Kris Komori and Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas have a couple things in common. Komori, of State and Lemp, and Mizrachi-Gabbitas, of Janjou Patisserie, were nominated earlier this year for prestigious James Beard Awards, the former for Best Chef: Northwest; the latter for Outstanding Baker.
When asked about their favorite Boise restaurants, they revealed something else they have in common—a shared love for Wild Root Cafe & Market and Bleubird.
Wild Root is a hip newcomer to Eighth Street, specializing in organic, sustainable salads, sandwiches and brunches. Bleubird is a popular 10th Street lunch spot that specializes in sandwiches, salads and housemade sodas. Another thing they share are stellar roast beef sandwiches. Here's how they stack up:
The Roasted—Coffee-rubbed roast beef, apricot mustard jam, Taleggio cheese and greens on walnut-raisin bread, $12
The "Roasted" is a sandwich for the ultimate carnivore: a butte of medium-rare, coffee ground-encrusted, sliced top round beef, it triggers parts of the human brain still held in common with great white sharks. Based on its size, predatory megafauna seems to be the sandwich's intended consumer, but this beauty is more subtle.
"There's thought in composition," said Wild Root co-owner Michael Trebbi. That comes through in unexpected tangy greens and almost show-stealing walnut-raisin bread. The apricot mustard jam gives the whole affair a sweet, vinegary quality and the Taleggio cheese is, as Trebbi put it, "a little funky."
Trebbi owns Wild Root with his wife, Anne-Marie. His career began near Chicago and he was a corporate chef for more than 20 years before coming to Boise in 2012. His market research showed demand for a downtown eatery geared toward more food-conscious consumers.
"There were few places where you could go for breakfast and lunch that had healthier options," he said.
Wild Root's menu is smart and eclectic, and The Roasted is a prime example, but it's subject to change. Unsatisfied with merely encrusting the beef with coffee grounds, Trebbi will add coffee extract, stressing its flavor. He'll tinker with dishes to get them exactly right.
"It really is playing with things while they're on the menu," he said.
The eatery has garnered praise from acknowledged chefs like Mizrachi-Gabbitas and Komori, but for Trebbi, chefs are ultimately similar to walk-in customers.
Sarah Kornfield, co-owner of Bleubird, makes 20 to 25 roast beef sandwiches a day.
"I can make them in my sleep," she said.
That's about one out of every 10 sandwiches Bleubird sells. There, the lunchtime line of customers usually stretches out the door and down the sidewalk. Sandwiches have come and gone from the menu over the years, but the roast beef is a staple.
"I'll always have a beef, and it'll always have bleu cheese," she said.
Other ingredients, however, are variable. Previous versions have featured smoky and Danish bleu cheeses. Kornfield regularly reinvents it to give customers favorites but tweaking the details.
A Boise native, Kornfield lived for nine years in Vail, Colo., where she met her husband and Bleubird co-owner David "DK" Kelly. While visiting Boise, the couple spotted a vacant storefront and knew they wanted to open a restaurant there.
Originally, Kornfield and Kelly were Bleubird's only staff and it was open until 7:30 p.m. Today, four employees help sling sandwiches and Bleubird closes up shop at 4 p.m. on weekdays.
"We decided to be open when we're busy and closed when we're not," Kornfield said. "It's funny because people started asking, 'When are you going to be open later?'"
The owners have long credited Bleubird's success in an increasingly crowded marketplace to more than the food. The restaurant's high ceilings, zinc countertop and park bench, counter and loft seating arrangements give the interior what Kornfield called a "boutique-y, whimsical" feel, and Kelly never forgets a name or a face. The line can be long, it moves lightning fast.
"I want to quote my man here," Kornfield said, indicating a nearby employee. "He said sometimes he waits longer at the bank."