The Sandbar Patio Bar and Grill 

Pub grub with a conscience on the scenic Boise Greenbelt

The Sandbar gives some love to vegetarians with its ample portabella eggplant burger.

Leila Ramella-Rader

The Sandbar gives some love to vegetarians with its ample portabella eggplant burger.

When it comes to scenic dining, location often trumps quality. Crashing waves and a rocking sunset can make heat-lamp cardboard seem like haute cuisine. But luckily, The Sandbar Patio Bar and Grill manages to balance pretty with pretty damn good.

The Riverside Hotel's new seasonal restaurant, open April through October, is bordered on one side by the Garden City hotel's bright blue pool and the other by the gushing Boise River. With a rotating cast of live musicians and a cloud of mist pouring down on the patio, The Sandbar feels like it's been plucked off a beach resort. And the stream of river-haired patrons stumbling in off the Greenbelt with panting dogs adds to that vibe.

On a recent sweltering weekday evening, I gave in to the atmosphere and ordered a house-made top shelf 'rita on the rocks ($7.75). The marg was refreshing and free from noxious pre-made mix, but came in a buzz-killing plastic cup.

Scanning the restaurant's thin, wood-mounted menu--burgers, fries, sandwiches and wraps--I noticed a prominent focus on local products like Weiser River Signature beef and Ballard Family cheese. I put in an order for a "portabella" veggie burger ($5.99) and my date went with the signature one-third-pound beef burger ($5.99). Though the burgers seemed inexpensive at first glance, the cost crept up with the addition of fries or chips ($2.99) and add-ons like cheddar ($1) or Ballard cheese ($1.50).

A basket of thick, house-made chips came out first from the outdoor kitchen, along with a side of tangy Sriracha fry sauce. You can have the chips dusted with ranch or Basque flavor, but we kept it simple with sea salt. The hot spuds crisped up nicely after a few minutes and paired well with a Kona Longboard Lager ($5). But the real show-stealer was the burger--a toasted potato bun layered with a slab of breaded eggplant and a grilled portabella, then piled high with a mound of balsamic-glazed summer squash, sliced criminis, red peppers and sweet onions. It was fresh, flavorful, filling and, gasp, vegetarian.

My date said his decidedly not-veggie burger--cooked "as rare as they'd do it"--was equally satisfying, noting that it was on par with some of the best he's had in Boise.

But as we scanned the mound of trash that had piled up on our table--recycled plastic cups, wooden silverware, brown paper liners--the spot started to feel more like a fast-food joint than a barefoot beach hut.

The Sandbar has dubbed its concept "pub food with a conscience." Here's hoping it spends the winter hiatus installing a trash-conscious dishwasher.

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