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2006 Editors Picks Bars & Nightlife 

Editors' Picks

Best Neighborhood Bar That's No Longer

The Trolley Bar

May the most excellent neighborhood bar rest in peace after 72 years of slaking Boise's thirst. And may the wankers who deliberately burned it to the ground develop a burning and incurable itch in their cabooses.

Best Vino Value

Half-price Wine Nights at Tapas Estrella

Sure you can pick up a bottle of Yellowtail Merlot for a five spot at Rite-Aid but it's financial corner-cutting you should never cop to in the presence of, well ... just about anyone. But at Tapas Estrella, winos on a small budget can get a fix of Spanish vino for half price Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. !Ay, Dios mio!

121 N. 9th St., 426-8400

Best Hotel Bar That May Soon No Longer Be

The Irongate Lounge

If you're looking for a fancy sandwich and expensive beer in a hotel bar, head downtown. If you're looking for a place where you can sit on high, kick back, eat some free popcorn, play a little pool and shuffleboard, watch one of several large screen TVs and drink cheap brews, tell your friends to meet you at the Irongate. Hurry, though. Rumor has it they're going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

2360 University Dr., upstairs, 345-1770

Best Tap Makeover

Front Door Pizza

Picture this: Downtown Boise, Friday, midnight. After weathering an interminable movie, a world-weary Boise Weekly editor is aching for pizza, a pint and refuge from a sea of screamers. He wanders into Front Door pizza and eyes the corner booth and the double-cut pepperoni. Then he sees something else: There's a sad little Mongoose IPA tap segregated a foot or so to the right of the diverse tap lineup. Nobody's ordering from it.

"What's that ... on nitro or something?" he asks.

"No, it's on 'cask,'" he's told.

"Uh ... on cask?" Welcome to London, Idaho, where cask-conditioned ales and other daring--read: warm, flat and probably not cost-effective--beers aren't just for the big boys like Bittercreek and Kahootz anymore. For a tiny, one-room pizza joint crammed in the bowels of a hopping building, flanked by the wild (Tom Grainey's), the tropical (Reef) and the loungey (Pair), Front Door stands out as a quiet oasis. And you might come away with something to Google the next day. After all, knowing is half the battle.

105 S. 6th St., 287-9201

Best Case of Local Government Arbitrarily Deciding to Enforce the Law for No Apparent Reason

First Thursday

First Thursday was, until recently, a great place to get ripped, er, to see great local art. These days, you can still see abundant local art displays at downtown stores and galleries on the first Thursday of every month--but according to John Law, it's just going to have to be without the wine goggles. Last summer, the local fuzz took on the very important task of cracking down on the First Thursday free vino tradition (BW, News, "Put The Wine Down," July 12). And who could blame them, when the reports of the drunken First Thursday bloodbaths over signed limited edition prints and the last free crudites on the platter have horrified decent, hardworking citizens across this town?

Double "best of" points for this one, since in 2004, we named First Thursday "Best Place to Get Drunk For Free." We get the irony and only lose a little sleep at night wondering if the crackdown was the fault of smartasses like ourselves.

Best Damaged Goods Emporium

Alive After Five

Sure, it's fun, it's wild and everybody has a nice time. But the divorcee vibe is palpable in the Grove on Wednesday evenings. Just now--did you smell it on the air? Like Virginia Slims soaked in Preferred Stock? Of course, we kid because we love, and we love because we sponsor. But let's be honest: There are so many people out on that plaza who have restraining orders against each other, it's a wonder the cops don't back up the paddy wagon and load the whole crowd.

Best Downtown Pool Table


Mulligan's used to sbe the place you could always get a table. Now they have a liquor license, and it's so crowded you can barely squeeze through the door. Schott's used to have gorgeous regulation-sized tables for 75 cents a game. Now that space is an Indian restaurant and a French bakery.

The Bouquet (when it was Blue) used to have the truest bounces of any bar-sized table this side of Curtis Road, because they supposedly re-covered the tables every three months. Now it's just The Bouquet, those tables are showing their age and there are annoying TVs in the pool area. As for the Sixth and Main scene ... too busy for pool. Won't somebody please step up to the plate for the downtown sharks? All we need is one nice, quiet room, four or five well-maintained tables, access to libations and everyone leaving us the hell alone. It'll pay for itself in two months.

Best Place to Drink Beer

Our Parking Lot

Every time we back up and hear a metallic CRUNCH, we think, "Was that another can, or did I just back over someone with braces?" Eight times out of 10, it's a can, and we're left shaking our fists at the rotten churls who have nothing better to do than drink ice beer, tall boys, 40s and pounders where we park our cars. You leave us no choice. Starting tomorrow, we're putting electrodes on the bushes, so that when you take a leak ... well, you'll find out.

Best Laugh Maker

The Funny Bone

Why'd the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, dummy. Tee hee. Come on ... we're writers at a newspaper, not comedians. We know well enough to leave the bone tickling to the professionals (well, sometimes). Other than having the baddest bouncer that ever bounced strictly enforcing the "no heckling the comedians" law, the FB bartenders boast the biggest bowls of punch in town (there's a joke about a punch line somewhere in there). Listen, there are eight shows a week, local acts and touring types, amateurs and pros, open mic nights (and a non-smoking night for you tobacco-phobes). They're constantly bringing in fresh meat from around the country, and if that's not enough for you, then stick your Comedy Channel up your punch hole.

405 S. 8th St., Ste. 110, 331-2663

Best Place for a First Date

The Cruise

Cruising optional. Think about this for a minute before you scoff: No matter how old and over cruising you think you are, people watching--especially when the subjects are young, loudmouthed egomaniacs behaving badly--provides plenty of conversation fodder for those awkward first-date moments. Nothing bonds two people together like making fun of others (except for maybe near-death incidents, which we'd advise you to avoid, at least on a first date). Besides, should your date fail, you've spent nothing (except for maybe $2 on a street-meat dinner) and there's a pool of potential next first dates wandering the streets.

Best Place for a Last Date

Table Rock

Our love began with me drinking too much Old Milwaukee, passing out on top of Table Rock and waking up with Funyuns stuck to my face, and baby, that's how it's going to end. Something about coming to, alone, at the foot of that cross has helped soothe my heart every time you've left me. Do you remember that time we were up there and knocked each other out at the same time? Or the time you hit that rock climber with a whiskey bottle on the first try? I'm gonna miss you ...

Best Cleaned-Out Garage

The Garage

Let us try to explain. The Garage, behind Lucky 13, is the "Best Cleaned-Out Garage" in its fully open, taps pourin', liquor flowin' state of business. If you ask us, The Garage is the shiznit when it's a bar, not a garage (as it was before it was a bar, and as it's been since the city came in and closed the doors).

Best New Cruise Extension

Hanging Out At BoDo

Used to be, when a youngster not of drinking age wanted to spend a night trolling for potential future exes and showing off his shiny new rims, cruising was the pinnacle of underage social interaction. The cruise was the Playboy Mansion of Boise's cool scene for all the cats old enough to drive but not old enough to drink. But with gas prices as outrageous as the cost of a Kate Spade handbag, cruisers have parked their rides (or their parents' rides) and hit the pavement en masse to see and be seen in BoDo. And who can blame them really? Maggie Moos for a sugar high, Café Ole for free chips and salsa, and the horses outside P.F. Chang's double as both jungle gym and props when re-enacting that fight they almost got in.

Best Bar That Communicates Through Pigeons


Last year, TK's won "Best Bar in the Middle of Nowhere," but that's not really accurate. After all, it's on Federal Way just a chaw-spit from Broadway Avenue, which isn't "the country" by any drunken approximation. However, due to the odd swirl of one-way streets and highway exits around the Broadway and Federal Way, the area has a high number of vacant lots that can make it feel far more remote than it is. Case in point: TK's doesn't have a phone. Not only that, but when we were assembling our Coldest Beer issue this July, and one of our office peons drove up to TK's bar just to verify that they didn't have a phone, he was served a serious pint of 'tude at the very suggestion that we would expect it of them. Want to know the specials? Write a letter, bucko!

Gotta love the Luddites.

3231 Federal Way

Best Martini Glasses

The Stagecoach Inn

What the exact science is behind the contemporary trend of serving two-ounce drinks in 10-ounce glasses is beyond us. But at the Stagecoach Inn, they don't seem to buy it. Their excellent classic martini comes in a Barbie-sized glass that looks even tinier when served next to a hippo-sized prime rib and a butterflied prawn as wide as a landing strip. Don't breathe too hard while you're sipping or you might break it.

3132 W. Chinden Blvd., 342-4161

Best Late Night Meet-and-Greet

Pita Pit Elevator

Do it out of boredom, do it for fun, do it to get to know your fellow night owls. The elevator's not actually inside Pita Pit (although standing in line at Pita Pit late at night is a great way to bond with strangers through mutual hunger pangs)--it's next to it in the parking garage. If you're too intoxicated, rude or can't keep yourself upright, security will give you the boot, but if you mind your Ps an Qs, remember to smile and refrain from slurring obscenities at other elevator passengers, you may actually enjoy an hour of free entertainment chatting up downtown revelers.

Best Gal's-Only Bar

Bathroom at China Blue

If memory serves us correctly, the little counter in the women's bathroom used to be a coat check and champagne bar. A gal could bundle up in the winter (well, she could at least don a nice warm jacket over her slinky dancing clothes), check her coat in a place where it wouldn't smell like smoke and pick up a little pick-me-up along the way. But times, they are a-changin'. Now that little space is a two-foot-by-three-foot hell for some unlucky bartender, as giggling bejeweled girls line-up for their cosmos and Washington apples before weaving their way back out into shark-infested waters. But, it's a damn good idea ... or so we think. Guys, if your mackin' target disappears into the bathroom for an unusually lengthy amount of time, she may not come back at all.

100 S. 6th St., 338-6604

Best Bar for Existential Inquisition

The Navajo Room

The Emerald Street bar is an ideal place to pull up a stool (if you can pry one out of the protective clutches of the regulars, that is) and have a good long think with yourself. Been grappling with absurdity of modern man's existence? Perhaps you're pondering something far more subjective (after all, this is existential inquisition, so the rest of humanity, along with all objectivity, can go eff themselves), like, "Does life really boil down to procuring enough pocket change to buy the beer in which I now cry?" Regardless of the ends you hope to reach by engaging in such internal, we firmly believe that ancient wisdom lies within the psychedelic mural.

4900 Emerald St., 343-5817

Best Night Entertainment We Wish Was Year Round

Night Skiing At Bogus

When your blubbering ass falls off the mechanical bull in the middle of a huge crowd at Dirty Little Roddy's, at least five people you know (but don't know are there) are in the crowd laughing at you. When you fall off the box at the Balcony, at least five people you know (but don't know are there) are getting a hernia making fun of you. When you face plant on Pioneer Trail at night, you can do so without fear of being ridiculed at the water cooler on Monday. It's dark, you're bundled up, and usually, so few people are up on the mountain by nightfall that it's quite possible no one will see you garage sale all over a green run.

Best "You Got Kicked Outta Where?"

Big Bucks Bingo

Apparently you can bring in your own booze when you bingo over on Glenwood. The idea of a bunch of half-sauced blue hairs methodically marking off their numbers is pretty comical, but head in there when you're half-crocked yourself and just try to be quiet--it's like trying to be quiet in church once you start laughing. You're screwed. But instead of your mom whopping you upside your misbehavin' melon, the bingo bouncers politely escort you out the door after you've quickly donated your $20 in cards to the scowling players around you. Or ... so we've, uh, heard ... from our friend ... who got kicked out. Yeah, our friend.

5443 Glenwood St., 378-7721

Best Place to Spot a Teacher Outside of School

Mike's Hillcrest Lounge

Remember when you were a kid and thought that your teachers crawled back into their pods at 3 o'clock only to emerge with the first bell each morning? Well, the real truth is that they don't go into cocoons at night, they go to Mike's Hillcrest Lounge (which is quite dark and cozy and, well, cocoon-like. Maybe educators do hibernate ...).

Mike's may be a dimly lit little hole-in-the-wall, but it shines like the apple of the Hillcrest Shopping Center's eye, tempting both teachers and the public at large to take a reprieve from the snarl of traffic at Overland and Orchard, with incognito parking in the back, food and libations. The lounge beckons, "Give me your thirsty. Give me your hungry. For I have two-for-one cocktails and free tacos."

5264 Overland Rd., 345-5572

Best Memo to Emos

The Venue

The Venue is a well-known hangout for the under-21 set who want to get their hardcore groove on. Unfortunately, some of the kiddies have a terrible habit of leaving trash and pee puddles behind after shows. They aren't bad kids, we're told, but they're kids. And kids need to be reminded that for every action there is an opposite and sometimes painful reaction. "Mom" (the woman who runs the Venue and firmly believes there's good in everyone) wrote the following heartfelt letter and taped several copies to the front of the building:

"Hi Kids--this is mom from the Venue. I am writing you to ask you for your help. I consider all of you the best kids in the world and when I speak about you to others, that is how I describe you. The problem is the Venue is getting a lot of complaints from the neighbors. Here is what I have been called about this week:

1. Tags on buildings. The Venue has to pay to repaint the doors of the neighbors, and this has already happened several times. Our building looks bad because we have had to prime over tags. Please tell whoever is doing this to stop it.

2. Trash in the parking lot, alley and in front of the Venue. Cigarette butts are a regular complaint along with general trash from soft drinks, etc.

3. The neighbor in back of us has had beer cans, cigarette butts and people urinating on their fence. There are those who hang out around their alley entrance who are doing this and when the owners come in the morning after a show, they are having to go through the horrible mess that has been left. They have called us more than once and they are very angry about the situation.

The owners of our building are getting regular complaints from the neighbors and they are frustrated with us and they call us wanting the Venue to make the problems go away and they have threatened to start forcing us to pay for any clean up that they feel is necessary to keep the neighbors happy. The Venue staff has tried to be diligent at policing the area but you guys outnumber us and the task is too great for our small staff. And, all of you are good at helping when we ask, so we are asking you now. I KNOW WE CAN DO BETTER and if things don't change immediately, there could be serious consequences put upon the Venue. Please help keep us going strong, Mom."

Best Pick-Up Line That Will Get You a Dirty Look and a Drink in the Face

"Are you wearing any Underwear?"

Believe it or not, we've actually heard this line, and more than once. The cocktail waitresses we know assure us most heartily that this line is probably the best way to ensure you find a loogie floating in yer Pink Squirrel.

Best New Bar Drink

Sassy Sally

We realize that all you bartenders will throw a fit over this one. Get over it. This is our Best of Boise, and if you don't like it, neener. Named after Boise Weekly's own fly supa-diva Sally Freeman, the Sassy Sally is a new twist on the Sally Barnes (Absolut mandarin, soda, splash of cranberry and a lime). Created by Pat Carden of MilkyWay, the Sassy Sally ditches the mandarin for something a little more cutting edge, pomegranate vodka from Pearl.

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


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