When I see a restaurant with the word "wine" in the name, the implication is that they really know their grapes and that wine is most likely what I'll be drinking there. That was my plan when my date, Lindsey, and I dropped into 8th Street Wine Company on a recent chilly January evening. But then, things don't always go as planned.
The first thing I noticed as I walked in was the decor. The room is awash in warm colors framed out with original brick, open skylights and light-colored maple floors. Even in the cold, the outside porch looked inviting. It had great lighting and afforded a great center-of-attention view.
The hostess told us we could pick our seats. Looking for comfort after a busy day, Lindsey and I ambled through to the back, where the booths had cushions. I picked up the drink menu. Not only was there a leveling number of well-priced wines available, there was also a collection of creative, thoughtful cocktails and high-end alcohols. When I noticed they had Boddington's Ale on tap--a rarity in Boise--I knew what I'd be having with my meal. Following suit, Lindsey chose a Stella Artois.
We started off with clam chowder. It was rich and creamy, but not too thick (chowder that a spoon can stand up in frightens me), with a hint of rosemary. 8th Street's version of the New England staple complemented my English ale so well I could have stopped there.
Moving on to the main course, I chose Tokyo noodles while Lindsey had a chop salad with chicken. Dinner arrived in no time and we started eating. I am avoiding using the words "dug in" because that is not what we did. There is something intangible about 8th Street Wine that says, "Slow down ... take your time."
The food was beyond good. The noodles were served with savory mushrooms and shrimp. The only complaint from my side of the table was the length of the noodles. I like 'em when you can roll up a big forkful--a bit longer than the stubbies in my dish. The sauce more than made up for my personal quirk. It was tangy with a bit of burn-at-the-back-of-your-throat spice. As Lindsey was eating her salad, I stole pieces of her chicken and dipped them in the sauce--uncouth, I know, but I couldn't resist. Her salad had the standard Cobb affair of bacon, egg and tomato, made unique by its presentation on a wedge of iceberg lettuce and drenched in an undeniable poppy seed/honey mustard dressing.
For dessert we settled on a S'mores Bomb. At first, as someone who can be a bit stingy with my sweets, I thought we should get two desserts--luckily we didn't. The generous creation brought back memories of camping, sans the messy fingers.
We finished up and sauntered over to the wine store connected to the restaurant. The shop probably has over a thousand different wines (a conservative estimate on my part) and is unimposing and affordable--even beating out the big box stores on price. Unbelievably, I was able to score a bottle of 2002 Estancia Meritage--one of my all-time favorites that I thought had long ago been bought to extinction. It was priced the same as I remember paying at Atkinson's Market in Ketchum in 2003.
The beauty of 8th Street Wine Company is its jack-of-all-trades, master-of-wine personality. In short, there is something for everyone. Tie that with the focus on what wine store manger Marcy French and her husband, Keith Nyquist, call "wine hour"--taking time out of your day to relax and visit with friends--8th Street Wine is a great place to slow down and savor.
--Ryan Peck prefers English beer to domestic and Oregon Pinot to wine from a box.