Willowcreek Grill + Java 

Like most folks, the first time I arrived in Boise I journeyed downtown via Vista Avenue. While the avenue is quite nice once you drop off the bench, with the depot on your left and the scene of the Capitol in front of you, the views closer to the airport are not nearly as nice. But they're changing. Once an avenue of run-down strip malls, pawn shops and bars, south Vista Avenue is becoming a promenade of nice restaurants, remodeled shopping centers and more upscale establishments. (Unfortunately the cool Moxie Java was torn down in the name of progress, but c'est la vie.)

One establishment I've had the pleasure of dining at on several occasions sits closest to the airport just before the second bench among the extended stay hotels. Willowcreek Grill + Java would have seemed out of place just a few years ago, but it fits with the neighborhood now.

The two times I have visited at lunch and at dinner, the place has been packed, but waiting for a table has never been a problem. The menu is diverse, with fish tacos, beer-battered fish, chicken wraps, a large assortment of salads, a nice diversity of sirloin burgers and pastas. Any picky eater will be sure to find something that excites them.

One particular lunch I enjoyed was a special of the day, the crawfish etouffé. Spicy, delicate and served with rice, the flavors bounced around my mouth only to be quelled by the Arnold Palmer that was refilled frequently when it reached half empty.

The next time I ate at Willowcreek, we dined on less exotic fare. A small but eclectic assortment of beers teased me into ordering one and rootbeer for the kids. While there is a kid's portion of the menu, it didn't excite the spawn all that much, so we explored the appetizer menu. Hotwings, chipotle chicken quesadilla, portabella sticks and even the alehouse calamari steak (formerly known as Billy the Squid) tempted us, but ultimately the Los Nachos Grandes called out our names. This heaping pile of chips covered in all the fixin's (with the optional grilled chicken) was tasty and more than a meal for two hungry mouths. It could have stood to be a little hotter, as the cheese in the middle hadn't quite melted but it was good nonetheless.

In my role as dad for the evening, I opted for an aged sirloin, cooked medium rare. The eight-ounce piece of red meat rubbed with lavender spices and served with an assortment of vegetables was not too out there, but I was craving protein and it hit the spot. We were intrigued by the dessert menu, but since we had many more nachos to eat than we could ever finish, I made the executive decision to forego the sweets for the evening. Perhaps we'll reconsider upon our return.

—Bingo Barnes always reconsiders upon his return.

Willowcreek Grill + Java, 2273 S. Vista Ave., 343-5544. Grill: Mon.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-close. Java: Mon.-Fri.: 6 a.m.-close, Sat.: 8 a.m.-close. Close Sunday.

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