Best Place to Have a P.O. Box
Bannock Post Office
Why should you have your mailbox at the downtown post office? Aside from the obvious--it's within burping distance of coffee, sushi, cocktail and pizza joints--it's also just a cool old building. And cool old buildings seem to feel however you feel.
On good days, you fly up the stairs like Rocky, and when you step inside, the water in the pipes makes a happy "good morning" rumble. The key slides right into the eagle on your little gold-colored box, and you find a postcard with a picture of Tigger on it and a message from Billy saying Judy had the baby, and it's a girl, and she already said her first word and it was your name!
Those are the good days, though. On the bad days, the stairs up to the front entrance feel like an Aztec ziggurat. The lobby smells like the building farted, and you drop our coins in something red and wet on the floor when you're trying to buy stamps. Billy wrote to say your novel is pedantic--he'd know, the pig!--and you received a note saying you need to renew your wart medication. The water pipes groan sympathetically, and you flip them off. Then you realize they're just pipes, and you're crazy, but having a cool old building to foist your insane anthropomorphizing onto helps. Somehow.
750 W. Bannock St., 275-8777
Best Big Box Store Yet to Move Downtown
Forget all those people who go all hand-wavey every time someone mentions a new rumor that Trader Joe's or Whole Foods is going to open in Boise. What we need is a new kind of big box store: One that everybody could agree on. It could only be one thing: Bacon Depot. It'll have everything from local Falls Brand and Smoky Davis slices to Spanish salt-cured pork legs that still have the hoof attached. And the helpful staff is all about facilitation. They'll teach you to assemble your own classic BLT on toast with mayo on both sides, but they won't do it for you.
You may argue that this store doesn't have much to offer to vegetarians, but you'd be wrong. The veggies will be three thick on the sidewalk all day, basking in the sweet aroma of baconlightenment and worrying that their enjoyment of it is "cheating."
Best Lip Balm Selection
It's pretty icky to be having a conversation with someone whose lips are dry and chapped. Lip glosses, balms and unguents are an important accessory for any well-groomed man or woman. The problem with so many of them is that they are sticky, full of glitter or made by companies who still use uncivilized animal testing. It's tough to say no to the Co-op's selection of tubes, tins and pots full of healing ointments made of all-natural ingredients to help keep your lips moist, protected and totally talk-to-able.
888 W. Fort St., 472-4500
Best Store We've Never Been To
Wee Bit O' Scotland
It's a wee bit o' mystery. What goes on in that little shop on Emerald? What in Black Donald's name could they possibly sell there? Do they headbutt you if you don't buy something? You simply don't know, because you've always been too scared to go in. And yet, it haunts your dreams. What if they have that perfect bumper sticker you've always wanted--the one that has the word "arse" on it somewhere? Or a clearance bin full of used kilts--wouldn't that be cool to see? This one guy said he heard from this other guy that they sell canned haggis--is that even possible? And this other guy, he said he heard bagpipes playing inside when he drove by. If you were inside the same room as that, wouldn't your eardrums explode? You're not sure ... but why won't it leave you alone?
4501 Emerald St., 331-5675
Best Place to Get a Hummer
The Hummer Dealership
Duh! What else could we have meant? However, if you want one of those big blue Toyota Hummer-wannabes, you should go ... away. Those things are gawdawful. They look like a Happy Meal toy.
Best Big Box Store to Move Downtown
Someone remind us: How in the hell did this city survive so long without a downtown office supply store?
From the outside of its BoDo home, it doesn't look like much, but on the inside, Office Depot stretches for miles in every direction, hawking a million cool office gadgets you never knew you couldn't live without, and supplying each of us here at BW with our guilty office pleasures (expensive and tasty pens, heart-shaped stickies and endless stacks of Rolodex cards).
404 S. 8th St., 331-3195
Best Thing Missing from Downtown
A damn gas station/convenience store--is that too much to ask? With the loss of Hill's Pharmacy, there's nowhere downtown to buy a pre-packaged breakfast sandwich, a pack of smokes, a tube of Chapstick and a four-pack of toilet paper. There's a Jackson's on Capitol Blvd. and an Albertson's on 16th, but wouldn't it be nice to step out of Dawson Taylor or (depending on your version of a pick-me-up) Pengilly's, walk a block or two to pick up three hot dogs for a dollar and a box of Tide before moseying on home? Yes, it would.
Best Place to Buy a Fun Gift for Someone You Don't Know Very Well
Boise Art Museum
The numerous finger puppets, toys and Slinkys say, "Don't worry, I'm not creepy" (or at least that's what we tell ourselves they say). The visionary teapots, dishes and uniquely designed pens add, "I like to use interesting items where less interesting items would suffice, because I am so gol dern tasteful." Or if you prefer to say those things literally, there are plenty of cool cards and postcards. Whether it's for an acquaintance on the verge of turning into a friend or a make-out-buddy with aspirations of becoming a significant other, the store has been making us look much cooler than we are for as long as we've realized we needed help.
670 Julia Davis Dr., 345-8330
Best Alternative to Hallmark
We have nothing against the Big H. We love that cranky old bitch Maxine as much as anyone. However, sometimes, a mass-produced, impersonal card just doesn't get the sentiment across. One of our favorite greeting card alternatives is not just cheap, but an adventure, too. Walk into just about any thrift store around, and you'll find a pile of random cards--some old, some weird, some crumpled, many a bit grimy, but all one-of-a-kind. Nothing says "Happy Birthday, Grandma!" like a 30-year-old "Love Is..." card with a mismatched envelope.
Best Place to Eat Croquettes and then Crash for the Night
Not so long ago, fine dining in Boise got even more varied when Basque restaurant Leku Ona opened up downtown just across the street from the Basque Center. But did you know that right next door to the restaurant, owners opened up the Leku Ona Boutique Hotel? Nestled into that adorable brick two-story building, you'll find the five rooms that make up the hotel. The smallest are big enough for a romantic evening for two, and the biggest room bunks four. We were impressed with the spacious en-suite bathrooms, the cleanliness and the schmancy flat-screen TVs in all the rooms. But what made us really want to grab our sweethearts and book a romantic evening for two was the old-world European charm of the place. Bonus: Guests are welcome and encouraged to enjoy the balconies overlooking the street. And the weirdest part: It's crazy-cheap at $65 to $85 per night.
117 S. 6th St., 345-6665,
Best Free Entertainment
Movies at Satchel's Grill
Aside from spitting on rafters from Rainbow Bridge and making fun of weekend cruisers (cross reference blurbs on each of those activities for further explanation), the best legit free entertainment around is the outdoor movie nights at Satchel's. Four nights a week, the projector cranks up for the modest crowd gathered on the grill's patios. Still dropping a small fortune at the googleplex? Sucka. Visit www.satchelsgrill.com for a schedule of upcoming movies.
705 W. Bannock St., 344-3752
Best To-Do List Block
Broadway Ave. between Boise Ave. and Warren St.
For those times when the butler's on strike, the maid's out of town and the chef is nursing third-degree burns due to a nasty accident with a creme puff, there's one place where a bourgeois with limited amounts of time and moolah (hey, having all those servants around sure does cost a pretty penny) can conquer the ever present to-do list in one stop-and-shop destination--the little slice of Broadway between Boise Avenue and Warren Street. Here's the routine. Park your car at the do-it-yourself car wash. Run next door to the Jiffy Clean Laundry. Load all your dirty clothes into multiple washers. Put your food order in at Lim's Specialty House. Vacuum your car. Wash it. (Or wash then vacuum if that's your preference.) Move your clothes from washers to dryers. Head down to the Ves's Broadway bar, get a cocktail, beer or other beverage, walk through the connecting doors to Lim's and enjoy your lunch. Second (or third) beverage optional, but don't forget your clothes. Oh, and if you need a haircut, there's a barber shop squashed between Lim's and Jiffy. Happy to-doing.
Best Public Rest Room
The Idaho Statehouse
Hey, anybody can duck into the coffee-shop john while your friends refill their cuppa joe. And while we admire your sneakiness, we offer a better spot: the bathrooms in the Idaho State Capitol. They're almost always open, almost always clean, and you get to tour one of Boise's prettiest buildings while you're in there. Best of all, you don't have to buy a muffin to get permission to head for the head. If anybody stops you, just say you're touring the marble fineries, and hey, Kojak, I'm a taxpayer! This building is mine! There are bathrooms on most floors, but the second and third floor rest rooms have the grooviest ancient-plumbing sound effects. We don't want to know what sound effects you'll contribute.
Best Public Rest Room at the Mall
Clean and comfortable rest rooms in the mall are not urban myths, but simply well-kept secrets. First place goes to the Pottery Barn for its hidden gem of modern decor and cleanliness. You'll have to maneuver through the store, past the sales clerks who will attempt to chat you up in every section, head straight to the lamp section at the back right-hand side of the store and make a sharp right into a little nook of mirrors. There, you'll find separate his and hers bathrooms that are clean, private and far removed from the smelly stalls at the food court rest rooms. Other choice spots for relief in the mall are the Gap, Banana Republic and the lounges in Dillard's.
350 N. Milwaukee St., 377-1067
Best Corporate Rest Room
Hands-down the winner. On the main site at Boise's high-profile anchor of the local tech industry, the bathrooms are spacious, well-lit and remarkably clean. If you had to sit on a bathroom floor for God and country, HP would be the place to make this grand hygienic sacrifice. The connection between the rest rooms' comfort level and the soul-shaking awfulness of the free coffee on-site has yet to be definitively proven.
11311 W. Chinden Blvd., 323-2551
Best Arcade Game
Dance Dance Revolution
Name one other video game where sucking at it equates so directly to real-life embarrassment. When you miss the arrows (the point is to step on four arrows to the beat of atrocious Japanese techno, resulting in a primitive gyration that looks somewhere between dancing and being inhabited by the spirit of Ba'al), people laugh. Old people, hipsters and 8-year-olds alike will stare and point. That may not sound like much fun, but lose your shame and the game is worth actually worth it. It's like a full-body, full-workout version of Tetris. And the best part is, you don't just have to go over to Pojo's to play it. There are two stations in the Boise State Student Union Building. But expect some stiff competition--by which we mean, a crowd throwing things at you.
Best Name For A Condom
"Ria Wrangler, that is. Nice to meetcha, cowboy. Why should you ride with a talking condom, you ask? Well, I'm purty blue--just like you'd be if you knocked up that girl. And don't be fooled by that ouchy cactus on my wrapper. I'm ribbed and studded, but not so much that I'd scare the little lady. And at 69 cents per unit (so to speak), what do you have to lose? Shoot, even I don't know how a condom store has stayed open in a conservative market like Boise for as long as the O-Zone (formerly the Rubber Rainbow), but who are we to question it? The wang wants what it wants."
1615 Broadway Ave., 395-1977
Best Place to Buy Pettipants
Staack's Duds for Dolls & Dudes
Sugar, we just can't get enough of those pettipants. So frilly and cute--and, to scandalize the town elders, we prefer the short "sissy" pants to the mid-thigh bloomer type. Mercy! But Staack's carries both styles. So what if we don't square dance? Staack's Duds for Dolls and Dudes is fun enough to make a dancer out of us, if only so we have excuses to buy sissy pants and petticoats. Surrounded by drawers full of pettipants in all sizes and colors and racks overflowing with petticoats ... oh, we feel so faint just thinking about it, you could knock us over with a feather. Double mercy! And what's not to love about a place where a man is a dude and a lady is a doll.
3201 N. 39th St., 343-2922
Best Dressing Room
Vie Vie Boutique
If only trying on clothes could be this fun everywhere. By some cruel trick of fate, the dressing rooms at Vie Vie Boutique make us look fabulous in the mirror. Maybe it's the sheer size of the rooms, or the beautiful white rugs on the floor. Yeah, it's gotta be the rugs--so soft under our feet, that if societal conventions would allow, we would lie down and take a nap. But we wouldn't want to freak out the salespeople, because we want to come back and try on more beautiful clothes.
276 N. 8th St., 345-8882
Best Man Pampering
Ah, payday. The one day when an impoverished alt-schlub can justify making the one purchase he's been craving since ... well, since last payday. Even those of us whose beards look like worms trying to escape from our cheeks understand the appeal of a traditional shave with a straight razor, hot towels and about a dozen different rounds of lotion application. While the name of the premier downtown razory has changed--it's now "Napoleon's Retreat" rather than Napoleon's For Men--the idea is the same: making dopes feel like dictators. And if you fall asleep and start drooling during the fifth round applications, they've got plenty of towels.
110 N. 8th St., 424-8484
Best Place of Worship
Boise Hare Krishna Temple and Vedic Cultural Center
Tucked into an aging neighborhood on Martha Street not far from Boise State, the temple is an understated red brick building that blends in with the homes nearby. The exterior is so subtle that its designation as a place of prayer is hardly evident. Inside, the temple is rich with cultural artwork from local artists depicting scenes from Hare Krishna mythology. But Boise has spectacular churches like St. John's and Holy Apostles, as well as the oldest Jewish synagogue west of the Mississippi. What makes Boise Hare Krishna Temple the best this year? Because the Hare Krishnas' philosophy of non-violence, vegetarianism and freedom from material things sounds like the kind of low-key, compassionate message it doesn't hurt to contemplate right about now.
1615 Martha St., 344-4274
Best Place of Worship with a Ball Pit
Boise FirstCommunity Center
At this 8-trillion square-foot Nazarene church on Eagle Road, you'll come for the for the cleansing of your sins, but you'll stay for the colorful plastic balls! You'll find the Lord ... if you just keep digging a little deeper into the colorful plastic balls! You'll get healed ... after you catch the plague from the colorful plastic balls that some kid stuck in his pants! You'll hear the commandments ... like 'Thou shalt not spit out thy gum in the colorful plastic balls!'" Can we make it any clearer can that this is a church, and it has a ball pit, and that it's completely effing bizarre?
3852 N. Eagle Rd., 375-0322
Best Ethnic Food Market
There are plenty of ethnic markets to choose from, and each has its own unique charm--like the comprehensive selection of India Foods on Orchard, and the amazing fresh produce that floods Orient Market on Emerald every weekend. But El Torito is our current favorite because we can hit the taco truck out back for the tastiest steak, chicken and pork tacos, tortas, burritos and ceviche that is to die for. Run inside, and you can grab everything from different brands of sundries than you'll ever find at Alby's, international calling cards, fantastic dirt-cheap seasonings, all manner of fruity rice and ricey fruit drinks, a bottomless supply of unique candy and--hooray!--a liter of Tecate to wash down your tacos. In the winter, don't forget to run by and pay a measly buck for real Mexican hot chocolate with chunks of vanilla bean floating in it. Oh, to be those chunks.
4596 W. Chinden Blvd., 321-4651
Best Filing System
There are enough hair and nail stylists in this town to populate a small planet. It's a good gig if you can get it, but the competition is ruthless. If you're going to go in to a beauty profession, you better be damn good, like Kristy Jolley at DV8. Jolley has earned the distinction of being a stylist to a star (a local star any way). Every other Wednesday, Sally Freeman departs our swanky digs to get filled, buffed and polished to perfection. Though it's usually a customary French manicure, our resident diva has been known to change it up and come back with glittery red nails during the holidays.
1025 W. Main St., 342-1003