Brick Oven Bistro 

801 Main St., 208-342-3456. Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

The Brick Oven Bistro has been a Boise staple for nearly a quarter of a century. Beyond a move during the early years, and the replacement of "Beanery" with "Bistro" in the restaurant name sometime after that, I don't think much has changed. To stick around that long, the place must be doing something right.

Like a majority of the valley's residents, I have been to the Brick Oven before. It is one of the restaurants that I like to take out-of-towners to when they visit. It's easy, quick and uniquely Boise. The Brick Oven has a working juxtaposition of efficiency and down-home relaxation.

On this particular visit, I was accompanied by a very charming and classy woman: my mom. She was in town for a visit, and had, that day, successfully defended her dissertation. Her achievement called for a celebration.

Of all the dining destinations in Boise, she chose the Brick Oven as the place. As we walked in, a friendly staffer rolling silverware flashed us a smile and said hello. With the exception of the few chipper employees, the joint was a little sleepy—our celebration was going to be low-key.

We made our way to the counter, where we grabbed our requisite trays. My mom went for a hand-carved turkey sandwich with a cup of cheddar vegetable soup ($8.29). I, keeping with the tryptophan theme, decided on an open-faced turkey sandwich ($7.89). Our sandwiches were put together in short order by Kelsey, a local high school girl who was anticipating her upcoming prom, and quickly handed off to another worker for the addition of soup on my mom's plate, and mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy on my plate.

We pushed our trays, cafeteria style, around the corner and were greeted by another smiling worker, who asked what we'd be drinking. My mom ordered a glass of Chardonnay ($6.25) and I requested one of my favorite beverages in the world, an Orangina ($1.89). We then pushed a little farther to the register and paid up. Had the weather been a little better, we might have taken our trays out to the spacious patio for the fete my mom deserved, but instead, we found a cozy little table. Immediately after sitting down, another cheery worker showed up and asked if he could take our trays. With our trays gone, our table looked like a Thanksgiving-style spread. Though I'm not a fan of trays, there is really no other way to carry the food. And the Brick Oven does their best to make sure they are out of way as soon as possible.

My open-faced sandwich was a rich collection of comfort-food standards. The sage nut dressing and hand-mashed potatoes were made addictive with the addition of country-style corn gravy. I'll admit it was a bit strange to be eating a sandwich with a fork, but really, what was I supposed to do with all that gravy everywhere? My mom's sandwich was a standard affair. The turkey was great quality and the bread was soft with a good crust. Her soup was creamy and rich with a scoop of mashed potatoes in the middle. The cheddar base was filled with broccoli, cauliflower and the occasional slice of zucchini.

As we wound down from mom's busy day, I briefly considered some dessert. Something like Mom's Carrot Cake ($3.99) would have fit the bill nicely, but like a Thanksgiving turkey, we were stuffed.

The Brick Oven's welcoming atmosphere is made even more so by the friendly whirlwind of "Hellos," "How ya doin's?" and smiles. For me, the Brick Oven is a great restaurant—one I'll return to again and again.

—Ryan Peck wants to follow in his mom's footsteps; he wants to get his Ph.D. in awesomeness.

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