Brick 29 Bistro 

320 11th Ave. S., Nampa, 208-468-0029; Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; closed Sunday but beginning Feb. 10, Sunday brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Dustan Bristol has been faithfully paying his culinary dues. Over the last six-plus years, the Boise State Culinary Arts graduate has cooked at upscale Boise establishments such as Berryhill & Co., Sandpiper Restaurant and Murphy's Seafood Bar & Grill. Today, the executive chef has added restaurateur to his resume as the co-owner of Nampa's casually upscale eatery, Brick 29 Bistro. Located in downtown Nampa inside the historic former Masonic Temple No. 29, the bistro's opening in May 2007 couldn't have come at a better time, as the downtown sector of Idaho's second-largest city is currently undergoing vigorous revitalization. Brick 29 is a solid first effort for the chef as a restaurateur. Bristol's menu is creative and interesting, the airy, refurbished dining room is simply decorated, and both bear an understated touch of sophistication.

The menu at Brick 29 features updated riffs on comfort food. Instead of being battered and deep-fried, the bistro's fish and chips ($14) is a flame-broiled, herb and citrus stuffed whole trout with homemade jo-jos and lemon-caper aioli. Pizza receives a flavorful spin when topped with succulent pulled pork, smoked gouda and caramelized onions ($10). Even calamari ($7) gets a fresh touch when dusted with Southwest spices and served with a cilantro-jalapeno aioli. And the delectable food is not just a local secret anymore. Their tempting BLAT sandwich (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato, $7) with caramelized bacon received a write-up at

My friend Tracy and I trekked out to Nampa for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon. We found our way through the back door, which led us to a small stand-alone bakery—and quick samples of honey-drenched baklava—before we entered the main dining room. What used to be a ballroom has been turned into an open, brightly lit dining room. A shiny new kitchen sits in the cove where a stage used to be. The original maple wood floors, which date back to 1919, gleam beneath a fresh coat of finish. The space is punctuated by a wall painted in brown stripes—in shades from chocolate to creamy beige. A lively bistro scene hanging on one wall was painted by Bristol's mother-in-law, Linda Kuhbacher, and depicts the chef and his wife Keela, who is the daytime manager, interacting with guests.

As we looked over the menu, we agreed there were so many tempting dishes, it was difficult to pick just one. The chicken apple salad with Gorgonzola and walnut vinaigrette ($8) beckoned, while the lamb sandwich special ($7.50) also teased. I settled on the Asian pork tacos with a side of apple-almond coleslaw ($6.50), while Tracy opted for the open-face Reuben sandwich with a cup of pumpkin bisque ($7). The creamy pumpkin bisque had a sweet cinnamon aroma and a savory, comforting flavor. The Reuben was made with two thick slices of rye bread, pickled red cabbage, house-braised corned beef and topped with melted, locally produced Ballard Farms Danish cheese. As good as the Reuben and bisque were, Tracy and I agreed the winner of the day was the pork tacos. Made with sweet and tangy pulled pork, the pair of tacos was topped with fruit salsa and served with coleslaw made from julienned strands of carrot and apple, shredded cabbage and toasted sliced almonds. The coleslaw tasted sweet, but not overly so, and its satisfying crunch was a perfect foil to the juicy tenderness of the pork tacos. The dish was a home run. For dessert, we enjoyed a slice of flourless chocolate cake ($4.50) that contained a perfectly balanced hint of orange flavor. Overall, our meal was thoroughly enjoyable and service was friendly and quick. The delicious food and unique setting at Brick 29 are easily on par with several of the upscale, creative dining establishments in Boise.

—Jennifer Hernandez loves to splurge on food, but uses a 15-yearold snow shovel to clear her driveway.

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