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2004 Bars & Nightclubs Editor's Picks 

Editors' Picks



Admittedly, it took us a while to pick the Hemingway persona that would best match our choice. Would it be Ernie, the young, upstartish expatriot, spending mornings two-fingering his typewriter in a Paris flat and nights sucking back shots of absinthe? Would it be Hem, the middle-aged prose professional, boxing wiry kids in some Key West drinkery between chapters of For Whom the Bell Tolls? Or would it be Papa, bitterly reminiscing with his ancient Scribner's agent in the back of some tony New York joint, admitting to himself that it was time to move to Idaho and cash in his chips? Well, we've always been a sucker for his early work, and Neurolux has handfuls of brash, young, uninhibited folks lounging around on the patio, earning their MFAs on the sidewalk of life (or at least the small slant of life to be found on 11th Street between Main and Idaho). Struggle on, angry youth!


Diggy Bass

Hooked on Phonics has ruined a lot of the subtleties of the English language. While "sounding out" words may not always lead you to correct pronunciation, contextual clues can usually narrow things down. Still, "bass" is a toughy. There is, of course, the Largemouth Bass, which is a kind of fish. Then, there's the bass guitar, which is a musical instrument and the bass sound is that deep bump and thump coming out of so many hip cars these days. The bar, Diggy Bass is a nightclub. Here's the quiz: is it Diggy Bass, as in the fish, (and rhymes with "ass"), or is it Diggy Bass, as in that thumpy beat, (and rhymes with "ace")? Your entire social life may depend on your answer.


The Buffalo Club

Looking at the Buffalo Club from the outside, you might expect the inside to resemble either a run-down bowling alley or a daytime semi-casino inhabited by geriatric keno-addicts. But inside, it is one of the hottest, loudest dance bars in the Valley. What makes it so distinct, however, is the fact that it caters to country music lovers rather than the downtown teeny-bop, top 40 crowd. They have live music on the weekends and a great selection of beer and stiff drinks. So if you like tight wranglers and crowded fun, hit the Buff.


Free Drinks

Let's be honest here. Most bar tricks are appealing only when you're drunk. You take those goofy rings apart on a sidewalk in broad daylight and nobody cares. You bounce a quarter into a glass of iced tea and you're just another semi-skilled village idiot. Tying marischino cherry stems into knots in church just doesn't get you the same kind of attention it did last night when you were doing it lying on a pool table. Take out the word "bar" and the tricks seem far less tricky. They may even border on pathetic. In the end, the best bar trick is getting some hopelessly crocked buddy to pay for your drinks. Opa!


China Blue

Of all the places to git low, shake it slow and frappe that milkshake, China Blue has the most acrobat/voyeur/American Bandstand tribute friendly dance floors there is. The basement level (technically the Diggy Bass Room) can be seen through glass blocks in the main floor of China Blue, but don't worry about wearing a skirt-you can see down a lot clearer than you can up. Aside from the viewing boxes, the main floor has hired dancers shakin' it on platforms, and amateurs can watch themselves on mounted TV screens around the perimeter. Above that is a dark, railed deck that looks down on the whole shebang. So if you like to listen and watch but don't want to get hit with flailing arms and sweat, take a toddy upstairs and kick back like a local Don.


The Trolley

Hands down, it's the Trolley. This little bar is big on service, good prices, cold beer, and nice folks. Parked right next door to a bow hunters' supply store, this actual trolley car bar offers a pool table and a great backyard patio complete with misters and a horseshoe pit. If you're not from the neighborhood be careful: one stop at the Trolley and you might be looking for real estate nearby.


Dan Ansotegui at Gernika

For 13 years, Dan has been taking care of patrons at Gernika with an amiability that borders on maniacally nice. If there is a hall of fame for pub owners, we nominate Dan Ansotegui. We salute your dedication, your rice pudding, your croquetas. May your taps never be over-pulled.


Bittercreek Ale house

At the end of a long, hot workday, there is nothing nicer than grabbing a spot on Bittercreek's shaded patio and asking for one of their hand-poured, slightly chilled Guinness Draughts. Served in a tall, frosty pint glass, Ireland's most famous stout comes lickity-split to your table and goes down like a spoonful of sugar. The pour is excellent and topped with creamy foam with a perfect clover dribbled into the head. The bartenders know their stuff, and the fixth is just as beautiful as the first.

BEST blue collar KARAOKE

The Overland Bar

Sometimes, the word "best" doesn't really encompass what it means to be the all-around favorite. Old Chicago is probably the best karaoke if you're looking for crowds of drunk college kids singing Creed, The Ranch Club is good if you want to head somewhere after work for a low-key drink and some country tunes, and Boogie Woogies is the place for a theme-park sort of experience involving stage lighting and choreographed group dances. But for a venue that welcomes any singer with the kind of down-to-earth warmth and coziness of your own living room, The Overland Bar is our pick. The bar itself is narrow and dim, and the stage is little more than a corner with a monitor and a microphone, but nowhere are the drinks as cheap and the people more accepting and encouraging.


Garth at Reef

There are a lot of talented bartenders in this town-slingers of high-end booze who can remember whose credit cards are where, how many cubes of ice go in that guy's gin and exactly when to cut off the group of divorced women in the back. But when it comes to guns, no one holds a candle to Reef's Garth (formerly of Bittercreek). Watching him pour, shake and spin drinks with those amazingly huge, sinuous pythons is half the fun-but don't get any ideas. Rumor has it that Garth is happily unavailable, but he'll be glad to serve it up during regular business hours.


The Boise Café

There are other clubs in town that play swinging Latin grooves, but Friday and Saturday salsa nights at the Boise Café offer some of the best beats for merengue, bachata and salsa dancing as well as kicking back with dinner and drinks to watch the show. The DJs all have excellent taste and bring their personal music libraries to entertain the revelers, and unlike local radio stations that specialize in Tejano, the café is a commercial-free zone.


The Dutch Goose

The category says it all. One trip to this Boise mainstay and it's the easy winner. If you've never been, shame on you. Go. If you have been, we know you'll keep going back.



In the basement of Tom Grainey's there is always live music and plenty of booze, but the real attraction (at least for the kinds of girls who require touch-ups) is the bathroom to the side of the stage. The stalls have extra low doors perfect for trash talking with girlfriends while you take care of business, and the mirror is wall-sized, making it easy for your average club child to practice moves and make sure her chaps are still tied all the way to the pubic bone.


The Cactus

Most bars have some sort of banner letting the teenage masses know that 21 is the golden age. So does The Cactus, but their warning leaves a little to interpretation. If you're curious, walk up to the door and view the following text: No One Under "21" Allowed. Upon first glance, it seems pretty standard, but note the quotation marks around the "21," as though there were some room to negotiate.


The Ram's Butt-Face Amber

While there are a lot of cool local brew names, nothing beats a name that's also a pretty strong form of slander. We wonder what similar choices were discarded for Butt-Face. Was there a Crap-Head IPA? Fart-Skid Pale Ale? Dumbass Stout? Who gets to name these beers? Where do we sign up?


Sam's Place

The first time we ever walked into Sam's Place, we thought to ourselves, "Fog generally stays outdoors and doesn't happen at five in the afternoon-does it? Oh wait, that's not fog. Fog doesn't stink and suffocate." It was good to see that the three visible doors were closed on such a beautiful afternoon as nobody wanted the cloud-o'-cancer to escape. Imagine if you and a friend locked yourselves in the same closet and each of you chain-smoked a pack of Winston's. Welcome to Sam's.


Humpin' Hannah's

Want to go downtown and dance to a good live band? Do you want to go to a bar with a mature crowd? Do you want to stay away from the meat markets and hip-hop hellholes? Then this geriatric gyration joint is just for you. Hannah's! More commonly referred to as Humpin' Hannah's, it usually has a crowd consisting of persons over age 35, but without the stick-up-your butt-attitude and high prices of those yuppy piano bars. Plus, the Rocci Johnson band rocks the house for all of the folks whose prime party days were back in the mid to late '80s.


Pickled egg eating contest

Engaging in a Cool Hand Luke-style gorge-a-thon was last year's choice, too-but it was just in the abstract then. Now the illustrious Stubs Sports Pub in West Boise has heeded the prophecy and begun allowing competitors to shorten their life spans for sport. BW garbage disposal Nicholas Collias took fourth place by downing 11 peppery embryos in March, but the office scuttlebutt is that he has been out in the henhouse training all summer for a rematch.


The Ram/Stonehouse

No self-respecting, indie navel-gazer would admit to walking through the neon faux-casino entrance of Boise's largest and loudest sports bar, but we've all been there. Where else but a corporate mecca like The Ram or its Stonehouse outgrowth can you find six pool tables, hypnotic, wall-sized TVs and a 32-ounce, $2 mug of beer brewed in-house? The answer is "Don't even bother looking, just eat the 10,000 calorie artichoke dip and be happy."


Clear Creek Lodge

Cook's Two-Hole in Parma is the reigning king of this category, and their quarter pool and cheap beers remain the highlight of the town. But currently we're more apt to jaunt up Highway 21 to the Clear Creek Lodge, 10 miles south of Idaho City. Up here, terminology and diction can still mean the difference between life and death for flat-landers. Case in point: upon sauntering in and ordering a pint of Iceweiser Ultralight, we were surprised when all the voices in the bar went silent and the bartender seethed, "A pint? That's for Europeans! When you're in Clear Creek you order a fuckin' mug!" Needless to say, if we had followed our first impulse and ordered a "liter of your finest spirits," we'd be four feet under the forest floor right now.


The Cactus

The lines of parked hogs and pickups with dogs tied to them outside of Elliot's on Idaho Street makes us want to give it the award; unfortunately, the bikers have been nothing but cordial to us on each visit. So instead, we'll once again heave the title through the front window of The Cactus. If you've never seen a tussle at the 'Tus, it probably means you took a chair over the noggin and had your memory wiped clean. If, on the other hand, you're afeared that your first fight is about to happen, just slam some quarters in the jukebox and select "Friends in Low Places." The heartfelt yowling should diffuse all but the fiercest Friday night feuds.


ATM Vestibules

It may be a bit of a stretch, as we are basing this award on the two disturbing instances in the last 36 months wherein we have witnessed drunken fratsters draining the main vein in the Washington Mutual wastebasket on Capitol Boulevard in the wee-wee small hours. But with telephone booths all but extinct, how far can we be from Automatic Tellers becoming the standard destination for all products in need of, a hem, depositing? The idea of money laundering doesn't sound so bad anymore.



Two words: Mexican Lemonade. If it's foo-foo frozen with an umbrella and garnished with enough fruit to qualify as a side dish, Reef will deliver. If it's attitude and fire you like with your tequila, the Mexican Lemonade (which comes in varying degrees of fire depending on who's slinging) will quench your thirst, burn your tongue and have you begging for more. From more traditional south of the border stuff like margaritas and daiquiris to more exotic Caribbean-esque concoctions made with top-notch booze and freshly squeezed, Reef has put together one of the most unique drink menus in town.


Happy Fish

Each spring our fearless head honcho (not to be confused with the boss, a.k.a. The Publisher) embarks on a quest to ring in summer with a martini binge, gallivanting throughout town in a limo imbibing dozens of liquor combinations in search of the perfect martini. Anyone who followed the booze cruise throughout downtown this year knows that the tenders in town certainly mix up some tasty stuff. But for a night out with the crew (some of whom may consider a martini to be anything of the neon spectrum with a cherry while you're a vodka or gin purist), few menus satisfy the need for a rainbow of liquor like the list at Happy Fish. The Jackie-O, The Fiona Apple, The Dutch, The James Bond ... If the conversation gets dulls just start reading the drink list aloud by filling in the blank with a martini name: "This one time at band camp, I skinny-dipped with {blank} in my hand."


Ves's Broadway Bar

A shout out to Hangar for killer downtown deals, but the king still reigns supreme down on Broadway. Crown Royal for $2.75 and it's no sissy pour. Beers are so cheap we can't even remember if we pay $1.25 or $1.50 for 'em because we always leave only 10 clams lighter but at least 10 beers too far into the night to remember what each one costs. For the poor and the just plain cheap, the Broadway is where it's at.


The Overland Bar

Cold beer and the gorgeous fuzzy babes in frames make the Overland the best place in town to karaoke (yes, I used karaoke as a verb). And the super low lighting is nice if you like to keep your singing talent on the "DL." The people in this joint are some of the nicest in town: everyone's head will turn as you walk through the door-not to scare you off, but to see if you find a place to sit and to offer you a chair if you don't.


Frosted Titty

Yes, we expect hate mail over this one. We know every bartender in town has at least three shots they've made up and attached some absurd moniker to. Bong Hit, Bong Hit With a Twist, Dead Smurf, White Slut, Amaretto Hooker, Grape Popsicle ... the list goes on and on. For every oddball shot there's some know-it-all 21-year-old scoffing at a cocktail waitress who has to deliver the news that her bartender has never heard of a Soccer Ball in the Nuts, a Purple Corvette or a Crap in the Dark. We had our first Frosted Titty last year before it had a name. Apple Pucker, Raspberry Vodka and 7up served like a Chili Bomb or a Blaster. Drop and chug. Tasty, but too sweet to have more than one. All we want to know is how it got its name.


Bittercreek Ale House

Everyone knows you order a Bloody Mary for the salad. Asparagus, corn, beans, celery, pickles, onions, olives ... sometimes shrimp. If you want to eat your drink and wash it down with a side of vodka and Mary mix, Bittercreek is the place to be. With enough green goodies hanging out of your glass to get your daily recommended allowance of vegetables in one serving, Bittercreek takes the cake ... er, the celery?


It's a tie ...

Gum and chew spit in the ashtray. Have some class and spit whatever happens to be in your mouth in a designated trash receptacle or don't put it in your mouth at all.

Low-rise pants with high-rise thong underwear. Have some class and keep your underwear and all the regions it should cover below your belt line or don't wear anything at all.


Bushy-haired stranger stooge for self-defense classes

Nothing says "masochistic fool" like dressing up in a padded outfit that makes you look like some kind of deranged Michelin Man, and taking knees, fists, fingers, and kicks to the groin, neck and other sensitive regions of your anatomy. Who are these nutty people that decide to play the bad guy in these classes? We understand the need for them, but we will never grasp such an obvious fixation with pain. "No! No! No!" Ouch! Oof! Argggg!


Buck Hunter 2005 at Fireside Inn

Sippin' drinks recently out of skulls, our comrades announced they were going shooting? Target? No. Skeet? No. Pool? No. We were stymied. They were headed to the Fireside Inn to take on Big Buck Hunter II, the arcade game for people with a hankering for shooting some virtual ungulates. With over 300 authentic 3-D hunting scenes, it's like real hunting without ever leaving the bar ... or without carrying all that gear ... or without really shooting anything.

Best Shuffleboard

The irongate

There is only one thing we ask of a shuffleboard-that it be level. It's nice if they are shiny and thronged by beautiful Boise State Exchange students, but we find our zone much easier on a board we can put our drinks on without worrying about looking like tools in front of Helga, Elsa and Fritzy. Not only is the Irongate's board slick and level, it is also one of the longest in town.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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