--a vodka soda could strip varnish off a table.
Got a rumble in your gut after all that hooch? Pie Hole (205 N. Eighth St., Boise) will help you soak up that booze with cheesy, thin-crust slices served until 3 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The sticker- and graffiti-plastered dive is a favorite among the college crowd for its strange specials, like the campfire pizza with cornbread, bacon, caramelized onions, jalapenos, cheddar and ranch-style beans.
If you're looking to balance value, quality and aesthetic charm, turn to one of the Treasure Valley's mid-range eateries to satisfy both your budget and your tastebuds. Here are some of our favorite mid-range spots to snag some solid snacks in a lovely environment.
Start your morning by sauntering over to Le Cafe de Paris (204 N. Capitol Blvd., Boise) for a sun-lit French-style breakfast. The cafe serves flaky treats made fresh in the bakery below--like the croissant aux amandes et chocolate or the croissant jambon fromage--along with eggier breakfast fare like the French fines herbes omelette or the quiche Lorraine. And if you're in the mood for booze, don't miss out on the bottomless mimosas at brunch, Saturdays and Sundays until 3 p.m.
Once you've had your fill of butter and champagne, cut your buzz with a new one at Flying M Coffeehouse (500 W. Idaho St., Boise). This funky coffee staple serves killer Americanos and lattes, and also boasts a quirky gift shop ideal for idling away the early afternoon.
After you've gotten your wings at Flying M, swoop into Bleubird (224 N. 10th St., Boise) for an artisanal sandwich made with seasonal and local ingredients. Bleubird's grilled cheese is classed up for grown-ups with brie, gruyere, raclette, stone ground mustard and a rotating schmear of fruit preserves. The bright and bustling spot serves its sandwiches on a thin wooden plank next to a pile of chips or a simply dressed microgreens salad.
Once you've worked up an appetite again, head to Mai Thai (750 W. Idaho St., Boise) and pull up a seat in the bar area to sample the Izakaya menu, which is filled with Japanese-fusion small plates. The tender braised oxtail gyoza, made with Homestead Natural Foods' oxtail, and the seared salmon with daikon radish and salmon roe are both top-notch noshes. Not to mention, the bar slings some of the most inventive cocktails around, which are all two-for-one during Mai Thai's daily double happy hour.
End your evening by sharing a few plates at the newly remodeled Red Feather Lounge (246 N. Eighth St., Boise). The low-lit spot is famous for its grilled kale Caesar salad topped with shards of pecorino and a mound of crushed croutons, but it also cranks out some rocking flatbreads, like the classic basil and mozzarella with preserved local tomato sauce. The Halloumi and jam plate is another fave, with salty squares of Ballard Farms halloumi served with seasonal jam on ciabatta. And don't miss the spot's sizeable selection of housemade cocktails--like the delicately dangerous Gaspar, with Plymouth gin, Lillet Blanc and Parfait Amour.
If it's the finer eats you seek, Boise has a grip of gastro gems ready to dish up delish fare to those with a little padding in their pockets. But even at Boise's best tables, there's no need to get all glammed up--Ida-casual attire will get you into even the swankiest spots.
Start your morning off the French way with a flaky croissant and freshly pulled espresso at Janjou Patisserie (1754 W. State St., Boise). Owner Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas whips up elegant, artisanal baked goods--like delicate macaroons, tartlets and palmiers--in her sleek State Street storefront. Janjou also uses top-notch ingredients, like local Cloverleaf Creamery butter and hormone-free, antibiotics-free eggs.
While Hyde Park's 13th Street Pub and Grill (1520 N. 13th St., Boise) isn't high-end in the sense of price, the neighborhood pub does offer a primo people-watching patio, where you can dine al fresco in the summer, or saddle up next to a roaring fire in the winter. Not to mention, 13th Street has one of the most satisfying salads in town: hunks of tender butter lettuce are tossed with fresh beets, goat cheese, dried cherries, pistachios and a cherry balsamic vinaigrette. And if you're craving a little protein, you can add a lightly crisp salmon fillet on top, which pairs nicely with a glass of Cinder dry rose.
Ready to get decadent? Continue your patio lounging at another North End staple: Cafe Vicino (808 W. Fort St., Boise). The small, upscale Italian joint offers a pleasant and verdant back patio, where you can snack on a cone of truffled potato chips--whisper-thin, cross-cut Yukon potatoes dusted with savory black truffle salt--while sipping on a glass (or two) of bubbly.
When you're ready for more deliciousness, head to the revamped Travelodge in Boise's Linen District, known as much for its inventive craft cocktails as its sleek mid-century modern decor. The Modern Hotel and Bar's (1314 W. Grove St., Boise) tiny kitchen is making a name for itself by serving up some of the best small, seasonal plates in town. Though the menu changes semi-regularly, one of Modern chef Nate Whitley's outstanding offerings is a take on shrimp and grits: large prawns on a bed of creamy, tarragon-flecked polenta topped with bits of bacon. And if you swing by in the cooler months, don't miss the legendary Layover cocktail with bourbon, peated caramel syrup and a smoked salt rim served with a side of pecans.
Close out your elegant evening with one of bartender Pat Carden's famous 10-minute martinis in the ritzy, blue-lit lounge of Chandlers Steakhouse (981 W. Grove St., Boise). The martini sits buried in ice for 10 minutes, which allows the gin and vermouth to intertwine exquisitely. It's a nice nightcap to nurse while you take in a little live jazz.