It's a breeze keeping a downtown patio packed in the summer. Sunshine and cheap booze can wash down even the most mediocre eats. But once the weather turns and a restaurant is forced to kick away the patio crutch, it needs a solid, ahem, menu to support it through the winter.
Solid, Liquid Lounge's little sis, opened in January 2010 in the prime BODO patio spot that once housed Texas Boogie and 8th Street Wine Co. Much like Liquid--which cast a confusingly wide net at the outset, courting everyone from gutter punks to service-industry folk--Solid also tries to appease everyone. From the open, bleached-wood interiors with Chihuly-esque blown glass chandeliers to the standard pub menu--burgers, salads, sandwiches--Solid doesn't take a ton of risks.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Apps like the super-decadent spinach and artichoke dip ($6.95) and the nacho platter ($9.95)--tri-color tortilla chips loaded with cheddar, monterey jack, green onions, olives, tomatoes, sour cream and a big glob of guac--are classic, gooey comfort food.
Though some dishes like the seared ahi salad ($11.95) shake things up with flourishes like french-fried onions and orange soy chili flake vinaigrette, others like the calamari ($7.50) take it too far. The discordant Thai sweet chili sauce does nothing to enhance the battered squid's richness like a simple aioli and a squirt of citrus would. Where things do get truly unique, though, is on Solid's late-night breakfast menu where you can get dishes like chicken and waffles well into the wee hours.
On a recent lunch trip, I went straight for the "build your own burger" option and chose a veggie burger topped with buttery sauteed mushrooms and bleu cheese on a whole wheat bun ($8). The bun had enough heft to stand up to the slightly crispy veggie burger, and the bleu cheese added a lovely tang to the earthy mushrooms. The real showstopper, though, was the soup of the day: a side cup of pumpkin spice soup ($2 extra with lunch). The savory fall bisque strayed far from pumpkin pie territory and was served with a swirl of dill sour cream and chopped pistachios. Seriously, yum.
But perhaps the most compelling, non-patio reason to pull up a seat in Solid is the double happy hour. All wines, well drinks and draft beers (local brews, served in recycled wine bottle glasses) are buy-one-get-one free from 4-6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m.-midnight. After watching a weekend matinee at Edwards, a pal and I headed to Solid for drinks and snacks. Though we were disappointed by the trio of bland fish tacos on undercooked mini tortillas ($7.95), we were blown away by a recent menu addition: the fried risotto bites ($5.95). Six huge globs of savory risotto were encased in crunchy, dark brown shells and drizzled with a honey beurre blanc and a balsamic reduction. Damn.
If Solid continues to beef up its menu with thoughtful items like the risotto bites and the pumpkin soup, you'll be hard-pressed to notice the empty, shivering patio this winter through all the packed tables.
--Tara Morgan is doubled over by double happy hours.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Solid Grill and Bar.