Solid Grill and Bar 

On Hell's Kitchen, chef Gordon Ramsay is always yelling at the wannabe master cooks for ruining risotto. After calling them donkeys, he'll scream about how soupy or crunchy they've made the simple dish. At Solid Grill and Bar in BODO, owner Jeremy Aevermann said he had been eating a lot of risotto when one of his employees suggested frying it. The football shaped rolls ($5.95) are covered in a panko-based coat and then flash fried. Served on fanciful stripes of a balsamic reduction and beurre blanc, the risotto bites make for a lovely app or are excellent for soaking up one of the local-only beers on tap, like the heady Sun Valley Oktoberfest ($5).

But next to nachos, brie with a fruit compote and crostinis, and hot wings, they also act as an example of some menu confusion. Solid serves American cuisine that has a ton of potential but can't quite decide whether it's homey or high-end.

Somewhere between cozy and chi-chi, the sprawling restaurant affords either a seat in the thick of things at the bar, where the TV is always turned to a game (Aevermann's usual work uniform is the current rage in Boise fashion: a florid orange Broncos T-shirt) or a spot near the back, where silky dark-colored Cost Plus-style pillows line a long wood-backed booth. Lunch is an assortment of wraps, burgers and sandwiches. A portobello mushroom sandwich ($7.95) is always a pleasant surprise on a menu, and among its peers, Solid's is one of the best. The texture is right--not too chewy--but the addition of carmelized onions and a healthy portion of tangy gorgonzola are a savory match for the umami of the fungi. For dinner, the restaurant lights are turned low, and a private daytime business meeting table in the back corner becomes a romantic spot. The addition of a dinner menu served after 5 p.m. offers an assortment of heavier dishes, including surf and turf ($16.95): two jumbo prawns and grilled sirloin on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes surrounded by seasonal fresh vegetables. While the prawns were beautifully sauteed, the sirloin--ordered medium rare--was tough and would have been well served by a spot more seasoning. A blizzard of dried parsley flakes and fresh garlic chunks covered the plate (rendering any garlic in the spuds irrelevant), and though the garlic gave the dish a welcome bite, a less-is-more approach would have worked better.

A simple prime rib dip ($8.50) was bested by a side of cooked-to-crispy perfection, skin-on fries. The buttery taste particular to prime rib was replaced with the equally identifiable flavor that particular cut of meat takes on when it is reheated.

With its enviable wrap-around porch, two terrific happy hours, hospitable service and a late-night breakfast menu that includes a unique treat--chicken and waffles--Solid is definitely on the right track. It just needs to decide whether it is haute or down-home.

--Amy Atkins thinks someone needs to tell Gordon Ramsay about risotto bites.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Solid Grill and Bar.

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