2006 Dining Readers' Choice

Readers' Picks

Best Thai

Mai Thai

Miang kum, tom yum goong, savory seafood dishes, curries and more noodles than you can shake a stick at have won raves since Mai Thai opened its doors in 2003. Complex layers of invigorating Thai flavors keep the regulars returning for more.

750 W. Idaho St., 344-8424

Second Place: Siam Thai

Third Place: Sa-Wad-Dee

Best Restaurant

The MilkyWay

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? The MilkyWay. Well, what did you expect? With Best Dinner and Best Fine Dining racked up, could the top spot be awarded to another? Only if Milky and Andrea Maricich decided to willingly give up their title, and judging by their mission statement--to make The MilkyWay the "BEST" restaurant in Boise--it doesn't look like they'll be relenting any time soon.

205 N. 10th St. Suite 101, 343-4334

Second Place: Cottonwood Grille

Third Place: Gino's

Best Dinner

The MilkyWay

Dinner at MilkyWay is more than just bellying up to the trough. The scenario goes something like this. Belly up and shake off the day by nicely asking martini superhero Pat Carden to mix you one of his infamous award-winning martinis (in case you were snoozing through the Martini Mix-off, Carden's '33 Plymouth and Dawson's One Eye Open swept all four categories this year).

If you don't mind shrugging off the stares of those who always gawk at the lucky couple, request to be seated at the round blue booth that looks like it's been airlifted from the cartoon set of The Jetsons. Our meal suggestion: For starters, order the jalapeno shrimp bites (sweet little morsels that deliver a swift kick to your nasal passage) and duck two ways (which, true to the menu's claim, you can't live without). Salad schmalad. For the main attractions, vegetarians all over town swear by the three-cheese mac. For omnivores, braised beef cheeks are a popular comfort food of choice, as is veal scaloppine.

And then, the denouement. Choose as many desserts as you think you still have room for, but without doubt, a slice of Milky's chocolate-infused bread pudding should make a quivering appearance at your table before meeting a violent end in a hail of fork tines.

205 N. 10th St. Suite 101, 343-4334

Second Place: Cottonwood Grille

Third Place: Red Feather Lounge

Best Burger

WestSide Drive-In

Chef Lou Aaron pounced on last year's winner to make Big Juds the lah-hoo-zuh-her, er, runner-up. We don't know which one of the 18 burgers on Westside's menu is responsible for landing the drive-in at No. 1, but our guess is that it had something to do with the special sauce that's standard when you order one of the beefy specials.

If you're a traditionalist, you can get a junior or regular, single or double, cheese or no cheese. And then there are burgers for the adventurer who has no hesitation about mixing meats or getting a little fruity. Get your bacon, your BBQ and your egg. Throw on some ham with the special deluxe (or, if you're coming off of or going on to a lengthy fast, the Daddy-O, two quarter-pound patties, ham, bacon, Swiss and cheddar, is a calorie-fest fit for only the serious burger eater) or get a little saucy with the teriyaki burger.

What's so special about the special sauce? It's a secret, but it looks like you've developed a nasty addiction.

1939 W. State St., 342-2957

Second Place: Big Juds

Third Place: Falcon Tavern

Best Sandwich

Cobby's

Cobby's reputation for crafting fine specimens of the edible submarine species precedes itself. It's been hanging around the valley since 1978, and over the years, the order-by-number menu has attracted a loyal following of customers who can't tell you what's on their sandwich of choice as quickly as they can remember its corresponding number. While some things have changed just a bit over the years--in addition to the "half-and-half" and "little bit more" combos, there's now a Dr. A's Special, which excludes the bread for the carbo-conscious crowd--and some things will always be the same. like free chips and fruit.

1030 Broadway Ave., 345-0990; 4348 Chinden Blvd., 322-7401; 6899 Overland Rd., 323-0606; 608 12th Ave. S., Nampa, 461-3740

Second Place: Boise Co-op

Third Place: Deli George

Best Coffeehouse

Flying M

It may be the title of a heavily-favored caffeination station, but few M-lovers know the real secret of the creature after whom the downtown hangout is named. The Flying M, a legendary winged creature described in ancient Purple Bean folklore, was the ruler of a species of coffee cultivators until the invasion of a plague of green mermaid-looking characters riding bucking stars. Now "the M," as it's casually known, has taken on human form to personally guard the secrets of roasting and brewing the ideal cup of Purple Bean Coffee. On the hunt for coffee from the gods? For he or she who is worthy, superior coffee and baked goods are hidden somewhere between the gooey angel bars and the rack of cereal. M marks the spot.

500 W. Idaho St., 345-4320

Second Place: Java

Third Place: Dawson Taylor

Best Fine Dining

The MilkyWay

By definition, in order for a restaurant to qualify as "fine dining," it must create an experience, rather than just a gorge-a-rama. (See "Best Dinner" for a brief justification of the experience to be had when you go Milky's way.) But these days, the concept of "experience dining" has taken a different form in corporate joints, where loud music and dance routines performed by spastic waitstaffs are forced upon the dining public. More important to a fine dining experience, however, is the fact that the white coat behind all the grub is a bona fide grad of a proper culinary arts institute, rather than a reject from So You Think You Can Dance. At The MilkyWay, Chef Mitchell Maricich (aka Milky) is the man behind the sauté pans, and not to drop names or anything, but he is a Culinary Institute of America-New York grad. So put your jeans back in the closet, remember to put your shirt on right side out and, for the love of linen napkins, order a nice bottle of wine and settle in for a galactic gastronomic experience.

205 N. 10th St. Suite 101, 343-4334

Second Place: Cottonwood Grille

Third Place: Mortimer's Restaurant

Best Frozen Treat

Coldstone Creamery

Thirty-one flavors is dandy, but Coldstone has so many, it takes scientific notation to count them all. Smoother than a Barry White LP and twice as sweet, Coldstoners everywhere rejoice when the Medieval-looking scoops come out. Put that dollar in the bucket and make them sing. You know you want to.

Numerous locations.

Second Place: Fanci Freeze

Third Place: Goody's

Best Family Dining/Kids

Lucky 13

Yeah, the place with the patio on 'roids and the killer pizza made the list for family dining. What, surprised? Great atmosphere and a Hyde Park vibe make for great place to hang with those maniacal young men and women in their tricked-out, dirt-chewing bikes. It's good fun for all the folks and rug monkeys. Pedal down there yourself and check it out.

1602 N. 13th St., 344-6967

Second Place: Flying Pie

Third Place: Goody's

Best Sushi

Shige

Ride the escalator to the second floor to find the sushi you voted best in Boise. A small slice of Japan wedged between little Italy and a pub where scotch is king, Shige is the best and most palatable sushi in Boise.

Shige encompasses honorable old-school status, catering to the most elite of the sushi connoisseurs, as well as the nigiri novices of this overwhelmingly healthy eating trend. Shige offers a vast selection of tasty treats with obvious pride and nobility funneled into every last one. In addition to the extensive menu and a clear viewing of your sushi being rolled, you also have access to the pepper sauce they use on the spicy tuna roll--or what we like to refer to as "the sweet, painful nectar of the Gods." The miniature floating boats filled with fresh sushi further help to make Shige an extraordinary dining experience.

Japan wasn't joking when they claimed to have the longest life expectancy. Our words of advice to you: eat more fish!

100 N. 8th St., 338-8423

Second Place: Zutto

Third Place: Happy Fish

Best Lunch

Zeppole

Z bones with salad, Z bones with soup. Z bones while driving a polka dotted coupe. OK, so Z bones are actually called Grissinnis and for a $1.25, you get one of these honking big breadsticks with your choice of Parmesan or pesto spreads. They're yummy, filling and cheap. Zeppole hits the list for the first time and lays claim to the top prize of Boise's Best Lunch. Where else can you grab a sandwich/soup combo for $3.95? Or if you're hankering for some yummy greens, try a soup/salad combo for $4.25. Hands down the best lunch under $5.

217 N. 8th St., 345-2149

Second Place: Bittercreek Ale house

Third Place: Bardenay

Best Mediterranean

Cazba

Stepping into Cazba is like taking a magic carpet ride into a tranquil scene from Arabian Nights. Since 1991, owners Max, Ali and Mehdi Mohammadi have treated their guests like family. (Max even ran for mayor in 2003!) We love their lamb and beef gyros, tasty shish kabobs and fresh horiatiki salad.

211 N. 8th St., 381-0222

Second Place: Aladdin

Third Place: Mazzeh

Best Italian

Gino's

Gino's veal gnocchi inspires regular cravings, his osso bucco is divine, and sonnets should be written about his minestrone soup. The native Italian learned his way around the cucina Italiano from his grandmother, and ever since he opened his doors in 1996, hungry Boiseans have been deeply grateful.

150 N. 8th St., 331-3771

Second Place: Asiago's

Third Place: Louie's

Best Chinese

Yen Ching

This downtown institution has been serving Boise's favorite Chinese food for two decades and is consistently a top finisher. General's chicken, Mongolian beef, crab rangoon and pot stickers are all prepared fresh and served hot. But we only have one question: What happened to the beaded curtains?

305 N. 9th St., 384-0384

Second Place: P.F. Chang's

Third Place: Twin Dragon

Best Patio

Lucky 13

It's not just the North Enders who trade wingtips for Tevas after work during the summer and flock to Lucky 13. This patio has been a top finisher for years, and it's no wonder. Its proximity to the Boise Foothills, as well as cold beer and tasty pizzas named after North End streets, have made Lucky 13 the place to cool your hooves after a vicious ride or a nice, long run.

1602 N. 13th St., 344-6967

Second Place: Reef

Third Place: Cottonwood Grille

Best Dessert

Le Cafe De Paris

So many custardy, chocolaty, shortbready, buttery concoctions, all assembled with an architect's eye and an artist's steady hand--we surrender to the French! "But the fat!" you say. Buh. Just keep repeating this phrase until you believe it: "Butter and cream are good for you, it's partially hydrogenated soybean oil that's bad." Just don't start saying it to the food itself, or you might develop a Strawberry Napoleon complex.

204 N. Capitol Blvd., 336-0889

Second Place: The MilkyWay

Third Place: Square

Best Pizza

Guido's

Not even a two-hour wait for a pie on a Friday night can keep the hungry crowd away. Transplants from both coasts flock to Guido's for their New York-style thin crust fix, topped with all the fixins you expect and plenty you don't. A pliable crust and just the right amount of melted cheese helped Guido unseat last year's first-place winner.

235 N. 5th St., 345-9011

Second Place: Flying Pie

Third Place: Casanova pizzeria

Best Indian

Bombay Grill

Downtown Boise's only Indian food restaurant serves flavorful curries, tandoori and vindaloo, all at varying levels of spiciness. The chances are good that your favorite dish is on their menu, and the lunch buffet isn't our little secret anymore. Oh, well.

928 W. Main St., 345-7888

Second Place: Madhuban

Third Place: Taj Mahal

Best South of the Border

Chapala

BW readers have spoken! Chapala's proximity to Hawks Stadium makes it a popular pre-game pit stop in Garden City--and in Meridian, and on Vista and in Nampa. And why not? Cold Coronas, sizzling fajitas and all the fare you expect from a gringo-style Mexican joint await beyond the palms.

5697 Glenwood, 321-8262; 3447 W. Chinden Blvd., 342-5648; 1201 S. Vista Ave., 429-1155

Second Place: Andrade's

Third Place: Roque's

Best Vegetarian

Mai Thai

Mai Thai takes its vegetarian offerings to the next level by moving beyond tofu and into the realm of meat substitutes. Dishes like ginger chicken, black pepper steak and citrus spareribs are made using no meat at all. And Mai Thai offers all its regular menu items sans meat in classic vegetarian style using tofu, vegetables or meat substitute. Wild times, man.

750 Idaho St., 344-8424

Second Place: Flipside Cafe

Third Place: Tapas Estrella

Best BBQ

Goodwood Barbeque

Last year's first-place winner does it again! The specialty is ribs, as in: baby back, St. Louis spare and West Texas beef. Goodwood cooks 'em slow and low, making them melt-in-your-mouth tender and too messy for a first date.

1140 N. Eagle Rd., 884-1021; 7849 W. Spectrum, 658-7173

Second Place: Eagle Rib Shack

Third Place: Texas Roadhouse

Best Seafood

Murphy's Seafood Bar and Grill

You want fresh seafood in Boise? Murphy's. The classically elegant dining room serves consistently flavorful preparations to the local button-down crowd. The fresh oysters, wild salmon, mahi mahi and other seasonal delicacies at Murphy's will have you hearing seagulls and foghorns.

1555 Broadway Ave., 344-3691

Second Place: McGrath's Fish House

Third Place: Fresh off the Hook Seafood

Best Steak

Texas Roadhouse

Whether you're a lover of sirloin, T-bone or ribeye, Texas Roadhouse has your steak. Of course, there are beef filets and prime rib, too, and more side dishes than you can shake a two-pointed fork at. You'll roll home happier than a pig in mud.

3801 E. Fairview Ave., 887-9401

Second Place: Lock, Stock and Barrel

Third Place: Stagecoach Inn

Best Breakfast

Goldy's

If it's a weekend or a peak breakfast time, you might need to get on the waiting list and indulge in a cup of Dawson Taylor coffee, but Goldy's is well worth the hour-plus wait. If you need to, camp out the night before­--like you did when those Jimmy Buffet tickets went on sale.

Why is it that every time we have a guest from out of town, we always plan take them to Goldy's for breakfast? Perhaps it's that the chandelier they have dangling over the dining room is at least 150 percent cooler than anything we currently own or probably ever will. Perhaps it's the plate-sized stuffed French toast or a veggie benny smothered in rich hollandaise. Set in the heart of downtown Boise, Goldy's Breakfast Bistro is hip, delicious and entirely capable of making an impression on even the most selective of breakfast snobs.

108 S. Capitol Blvd., 345-4100

Second Place: Capri

Third Place: Flipside Cafe