The quaint Hyde Park commercial district in Boise's North End has seen many changes since it was established at the turn of the 20th century. And the changes continue. Named for the architectural style of homes found throughout the historic neighborhood surrounding it, Bungalow Restaurant is the latest eatery to occupy the corner of 13th and Eastman. Owned by Erik McLaughlin and Executive Chef Fred Moffitt, the change from Richard's to Bungalow was borne of a desire to become a more family-friendly restaurant with comfort food-inspired dishes at a lower price point than the gourmet menus Richard's and its predecessors used to have. The dining room's atmosphere has been made cozier with the addition of upholstered booths and historic photographs of Hyde Park dating from 1890 to 1930.
At Bungalow, they strive to bring the bounty of Idaho's ranches and farms to the table in a way that is both delicious and accessible. In other words, you don't need to be a foodie to enjoy the food. Lava Lake lamb from Hailey and Idaho-raised Golden Reserve beef, as well as seasonal produce from local farms, are regularly featured on the menu in dishes like lamb short ribs ($17), an 8-ounce steak ($14), a 6-ounce applewood smoked filet mignon ($28) and lasagna stuffed with spinach and wild mushrooms ($12). The prices of dinner entrees range from $9-$18 (with the exception of the filet mignon). Lunch will cost you $5-$13. The comfort-food theme defines Bungalow's $10 School Night Specials like Monday's meatloaf and Tuesday's fried chicken. According to Moffitt, the School Night Specials have become a popular takeout item.
My husband and I visited Bungalow at around 6:30 p.m. on a recent Saturday for dinner. I was feeling unusually voracious, and by the time we settled into our booth in a dining room that was half full, my stomach was loudly demanding nourishment. Although I felt as though I could have eaten one of everything on the menu, my husband and I decided to order a cup of soup and an entree each, and we would share a dessert. He started with a bowl of delicious beer cheese soup ($5) made with Guinness, smoked Tillamook cheddar and plenty of diced potatoes, carrots and celery and crumbled bacon. It tasted better than my cup of creamy tomato-basil soup ($3), which had a bitter taste that was fortunately improved with a generous dash of salt.
Although I passed on the offer of wine with dinner, I did notice the list features labels from Italy, France, Germany and California. There are also beers aplenty—mostly in bottles but there are a few drafts (Chimay White Triple on tap, anyone?)—and a long list of cocktails from the full bar.
For dinner my husband savored his spaghetti with meatballs, while my pan-roasted wild salmon ($18) was so-so. Its side dish of garden risotto with peas and mushrooms was creamy and flavorful, but the salmon seemed overcooked, leaving it barely moist.
For dessert, we tried the tarte tatin ($7), which we were told came on a puff pastry crust. The apples-and-caramel dessert tasted good, but its dense, undercooked crust was far from puffy and resembled overworked pie dough. When I mentioned it to the waiter, he graciously took the dessert off the bill.
Overall, the meatballs, beer cheese soup and risotto at Bungalow were delicious, but the other dishes needed help. The restaurant has enough going for it, though, that with a few simple tweaks, Bungalow—like the historic district surrounding it—could be around for a long time.
—Jennifer Hernandez wears a flame-red wig and oversized sunglasses to conceal her identity.