One of downtown Boise's quirkier restaurants, Willi B's Sandwich Saloon, is packing up its full bar and trotting down the trail to Chinden Boulevard. Steve Carper is ready to trade in the shoebox saloon for the more spacious former Nuthouse location on Chinden past Cloverdale Road.
"There's two reasons: We got five caterings in one week. When you don't have a walk-in and a real kitchen in which to prepare stuff, it was horrifying. It was hell, but it was a good problem to have because we were in demand," said Carper. "And we have a liquor license here, which is a tool that I'm not utilizing to the best of its ability."
Though Carper is currently mired in plan-review bureaucracy, he said he hopes to be open in the new location by February 1, though it might be March. Carper plans to expand the restaurant's lunch hotplate specials into the evening, and create an atmosphere that is more comfortable for drinkers, so he can sell more cocktails.
"Downtown has a daytime crowd that goes home, it has a nighttime weekday crowd of young kids and a nighttime weekend crowd of people who live downtown but work elsewhere," said Carper. "So, there's three different crowds, and of the crowd that we're most successful with, I feel a good portion of them live in the Meridian-Eagle area. I know they're comfortable with us and they'll help us in our evening hours."
In other downtown restaurant news, North Shore Hot Dogs opened on Dec. 6 at 904 Main St. The colorful, Hawaiian-themed spot features ample bamboo and a handmade surfboard table, and focuses mainly on island-style hotdogs. For those unfamiliar with the concept, here's an explanation from North Shore's Facebook page:
"These dogs are quite unique because they are slid into a flavorful Hawaiian bun that is not slit. The bun is toasted from the inside out by sliding them over stainless steel heated spires, but not all the way. ... Therefore your dog is in its own lil' sleeve so eating it on the run is no problem."
North Shore is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call 208-308-7907.
Another newbie on the downtown Boise scene is Ketchum-Hailey pizza purveyor Wiseguy Pizza Pie, which took over the former Chronic Tacos location at 106 N. Sixth St. According to owner Erik Heiden, the expansion will allow the pizza company to get more creative with its offerings because of increased foot traffic.
"All of us kind of like Boise, and it was just an excuse to spend more time there," said Heiden. "We do hand-tossed New York-style, stone-deck oven pizza by the slice or by the pie. We'll be doing Philly cheesesteaks, chicken parmesan sandwiches--traditional New York pizzeria-style items."
In addition to the pie, Wiseguy plans to stay open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights to cater to the late-night crowd.
"We're going to offer some Northwest craft microbrews and we'll probably have a pretty extensive bottle collection of that, too," said Heiden.
And there's more big news on the downtown brews front. Two new beer-centric spots are slated to open in the coming months. 10 Barrel Brewing Co. out of Bend, Ore., is opening a satellite location in Boise at Ninth and Bannock streets.
"It's taken a long time and a lot of trial and error to really nail down our pub here in Bend, as far as the culture and feel and all that good stuff," said 10 Barrel co-owner Garrett Wales. "Definitely, the goal is to really transfer our existing model and what we have in place here over to there."
10 Barrel in Boise will feature a large on-site brewery and an airy, open restaurant. Award-winning brewer Shawn Kelso, former brewmaster at Barley Brown's in Baker City, Ore., has been brought on to craft suds, which will include a number of original, pub-only brews.
"I think there's a lot of opportunity in the market," said Wales. "The breweries that are there are great, we're really excited to just join the scene and work with them. ... There's just a major untapped population of craft beer drinkers out there."
10 Barrel's menu will focus on classic pub fare, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and simple preparation. Though Wales is just starting the process as far as architectural design, he hopes to be slinging S1nist0r Black Ales and Apocalypse IPAs by early summer.
And just a couple blocks away, another suds spot is slated to open its doors in February at the space that formerly housed The Lobby, 760 W. Main St. True to its name, The Taphouse will offer 44 taps with rotating regional and local brews. Unsurprisingly, the menu will also follow the pub-grub trend, with a focus on local and organic ingredients.
In other local brewery news, Sockeye Brewery officially broke ground Jan. 3 on its second location near Fairview Avenue and Cloverdale Road. The new facility and pub will allow Sockeye to more than double its current output, ramping up production of favorites like the Powerhouse Porter and the oh-so-popular Dagger Falls IPA.
Continuing on the brew beat, Brewforia is gearing up to host another Barley Bros. beer fest, this time at the McCall Winter Carnival. The Winter Ale Festival will kick off on Friday, Feb. 3, with a charity snowball fight, live music and an outdoor ice disco. On Saturday, Feb. 4, from noon to 9 p.m., you can sample more than 100 porters, stouts, strong ales and other seasonal brews for $20. Idaho brews include a new barleywine from Salmon River, Laughing Dog's Cold Nose Winter Ale and a four-year-old keg of barleywine, and Grand Teton's Black Cauldron Stout. Other regional options include a double dry-hopped version of Ruination from Stone Brewing, Lindemans Faro Sour Ale, the Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout and a special barleywine from Utah's Epic Brewing.
Speaking of Brewforia, the craft beer Mecca will be extending its boozy empire into sauces and spice rubs in 2012. A few options posted on its Facebook page include Bufalo, a buffalo wing sauce with a Southwest kick; Kingston, a Jamaican jerk seasoning; and Albuquerque, a Southwestern spice rub.