By about my third trip to Fork, I recognized the pattern: a predictable eye pop with that first bite. Nothing dramatic, no involuntary squeals, no palms-to-the-heavens hallelujahs, just a noticeable widening of the eyes as a pleasurable little something hit the tongue.
I saw it first with a friend and his deeply beefy Urban Burger, then a friend and her buttermilk-and-pesto dressed salad, then another over a grilled and garlic-basted artichoke, and finally a fourth and her utterly addictive rosemary, Parmesan and salt encrusted fries. Pop.
Restaurateur Cameron Lumsden labels his menu comfort food--and at first, that gave me pause. Hard times or not, I think the Treasure Valley is so overloaded with comfort food, we could weather several recessions on our stockpile of chicken wings alone. But Fork reminds me that good food transcends category. Comfort or not, every dish my friends and I had sampled jumped the genre with eye-popping ease.
Now, if there were a dish that I'd guess would be too leaden to jump genres, it would be fried chicken and waffles. Lumsden says Fork's Tuesday night special is a Southern invention popularized by bleary-eyed jazz musicians who, after all night gigs, would search for anything that resembled dinner at dawn. Michelin stars were likely not their first concern.
Nor were stars what I expected from Fork's buttermilk fried chicken and cheddar waffles ($19). Yet after slathering maple syrup and orange-spiked honey butter over that deep-fried study in pale gold and mahogany brown, my eyes popped, too. Both crisp and succulent, savory and sweet, with buttery undertones and a just-right spike of orange, that meal was clearly comforting, even creative. I can't say I tasted the cheddar in the waffles, but neither did I miss it.
Something else I didn't miss at Fork was the dark, marble-induced gloom that hung over this former bank's previous restaurant incarnations like a vengeful teller's curse. Lumsden has covered--without damaging--that cold marble interior with warm knotty alder, hardwood floors and colorful upholstery.
Lumsden says lots of customers have asked "were those windows always there?" referring to the massive, 112-year-old arched windows that until the remodel never seemed to moderate the gloom. Now, they somehow pop, too.
Fork has simultaneously banished the gloom, jumped a genre and committed to procuring locally grown food and drink. I'd bet even a vengeful bank teller would agree that adds up to the best new restaurant in Boise.