With an assortment of design elements—baroque chandeliers, Hindu statues, Spanish bull-fighting posters and Chihuly-esque blown glass, which comes courtesy of Boise Art Glass—Barbacoa feels like the love child of Pier 1 and a Christie's auction. Though the menu has a noted Mexican fusion leaning, it, too, is all over the place. From Argentinean Lomo Kabobs to tequila barbecued ribs to Idaho trout, the menu samples from an assortment of cultures and cuisines.
But if you can bring yourself to weave through the crowds during Barbacoa's late night happy hour, the two-for-one solid ice martinis help the chaos fade into a hazy background. The open patio with comfy couches and a fire-pit that overlooks the Parkcenter pond helps, too. Stop by for a daily two-for-one happy hour that lasts from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and a bonus late-night happy hour every Thursday through Sunday from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. See listing page 13.
One of the pillars of downtown's Basque block, Leku Ona has a handle on what the old (and new) Basquos want: cheap drinks, great food and a few hearty laughs. Leku Ona, which means "good place" in Basque, is that swaying, arm-around-the-shoulder spot where the owner and ex-shepherd, Joe Aritach, knows your name and the bartender knows your drink.
Most evenings, the smoky, wooden bar houses a motley crew of Boise's best and brightest. News anchors, politicians, and businessmen flock to the barstools and relax by the open windows for a low-key happy hour that lasts from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Stop by for $1.25 pinxos (Basque finger foods) like fried cod, tuna and egg salad or the potato and egg tortilla. Then wash them down with a few ridiculously cheap drinks—$1.50 wells, $1.25 domestic drafts and half-price wines by the glass. See listing this page.
Mack and Charlies
Just look at these faces. Do they look like unhappy customers? Mack & Charlies sits in the heart of Boise's bar corridor that runs along Main Street. With its twin, Gusto's, it's the newest addition to the group and is the kind of bar you'd expect to find in a much larger city. Even its Web site oozes coolness and exclusivity. Photos of very happy drinkers flip across the front page and one click in gets you to a page with pics of pretty people. The bar's myspace site is also full of photos of fab looking folks. At mackandcharlies.com, you can register to be notified of specials. Killer drinks and a chill atmosphere make this big bar the kind of place where you might find yourself becoming Boise's version of Norm at Cheers, just a much younger, much more attractive version. See listing page 23.
Each day, thousands of cars pass by a signless speck of a building on Front Street en route to the Connector. For years, the plain little stucco building looked like it had been neglected just enough that should a big wind hit, it just might fall over. From The Locker Room to The Lucky Dog, Boise's other gay bar persisted in various incarnations. When The Lucky Dog pulled up stakes last summer and moved into new digs on Fairview Avenue, the ramshackle little building stood empty. Last month, very quietly, it reopened. Now called 1108 Lounge, the little bar is proof positive of what a couple of cans of paint and a whole lot of TLC can do. That and completely gutting the place. The new owners have moved the bar to the other side and lit it up with a rainbow of changing lights, installed new furniture (including a wall-length wooden bench seat), and literally cut out the patio from beneath part of its roof and the heavy foliage. As for happy hour, how's this for happy: $1 gets you in the door for all you can drink PBR every Wednesday night. See listing page 20.