It's Easy Being Green 

Our greenbelt tour of watering holes on the waterfront between Garden City and Boise

Boise might be in a desert, but it still has a waterfront. The Boise Greenbelt trail system spans more than 30 miles, stringing together the city's biggest parks and allowing thousands of residents direct access to the Boise River.

The riverside path is a respite from summer heat; a destination for joggers, bicyclists and rollerbladers; a place for introspective perambulators; and a put-in spot for swimmers, floaters, kayakers, canoers, standup paddleboarders and even surfers, all within minutes of the downtown core.

Along with all the outdoor activity, the greenbelt is also where you can find one of the most scenic booze-and-food crawls around.

From west to east, Telaya Wine Co. to the Ram Restaurant and Brewery is about three miles. Between those points are spots on or near the 'belt' where you can grab a bite and sip a beverage or two (or three) before hitting the trail again.

Most of our tour follows the north bank of the river and crosses over or under seven of the city's most important bridges, across the border between Garden City and Boise, past the Americana Boulevard diversion dam and along the edge of Julia Davis Park.

All the while, the greenbelt offers some of the best nature viewing you're likely to find in the downtown area of a mid-sized American city.

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes

Telaya Wine Co.

Build something great, and people will beat a path to your door. Just ask the owners of Telaya Wine Co., which opened in a gorgeous space a few yards west of the Sandbar in February 2016.

Located at the beginning of Garden City's "Live-Work-Create" district, which is geared toward fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, Telaya's property used to be the end of the line, as far as greenbelt-adjacent entertainment. Owners Earl and Carrie Sullivan purchased the property from The Riverside Hotel, raised it as much as six feet—out of flood danger—and, soon, the greenbelt rolled out to meet them.

Designed by the Sullivans, the combination winery and tasting room is a smart-looking amalgamation of rustic and industrial elements—a giant wooden slab door opens into a warm-lit, wood appointed room with floor-to-ceiling windows offering an expansive view of the river and foothills. Earl said the atmosphere of Telaya—which takes its name from a portmanteau of Teton and La Playa—is meant to evoke less the posh aesthetic of Jackson Hole, Wyo., and more the approachable, laid back style of Big Sky, Mont.

Telaya shared its space with Coiled Wines until May 1, when the latter moved to a new location on 34th Street and Chinden—giving both operations much-needed room for expansion.

Earl, who in a former life was COO of a global pharmaceutical company, said Telaya is designed to produce an annual maximum of 5,000 cases. In 2016, the winery achieved 4,000 cases, but quality, rather than quantity is the watchword, with the goal of turning out one-ton boutique lots. Telaya typically has three to four whites and five to six reds—all of which can be sipped both in the tasting room and on the river-facing patio.

In the outdoor space, towering braziers give off plenty of heat, as does a giant square rock firepit around which couples and friends sit laughing over wine flights.

Kids and dogs are always welcome, and leashes for keeping pooches under control are available, courtesy of West Vet.

Out on the grass, where dozens of bikes are parked during most of the year, Telaya also offers wine and yoga nights and plans to incorporate cigar evenings. While the winery typically closes at 6 p.m., beginning in mid-May, music and a food truck will be on offer Thursdays until 9 p.m.

Asked to describe what the Live-Work-Create district means to him, Earl said it speaks to Garden City's recognition of its craft beverage industry and the arts.

"And people are making investments like we have," he said.

They are. Telaya soon won't be the westernmost stop on the greenbelt entertainment trek. Already, a funky shipping container bar called the Yard Arm operates seasonally in a lot farther west on the path and, in spring 2017, legendary Boise Bench Italian eatery Luciano's will open Caffe Luciano on prime real estate at Adams Street and Prospect Way, a stone's throw from the bridge spanning the Boise River to the Esther Simplot Park and Quinn's Pond.

240 E. 32nd St., Garden City, 208-557-9463,
click to enlarge ZACH HAGADONE
  • Zach Hagadone

Sandbar Patio Bar and Grill

Anybody who has been on a beach vacation will be familiar with a place like the Sandbar Patio Bar and Grill. Set along the greenbelt on the north side of The Riverside Hotel and mere feet from the Boise River, it's a seasonal hot spot (open mid-May through October) known for live music and a freewheeling party vibe. And we mean "freewheeling," literally. Swing by the Sandbar in the summer and, odds are, you'll find a jumbled row of bikes crowded along the patio fence and propped up in the grass off the greenbelt—there is ample structured bike parking not far from the bar, and even a nifty repair box to fix minor mechanical problems.

Don't show up expecting to snag a table inside some sports bar-type watering hole. True to its name, the Sandbar is a patio bar, with ample outdoor seating and food and drink service delivered out of a standalone kitchen/bar. The action is outside anyway, where revelers gather in the growing dusk of a summer night cooled by the nearby rushing river.

Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, the Sandbar's happy hour runs 3-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are eight draft beers—all local or Idaho-based—on the menu, along with 12 wines, including neighbors Telaya Wine Co. and Coiled Wines. You'll find a handful of standard domestics and imports in the bottle, along with a full bar and custom cocktails—including the Sandbar Margarita (Patron Silver tequila, fresh lime, agave and Grand Marnier; $12), Pat's Main Beach Sangria (made with a proprietary, award-winning recipe from bartender Pat Carden; $7) and the North End (Rigby-based 44 North Rainier Cherry Vodka, fresh limeade, house grenadine and Sprite; $8.75).

Live music is also on tap every night and all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and if all that fun in the sun makes you hungry, the Sandbar serves lunch and dinner every day, all day.

2900 W. Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-343-1871,

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes

Joe's Crab Shack

The aptly named Riverside Hotel, south bank of the Boise River and just west of the Americana Bridge, sits near the invisible boundary between Garden City and the City of Trees.

Located next door to The Riverside is Joe's Crab Shack, set in a squat beach house-looking building on the greenbelt. Literally. "Joe's Big Deck" runs right alongside the path, marked off by a thick rope line and offering a sweeping view of the river and foothills. The patio officially opens on Mother's Day each year but, weather permitting, if people want to sit out there they can.

Inside, Joe's Crab Shack feels a little like a place you'd visit while on vacation. It's a riot of color, with multi-hued tiles on the floor, a not-quite-tiki-theme running throughout and an enormous faux shark hanging from the ceiling right as you walk in.

Check out the ample bar menu, which includes six taps divided between a smattering of locals and big domestics. You'll find all the requisite labels—from the big light beers to Corona—plus Joe's Crab Shack-branded cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay wines and a full complement of liquors.

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes

Which brings us to Joe's signature drink: the Shark Bite, a 16-ounce goblet filled with Bacardi Limon, Cruzan 151, Absolut vodka, Blue Curacao and sweet and sour mix ($9.21). The server performs a little skit when delivering the cocktail, telling a story about a shark sighting, then tipping a plastic shark with a test tube in its mouth into the drink, spilling a rivulet of grenadine into the swirling blue mass. It tastes vaguely margarita-ish and with each sip, a grenadine burn evokes a certain existential dread for the next morning. Nonetheless, it's fun to share with bar buds and adds to the generally festive feel of the place.

A mix of couples, families and college-age friends fill the place, munching on crab and laughing over cocktails and beer. The queen crab is the most popular menu item, with sweet, big, easy- to-crack legs ($29.49).

With such ready access to the greenbelt, it's an convenient, inviting stop after hoofing or pedalling your way across the route past Ann Morrison Park.

2288 N. Garden St., Garden City, 208-336-9370,

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes

Payette Brewing Co.

About a mile east of Joe's Crab Shack, and squarely within the City of Trees, is Payette Brewing Co.'s still-sparkling new taproom on Pioneer Street. You'll have to leave the greenbelt for the few yards' walk to the facility but, seriously, the whole point here is to get some exercise between stops.

As impressive as Payette's beer output is—the 60-barrel-capacity system can pump out 40,000 barrels—its industrial-modern space is an equal achievement. Concrete, steel and blond wood characterize the taproom, which is dotted with high top tables on wheels and metal chairs that feel like they weigh 50 pounds.

Well-lit by soft Edison bulbs and plenty of natural light coming through a series of garage doors—which lift for access to a grassy area for beer gardens, games, live music and other events—it's a friendly space filled with kids, dogs and assorted sporty types fresh off the greenbelt.

A bank of coolers is set along the west wall featuring cold Payette beers by the bottle, six-pack and case, making for a super convenient beer run.

Up at the chunky blonde wood bar, 19 beers are on tap with one reserved for Garden City-based Meriwether Cider Company. Four wines are also on offer: three from Walla Walla, Wash.-based Proletariat Wine Company, which are pretty much constant, while the fourth tap rotates.

Payette's Pioneer location is a production facility and taproom, so there's no kitchen, but the brewery hosts a food truck nearly every day, beginning at 4 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends.

During a sunny weekend visit, the bartender said stouts, porters and ambers were giving in to a mix of dark brews and fruity IPAs. The Blood Orange Rustler IPA ($4.25) was flying off the taps and Flyline Lager will be a fave of bikers, joggers and dog walkers come summer.

While patrons chatted and sipped suds, and a few played Scrabble, four TVs featured sports.

Thanks to a relatively recent Idaho law allowing kids into breweries when accompanied by an adult, little ones were there in abundance, enjoying a kids' play area near the front door.

A common challenge with breweries is the echo-chamber nature of their spaces: With so much liquid at the center of their operations, most breweries' interiors are made up of easily washed metal and concrete surfaces. That can often result in booming acoustics. Not so at Payette. A raft of light-colored wood beams run across the low-ish ceiling, topped with egg-crate foam. The system works well, cutting the echo effect to a pleasant buzz. It's impressive—and stylish—considering the amount of hard edges and flat surfaces in the space. Still, it feels intimate, which is, again, testament to the local brewer's achievement in both beer and design.

733 S. Pioneer St., 208-344-0011,

Cottonwood Grille

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes

Hit the greenbelt for a short, half-mile jaunt east to Cottonwood Grille, which offers a laid-back, old-school elegance immediately adjacent to the Ninth Street Bridge. Inside, warm wood tones and an impressive river rock fireplace give Cottonwood a comfy lodge-like feel. The bar area is intimate, with a row of booths across from a marble bar top.

Belly up to 15 taps with rotating local entries, including seven wines and a cider, if you're not a suds lover.

A glance at the liquor selection shows the house mixologists know their stuff. Luxardo maraschino liqueur has earned a spot, which is always a good sign—not only is maraschino liqueur spendy, the recipes that feature it are usually killer Cocktail Golden Age tipples. The Scotch selection is also admirable: Balvenie, Dalwhinnie, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Macallan 12, Oban, Rip Van Winkle 12 and Johnnie Walker Blue.

The TV presence is minimal, adding to the relaxed vibe. Rough-hewn stone flanks the bar, giving it a wine cellar-like feel.

Asked for the most popular spring/summer cocktail order, the bartender on duty mixed up a martini featuring Canyon County's own Koenig huckleberry vodka, Pama pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice and lime shaken and served up ($8). On the dry side, pleasantly tart, sweet and sporting a sugar rim, the huck-tini was a perfect complement for a greenbelt saunter.

Cotttonwood's claim to cocktail fame bar manager Clark Van Vooren's Manhattans: The Midtown and Resume both won first place from vaunted whiskey maker Woodford in its Master of the Manhattan-Idaho competition in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

On a spring-ish Saturday, afternoon patrons sipped champagne and house-made frappuccino while dining from a lunch menu that changes daily.

The patio is greenbelt adjacent with plenty of seating. A low rock wall encloses the Tuscan-esque space, which features a small pond and gurgling waterfall. It's an ideal place to sip a cocktail, nibble some caprese—which boasts some of the fluffiest mozzarella you're likely to find in Idaho—and watch the procession of Boiseans stroll along the 'belt.

913 W. River St., 208-333-9800,

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes

The Ram Restaurant and Brewery

You can step off the portion of greenbelt running under the busy Broadway Bridge and right into the humongous interior of The Ram. One of a chain of brewery/restaurants, The Ram is a monument to the sports bar-and-grill concept. About 23 televisions hooked up to as may as 10 receivers show every major sporting event, with a focus on Boise State University play—somewhat ironic, as The Ram is a short walk from Albertson Stadium across the river on Broadway Avenue.

A sprawling bar and dining room are spread out beneath a vaulted ceiling, and big windows afford views of the river. The bar maximizes its footprint: It's a horseshoe shape where every seat has a commanding view of a TV. Ten taps pour six Ram crafts and up to four seasonals, as well as Angry Orchard hard cider. If you're into domestics, The Ram has all the essentials by the bottle.

The food menu is hefty, featuring items like the Ram Grand Reuben No. 505 (shaved "eye of the round" corned beef and Wisconsin havarti) and the Buttface Amber Ale Chicken sandwich (marinated chicken breast with Tillamook cheddar, coleslaw, tomato, onion crisps and tomato-chipotle mayo on a pretzel bun). Doyle Cozza, an assistant manager, said the Faburge is a popular choice.

"It's breakfast in a burger," he said, referring to the construction of burger patty, cheddar, sliced ham, hickory smoked bacon, fried egg, onion crisps and mayo ($12). Pair it with a Proud Mary bloody mary, and you have a hangover tonic.

If you want to take your party outside, the multi-tiered patio opens at the end of March and closes around the end of September, weather permitting. Cozza said there's "always a ton" of traffic off the greenbelt—so much so The Ram cut a gate into the patio wall in summer 2016 to accommodate all the walk-ins.

Intrigued by the Buttface Amber Ale's name, we ordered up a freezing cold 16-ouncer and enjoyed the alternately malty, hoppy, caramely flavor of this 5.8 percent alcohol by volume brew, which took home North American Beer Awards in 2004, 2009 and 2010.

709 E. Park Blvd., 208-345-2929,
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