Best Reason to Eat
The Almighty Bacon Chop
To local carnivores, this category might also be "Best Reason to Kill Something" or "Best Thing, Period." We'd like to kiss the pig that gave its life for the--let's say it all together now!--Ballymaloe bacon chop with Irish Whiskey sauce, sauteed bananas and roasted garlic pommes at the Bistro @ Bodo. But since that noble beast is otherwise indisposed, we'll have to settle for dishing out a measly $18 to nibble on his noble remains.
What's a bacon chop, you ask? Well, basically, it's a pork chop, except that somehow, magically, it's made out of bacon. We're not sure how the Ballymaloe folks do it, but it's more popular around the office than most politicians. Don't believe us? Search "Ballymaloe" and "Gerry Sweet" side by side at www.boiseweekly.com and count for yourself.
409 S. 8th St., 345-0452
Best "Something is the New Something"
4 a.m. is the new 11 p.m.
We aren't faulting Front Door Pizza, Pacific Subs, The Pita Pit and Pie Hole for staying open until 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 4 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends, respectively. We just feel naughty when we roll in there at 3:35 or so with shirt torn and hair smeared across face, looking for a cheap slice, wrap or sub with our last few quid. Luckily, they've all seemed to come to grips with the nature of their clientele. We just still can't quite believe it.
Front Door: 105 S. 6th St., 287-9201; Pita Pit: 746 W. Main St., 388-1900; Pacific Subs: 509 W. Main St., 343-7827; Pie Hole: 205 N. 8th St., 344-7783
Best Hangover Cure
Any Burger Joint
You awaken with mouth full of teeth that feel like they're modeling the new sweater line for the GAP, a head that feels like you've had a car stereo system installed in your brain and only a slight recollection of saying or doing something scandalous with a complete stranger (or a co-worker?) behind the bar.
You can brush your teeth, take some aspirin and make some phone calls. But until you've stuffed your face with a big, greasy cheeseburger (a garden burger will work, too, vegetarians, as long as it's fried or grilled), a large order of tater tots and a sickly sweet soda, you still won't feel quite right. After all that food, you won't feel perfect either, but you'll have had such a carb load that you'll drop right off to sleep, hopefully staying in Snoozeland until the next day thereby regaining a bit of your physical well-being. Just don't look directly at your co-workers for a few days.
Best Feudal Food
Tableside cooking at the Gamekeeper
At Boise's oldest "if you need to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it" restaurant, the staff doesn't just make your food, they bring it out and prepare it before you with smiling faces and dramatic gestures. It's like being the lord of the manor. At last check, the Gamekeeper's Caesar salad, wilted spinach salad, chateaubriand, steak Diane, New York steak, shrimp scampi, duck a l'orange, cherries jubilee and Spanish coffee all involve some manner of, "May I please cook for your pleasure, my liege" pageantry. In this progressive age, it makes us feel kind of weird ... primarily because we like it so much.
1109 W. Main St., 343-4611
Best Place for a Cheesy Love Affair
Here's what we like about fondue: It forces intimacy. There are only so many forks and so many pots on a table for two, so you have no choice but to share a pot of goo that you know someone has been double-dipping in, because you've watched them slurping the Gruyere off of their fingers. So lose the germ phobia and embrace your inner lovebeast--share a fork, bite the same piece of fruit and lick cheese off of each other's faces like wild animals.
On the other hand, the fact that your significant other has no idea that you're there with his/her best friend does make this just a little dirty. So be sure you get every drop.
200 N. 6th St., 383-0900
Best Unexpected Sushi Roll
Koi's seared duck parcel
OK, so it's not "sushi" by any interpretation of the word--except that it's served at downtown Boise's newest and hippest-looking sushi joint. Koi's seared, marinated duck breast in a rice paper parcel is sweet, nutty, saucy, crunchy and--here's a nice endorsement--every time we order it, our server can't contain him or herself and inevitably lets out an, "Oh my GAWD, isn't that thing good?" But maybe the best part is that it's just a little bit different each time. Sometimes, the veggies inside the rice paper include a slice of raw yellow beet. Sometimes, some cucumber. What's in it depends on what's particularly good that day, but the presentation and flavor are always right on.
800 W. Idaho, Suite 112, 343-3474
Best Fruit Stand
Mmm ... fruit and veggies. They're so much the superior food group to grains, it's not even funny. And despite the trend toward mayo-drowned interpretations of them in some of our more popular restaurants--more crab artichoke dip, anyone?--it's still easy to find fresh, inexpensive produce that was yanked from its bed within a local phone call of here.
Naming Reggie's the best by no means is a diss on the other local stands on State Street in the bowling alley parking lot, on Overland by the skybridge and on Broadway by ShopKo. Each has its own charm, and each seems to have exclusive access to the biggest, juiciest something or other. The last crate of peaches we bought at Reggie's, however, sealed the deal for this year's title--that, and the fact that every time we shop there, we see half of the adorable grandmothers in Boise scrutinizing every item in the stand, trying to find the perfect one to take home and fry in lard until it's unrecognizable.
Corner of Ustick and Milwaukee
Best Macapeno and Cheese
The Bistro at Andrae's
Who knew there was such a market for macaroni and cheese in fine dining restaurants? Berryhill, SixOneSix and Andrae's all offer variations on the classic, but Andrae's--or more specifically, Chef Bopp's new casual-ish lunchtime venture, "The Bistro at Andrae's"--offers the most unique take of the trio. It's creamy, sure, but it also packs a wallop from a healthy amount of jalapenos. The purists in the office were up in arms the first time someone brought an order in, but the rest of us are just thrilled to have the opportunity to fight about macaroni and cheese.
816 W. Bannock, 385-0707
Best Fine Dining Restaurant in Which to Make a Mess of Your Clothes
Berryhill and Company
This might have more to do with the almost unreasonably reasonable wine list over at John Berryhill's wine bar than with the actual cuisine. Regardless, everyone who eats at Berryhill seems to come out looking like they just lost a paintball battle. It's gotten to the point when every time someone asks us, "Hey, is that mango red onion salsa and cilantro creme fraiche on your shirt?" we fall for it and end up getting poked in the nose.
2170 Broadway Ave., 387-3553
Best All-in-the-Family Foodies
Gino and Tony Vuolo
Gino's/Gino's Grill: Up the escalator on 8th Street between Main and Idaho streets, 331-0475; Tony's Pizzeria Teatro: 103 Capitol Blvd., 343-1052
Best New Pizza Flavor
It seemed like a simple idea: A Boise Weekly tour of all the by-the-slice pizza joints in town. At nine different stops, we ordered a slice of cheese pizza and a slice of whatever other flavor struck our fancy. At Leonardo's, the pizza shop inside the grocery store WinCo, that second flavor was "taco." Meaning: ground beef, a few veggies, plenty of cheese and, of course, crumbled up Cool Ranch Doritos.
How could we tell they were Cool Ranch Doritos? Well, first of all, the tiny chip shards were covered in blue and red seasoning. And second, why would we make something like that up? Come to think of it, why would Leonardo's think something like that up, either? The really scary part, however, was that aside from the fact that the chips were a little soggy from pizza grease, the slice wasn't too bad.
110 W. Myrtle, 424-1634
Best Fast-Food Playland
Burger King on Overland
We all know how fun fast-food playlands were when we were kids, but here's a secret: The slide is even more fun when you're two-fisting a Cheesy Bacon Angus Steak Burger on the way down. There may be more artistic or quaintly old-fashioned playlands in town, but this plastic Tower of Babel is too much fun to leave to the kids. Just quit the horseplay or I'll 86 you right outta here, mister!
8378 W. Overland Rd., 323-8807
Best Vegetarian Taco
Yes, there is such a thing as a vegetarian taco. Instead of those nasty animal chunks, these double tortillas are full of fetching bright-orange roasted potatoes and cotija cheese. Mmmm ... starchy and cheesy and salty. A couple of these at $2.50 a pop, a Mexican beer or margarita and a couple of baskets of chips, and vegetarians won't have to feel like idiotas anymore.
2137 Broadway Ave., 424-8890
Best Soggy Cake
Tres Leches at Tapas Estrella
At a restaurant known for decadence (they serve fried veal thymus glands in a buttery tart crust, for crying out loud), this dessert takes the cake. And then it soaks it in three different kinds of milk, flavors it with caramel and makes us thank the gods we left some room after the main course.
121 N. 9th St., 426-8400
Foie Gras at sixonesix
While other locales--Chicago, most recently--have trouble figuring out whether they can look themselves in the mirror while allowing anyone to eat this fatty delicacy, out here in Bushlandia we say, "The only way you'll get these swollen goose livers away from us is to pry them from our cold dead forks--just like we pried that liver out of the goose after force-feeding it until it croaked." Of course it wasn't actually us that force-fed the goose until it croaked, which makes foie gras that much easier to enjoy. As does the fact that at SixOneSix in Eagle, they serve it in individually portioned and sealed jars with crostini and tart pickled cherries. Here's a suggestion: Feel how you want about the process, but be an informed participant in the debate. Try the product just once before picketing.
1605 Winding Creek Rd., 938-3010
Best Restaurant We'll Miss
Mosaic Galley and wine bar
Flying M coffeehouse
Nothing against the other coffee shops--well, this against them: The foam at Flying M, whichever of their shot jockeys makes it, is for some reason the firmest, creamiest and longest lasting in town. Maybe it's the milk they use. Maybe their barista training program involves electrode shocks applied to sensitive areas when trainees pull the wand out of the frothing pitcher too early. Either way, don't stop.
500 W. Idaho St., 345-4320
Highland's Hollow Brewhouse
Here's the secret recipe: Skin-on whole potatoes go in the press slicer. Slice 'em. Soak in water as needed. Fry the shit out of them. Salt as desired. Stuff face with hot fries. It may not be rocket science, but we'll be hornswaggled if the Hollow's fresh-cut fries aren't artery-cloggin' good.
2455 Harrison Hollow, 343-6820
Best Sugar Drink
Coca-Cola is the drink of the gods. Add some sweet syrup and name it after Trigger's fella, and mister, you got yerself a drink! A Roy Rogers is a glass (Collins for purists) of Coke with a generous pour of grenadine (a quarter to a half an ounce, stirred in) topped with a maraschino cherry (stem on, so you can fish it out of the glass), but it is far greater than the sum of its parts.
We're sure that we're opening a dangerous bag even by suggesting that there could be a best chip, or for that matter, a best chip competition. But know this: The vote wasn't unanimous. Some say that the unique chips at this Basque block Mexican restaurant are too salty, since instead of grains, they are covered in large crystalline flakes. They say, "What if you accidentally ate them while a family of slugs was crawling by? They'd all surely get killed by the collateral salt fallout, and slugs would rise up and take over the world out of vengeance, and then how would you feel?"
Our response to that is, "Criminy, how messy do you get when you eat chips, man? Who are you, Cookie Monster?" These chips taste good. They're light, flavorful and just a little more intense than we're used to. And those slugs had it coming.
612 Grove St., 343-4708
Best Place to Get Menudo at 3 p.m.
Rita's Panaderia in Nampa
Maybe a more appropriate answer for some of you would be "My own personal hell." But if you're hip to the spicy beef tripe soup scene, and you don't have your very own Mexican grandmother to make it for you, Rita's version is the next best thing. With a heap of tortillas and some cold aguas frescas, this cultural delicacy is too good to get freaked out by. Just bring a friend, because an order is huge. And warn your friend, because in terms of appearance and taste, there's no mistaking Menudo for anything but Menudo.
1424 Second St. S., 467-6033
Best Place to Get Menudo at 3 a.m.
Boise's newest 24-hour Mexican food restaurant has such an expansive menu of inexpensive but tasty options, you might want the soberest among you to order. Sure, there's tripe soup, but we're slightly fonder of the immense $3 burritos and the soft tacos with guacamole smeared on the inside and an almost excessive amount of meat, fresh onions and cilantro.
Here's a tip: If you're actually loaded, don't use the drive-thru. Put your schlepping shoes back on and make it an odyssey from wherever you are in town over to Fairview and Curtis. At least you can be sure Los Beto's will still be open when you get there.
5220 W. Fairview Ave., 658-1185
Best Restaurant Fountain
Several impressive pieces of water-spewing decor in town are worth a mention. There's the serene wall of water, with its Buddah and lotus flowers, cleaving Mai Thai's dining room into perfect Zen halves. Probably the best restaurant fountain that is no longer around was Saffron's cascading indoor creek, and even the Cafe Ole fountains are welcome additions to the festive decor. Andrade's, however, takes this year's proverbial cake not because it's the biggest or gaudiest, but because of the attention daily paid to it by the restaurant staff. As the centerpiece of the dining room, the fountain isn't subtle. It's one tier after another filled with water overflowing down onto the next level, but unlike some slightly grimy and stagnant waterpieces, the fountain at Andrade's is carefully adorned with fresh flowers and baby's breath.
2137 Broadway Ave., 424-8890
Best Food We Would STILL Marry
The Milkyway's bread pudding
A lot of great restaurants have made Boise their new home since our last Best Of issue, and we've done our darndest to eat at each and every one. They all offer something unique and delicious (Bistro @ BoDo's bacon chop is one thing we're incapable of shutting the hell up about) that we've completely plotzed over. But no matter what we do, we can't get over our love affair with MilkyWay's bread pudding. It's hot, chocolatey, buttery goodness gives us goosebumps and if it were legal to marry food, we would have already proposed, wed and procreated with the bread pudding and would be spending our golden years on our porch, reminiscing about the first time we met.
Best Edible Xanax
This restaurant has been the topic of enough of these blurbs this year, so we'll keep it brief. Their food makes us sleepier than white wine and Alias reruns.
205 N. 10th St., Ste. 101, 343-4334
Best Napkin Hoggin' Sandwiches
If any establishment could contain a river of cheese between two pieces of bread and serve it up with heaps of meat and veggies, it's Mancino's. The most popular one around our offices is the No. 14, but the infamous sloppy mess is the No. 6, with ham, sausage, salami, mayo, cheese, mushrooms, onion and green pepper. Get a bib, a box of wet wipes and dig in.
1016 Broadway Ave., 319-0485
Best Edible Prozac
Nutella. Banana. Brown sugar. Vanilla ice cream. Strawberry. Caramel. Whipped cream. Almonds. Walnuts. Pecans. Apples. And that's just for breakfast ... by which we mean, dessert. Rich plates of cheese paired with a fine selection of wine sing a coma-inducing lullaby if the sugar is too much sweet for your palate. Need an attitude adjustment? Pick your poison--sweet or savory--and let a crepe from Square work its magic. Uunngh.
760 W. Main St., 345-7782
Best Food We Can't Believe We Actually Ordered in a Restaurant
Mac 'n' Cheese with dogs
Some of us know the difference between filet mignon and Chateaubriand. Some of us are simple folk who think putting hearts of palm on our salad at Sizzler counts as haute cuisine. But we were all surprised to see mac and cheese with cut up weenies as a menu option. OK, it was on the Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine menu, so maybe we weren't that surprised to see it. We were surprised, however, that we ordered it and loved it. We were crazy for something that we would usually only make and eat in the privacy of our own homes. The next time you're at Donnie Mac's and you hear a patron proudly and loudly say, "Why, thanks for asking. I would like the mac and cheese with little pieces of hot dog in it and I'm not ashamed to say so," it's probably one of us.
1515 W. Grove St., 384-9008
Best Restaurant We Feel Guilty About Looking Forward To
The Cheesecake Factory
Pooh-pooh if you must. Sure, they've got a menu full of real food, but so what? It isn't called The Hot Wing Factory, and for good reason. Cheesecake comes in more than 30 flavors and in slices large enough to feed a small army, but the real draw is being able to consume a week's worth of calories in one fell swoop.
Coming to Towne Square Mall.
Best Ring of Fire
Flying Pie's Triple Pie
One BW food critic is still nursing wounds inflicted upon her mouth by the infamous Triple Pie she ingested almost a year ago. Despite some hot and heavy competition from a few ethnic dishes around town, it was the critic's recollection of "sweating like a whore in church" while polishing off a slice of the pie that finalized the award. Ground beef, linguica, Italian sausage, romano, mozzarella, sharp cheddar, green peppers, crushed red peppers, jalapenos and "a red sauce too hot for Heidi Fleiss." Phew, we're cringing just thinking about it.
4320 W. State St., 345-8585; 6508 W. Fairview Ave., 376-3454
Best New Thai
Pat's Thai Kitchen
Farang foodies be damned in the face of serious Thai food, but Pat's is a tourist-friendly authentic experience. More than one staffer has a serious medical condition brought on by jonesing for Thai food, a condition that can only be cured with two steaming bowls of Pat's curry: one green coconut curry with chicken and one Masaman curry with beef. Pat's pad Thai is another favorite at our little offices, but for those who want to relive their days on an Andaman beach, the num tok and tom yum gai are a virtual tastebud flashback.
Pat's Thai Kitchen, 577 E. Park Blvd., 345-0026
The Viking Drive-In
The court of public opinion is so overrated. All those beefcake baseball players are treated like they're guilty of juicing before they even fail a blood test. Audiences fancy themselves experts on global warming, alternative energy and terrorism after watching a single one-sided movie on those topics. Face it, America, you're just not very credible.
On the other hand, fear of being held up for public ridicule is still a powerful behavior motivator. How else can we explain that for months now, not a single name has been put up on the "BAD CHECKS" reader board at the Viking Drive-In on State Street? Maybe you've all figured out the world of personal finance (nope). Maybe you're just terrified of having to find a new place to get salty little drive-in burgers covered with ham, tater gems and painfully sweet scotch and sodas (more likely). Or maybe ... you do know that the scary-looking Viking is just part of the sign, right?
3790 W. State St., 342-7289
Best New Scenester on the Coffeehouse Circuit
Lucy's Coffee and Espresso
Listen up all you tree-hugging, yuppified bean lovers. Lucy's serves 100 percent organic, certified fair trade Cafe Mam coffee and they use hormone-free, antibiotic-free milk. But fugeddaboutit. The real news is that open mic nights on Wednesdays are bringing the eva-lovin' house down with acoustic, spoken word and poetry people, putting on a show that showcases the caffeinated talents of our town.
1079 Broadway Ave., 344-5907
Best Foodie Triumvirate
Richard's of Hyde Park, Taste and 8th Street Wine Co.
Decadent Richard's has been a staple of Hyde Park for about as long as Boise has had a credible fine-dining scene. Since taking it over, Erik and Jennifer McLaughlin have continued the restaurant's commitment to environmentally responsible, elegant food in a plush yet comfortable atmosphere. Taste has upped the bar in Boise's sushi scene to a level where it stands alone, as the city's only restaurant to bring in delicacies like fresh scallops, which, in the words of one BW staffer, are like "sweet sea Jell-O." As if two well-loved restaurants weren't enough on the roster, the McLaughlins recently opened 8th Street Wine Co. in BoDo. Part wine store, part wine bar and a whole lot of eclectic restaurant, 8th Street Wine Co. is already creating talk around town for its unusual menu and innovative concept. It's even getting a mention beyond Boise's borders. Check out October's issue of Food and Wine magazine, where 8th Street Wine Co. earned spot No. 14 on their list of "America's 50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences."
Richard's of Hyde Park, 1520 N. 13th St., 331-9855; Taste, 1530 N. 13th St., 336-5122; 8th Street Wine Co., 405 S. 8th St., Ste. 100, 426-WINE
People's food loyalties are some of the strongest personal beliefs they hold, like age-old debates between Manhattan and New England clam chowder, Budweiser and Coors, and whether sushi is fine dining or bait. So excuse us in advance if this causes any sort controversy, but--well, hell, let's just lay it right out--Chorizo is the best sausage ever.
Don't come to us with your breakfast links, your bratwurst, your braunschweiger. We don't want to hear it. The savory, salty, garlicky, fatty, gloriously unhealthy chorizo is Zeus in our sausage pantheon. And to be clear--and perhaps digging the hole deeper--we're talking about Basque chorizos, and especially those, er, produced by the local meat consortium Gem Meat Packing. Outside of the southwest Idaho/eastern Oregon/northern Nevada "Chorizo Belt," these little red lovelies can be impossible to find. Privation only makes us want them more. Fortunately, Gem will pack and ship them (though it'll meat-stink up your mailbox and perhaps make an enemy of the letter carrier).
515 E. 45th, 375-9424
Best Guaranteed First Base
Dessert from Le Cafe De Paris
Our promise to you: If you're going to someone's house for a dinner date, and you make it all the way through dinner without getting kicked out for B.O. or bad language, and then you set one of the gorgeous desserts from Le Cafe De Paris on a plate in front of your l'objet d'amore--anything with a chocolate creme, a shortbread crust, a custard base or a glazed fruit top will suffice--you're guaranteed tongue. All the other bases are up to you and the opposing team.
If you believe in the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, that might help--along with some of the Cafe's dark chocolate pistachio bark. If you believe in the power of culinary placebos to help everyone get their collective rocks off, that might also help. But you know what would help the most? Wiping that whipped cream off the end of your nose.
204 N. Capitol Blvd., 336-0889
Best Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Old Spaghetti Factory Moves in next door to Louie's Pizza and Italian Restaurant
Let us be the first to say, "arrivederci!" to Louie's Pizza before they get overwhelmed by the carbo-loaded competitor about to plunk down next door. Boise's tried and true Italian joint has served us well over the years, and somebody noticed. Unfortunately, that someone wasn't a wealthy patron with a perpetually open lunch hour and an insatiable yen for that trademark Louie's pizza. No, that somebody was sitting in the corporate headquarters of Old Spaghetti Factory, and had an idea: "Say, maybe what Boise's downtown needs is not a home-grown Italian joint with movie posters and funky carpeting. Maybe, what Boise needs is a chain restaurant with the exact same theme. Maybe ... they need it next door to the old one." And lo, it was done. The Boise redevelopment organization, Capitol City Development Corporation, has agreed to help OSF redesign the sidewalk in front of the Front Street location they've chosen, and hey, pesto! They've got competition! To Louie's, all we can say is, "Buona fortuna."
620 W. Idaho St., 344-5200
Best New Lunch Concept
Jenny's Lunch Line
Sometimes a name says it all. A swell gal who goes by the name of Jenny was running a lunch line out of an industrial kitchen by sending out a weekly menu via fax and e-mail and then delivering orders daily. But her food was so popular and she became so busy, she expanded into a proper restaurant space in the Old Boise Building at the corner of Sixth and Main streets. Menus still go out every week featuring daily homemade sandwiches, soups, salads, wraps and cookies--all of which are fresh and healthy options above and beyond (and just as fast) as much-too-frequented fast food options. (Oh, and lately, Jenny's BBQ Friday's featuring Jenny's secret recipe pulled pork have been all the rage. She can't even keep enough around to keep all us BBQ lovers satisfied.)
106 N. 6th St., 433-0092
Best Restaurant to Shorten Your Life Span (deceased)
State Court Cafe