Best Local Lunch
We're happy to see Zen Bento get some recognition for its healthy, delicious lunch. Choose a bed of noodles or rice (you super-health nuts can even choose brown rice), your choice of proteins—including beef, chicken and tofu—and an assortment of fresh vegetables all sauteed together with a variety of sauces that are, again, your choice. If that's not enough (though the plentiful portions probably are), they also offer sushi and salads. Their expanded location at the corner of 10th and Main streets has been renovated to look like a metropolitan downtown eatery meaning you eat healthy, on the cheap and in style.
103 N. 10th St., 208-388-8808
Second Place Tie: Gernika basque pub and eatery and Bittercreek Ale House
Third Place Tie: Brick Oven Bistro and Zeppole Baking Co.
Best Local Dinner
Cottonwood Grille is consistently voted among the top restaurants in Boise by BW readers. Just one look at the menu and it's easy to understand why. It's traditional Northwestern cuisine with a twist. Think elk, venison, beef, chicken and seafood with fresh regional produce presented with a modern flair. Dinner starts with an impressive wine section and continues with a bevy of appetizers that includes baked Brie, fried polenta, steamed mussels and clams. The soups are all made in-house, including a onion soup au gratin that might make you weep (for joy, not because the onions are so strong). Top it all off with a dessert menu that is considered by many sweets lovers as a work of art. It's filled with those kinds of things that you know you shouldn't have, but when the dessert cart goes by, you have to restrain yourself from leaping over the table and devouring everything within reach. Not a bad way to end a meal.
913 W. River St., 208-333-9800
Second Place: P.F. Chang's China Bistro
Third Place Tie: The MilkyWay and Gino's italian Ristorante
Best Local Dessert
The Cheesecake Factory
Cheesecake is the culinary incarnation of divinity. It's true. Back in the heavenly day when Lucifer got his bad self banished beyond the pearly gates, he was sent to the depths of hell to rot for eternity, but Cheesecake—who aided and abetted Lucifer ever so obliquely—was sentenced to an eternity on Earth. For eons, Cheesecake enjoyed a fairly unknown existence in obscurity until the Greeks discovered it. Since then, hundreds of variations have been created by cultures all over the world, and in 1971, an official temple was built to the fallen-goddess-turned-dessert: The Cheesecake Factory. With locations all over the country, Americans coast to coast can indulge in a little slice of heaven—gone sinfully wrong calorically—here on Earth (and have a choice of more than 30 flavors). Boise's version opened last winter, and as decreed by you, the readers, it's the best game in town.
330 N. Milwaukee St., 208-377-4466
Second Place: Le Cafe de Paris
Third Place: Goody's Soda Fountain
Best Local Mediterranean
This mixed plate Mediterranean menu earns best in category every year. We love this Eighth Street restaurant, with its whimsical cloudy walls, but there's too many good things on the menu to talk about here. What can we say? Go check it out for yourselves.
211 N. 8th St. 208-381-0222
Second Place: Mazzah
Third Place: Aladdin
Best Local Sandwich
The best things in life never change and in Boise, that comes in the form of a sub sandwich from Cobby's. For decades, this unassuming shop has kept customers lining up for one of its creations. You order by the number for sandwiches that range from basic turkey and cheese or chicken salad to a more exotic capicolla genoa and cotto mortadella. Beyond expanding to four valley locations, Cobby's has also gone high-tech. Now when you're overcome by hunger, a sandwich is just a mouse-click away at cobbys.com. Laziness has never been so rewarding. Of course, the subs are the centerpiece of the meal, but we also love a feature we've only seen at Cobby's—the all-you-can-eat chip dispenser and fruit basket. Something about a system in which individual bags of potato chips constantly emerge from a wall-mounted bracket thrills us beyond all reason. Sure, fruit is free, too, but grabbing an apple from a bowl is noothing like pulling bag after bag of chips out of their container. We're easily amused.
Second Place: Deli George
Third Place: Zeppole baking co.
Best Local Indian Food
It's a no-brainer: Indian food in downtown Boise. If the packed dining room every day at lunch hour doesn't testify to the joint's popularity, then its No. 1 spot in Best of Boise does. For dinner, you'll find traditional favorites, chai tea and great service.
928 Main St., 208-345-7888
Second Place: Madhuban
Third Place: Taj Mahal
Best Local Thai Food
We'll go there just to sit next to the water feature and see how long it takes someone at another table to forget it's there and put their sleeve in it. And then, almost like clockwork, we'll do the same damn thing. It's a hazard of eating at Mai Thai, but their food makes it worth the risk. Looking for something hot? They've got it. We sometimes have to remind ourselves to actually look at the menu once in a while, because it's so easy to walk in, order the Pad Thai, and wait for that beguiling mix of flavors to land on your table. If you're looking for a classy spot to take a date or a lunch break that won't leave you overloaded, step on in.
750 W. Idaho St., 208-344-8424
Second Place: Siam Thai
Third Place tie: Thai Cuisine, Sa-Wad-Dee
Best Local Frozen Treat
Two words: Boston milkshake. A case of the indecisions can be a bitch, especially when it comes to sweet things. So why not just order one thing that's really the two things you wanted put together? Like a milkshake and a sundae. It's a choose-your-own adventure on two fronts: Choose your shake flavor and your sundae flavor. Then the Fanci Freez-ers mix 'em up, and voila, there's your two-in-one. But Fanci Freez didn't win best two-in-one treat, they won best frozen treat. Which means we'll have to talk about the other umpteen flavors of spins, malts, shakes, sundaes and cones. Or you could just go sample a few for yourselves. It's da best.
1402 W. State St., 208-344-8661
Second Place: Cold stone Creamery
Third Place: Goody's Soda Fountain
Best Local Coffeehouse
Flying M Coffeehouse
BW has more than just one satellite office. If we need to have a high-powered morning gathering (or just one with a high-caffeine content), inevitably we suggest Flying M as a meeting place. The coffee's fresh and strong, a case of tasty pastries houses additional fuel, and though the place is usually packed, a spot on the big comfy couch guarantees a productive get-together.
Second Place: Moxie Java
Third Place Tie: Big City Coffee and Dawson Taylor Downtown
Best Local Pizza
Flying Pie Pizzeria
If you aren't a big fan of tomato sauce and cheese on dough (which, let's face it, means you are a little weird), typical pizza isn't the only fare at Flying Pie. You can order a pepperoni and sausage or Canadian bacon and pineapple, but you can also try something a little off the chart with ingredients like chiles, lime, mesquite-grilled chicken, linguica and spinach, to name but a very few, set atop sauces such as black bean, barbecue and pesto. Flying Pie also provides one of the best reasons to keep an eye on their reader boards: "It's Your Day." Every day, they choose a name, and if it's yours (and if you're one of the first five people with a valid photo ID who walks in the door between 2 and 4 p.m. or 8 and 10 p.m.—even something this cool has a catch), you get to make your own specialty 10-inch pizza for free. If your idea of a great pizza is zucchini, jalapenos, onions and artichoke hearts on alfredo sauce, and your name is up on the board, it really is your day.
Second Place: Guido's Original New York Style Pizza
Third Place: Lucky 13 Pizza
Best Local Family Restaurant
Flying Pie Pizzeria
Of course, Flying Pie won Best Family Restaurant. Who doesn't like pizza? Regardless of your tastes and those of your little nuclear unit, you can all find something you like at Flying Pie. It's a laid-back, no-pressure place, and the folks behind the counter will help make sure you have as much fun while you're eating a slice as they did preparing it for you.
Second Place: Red Robin
Third Place: Lucky 13 Pizza
Best Local Steak
Tie: Texas Roadhouse and Lock, Stock and Barrel
One's a national chain, serving hand-cut steaks. One's a local joint, cozily located downtown, serving luscious steaks. One's in Meridian, meaning you'll drive a little, but eat a lot, given the high marks they get for their steak. One's a brisk walk away from the Idaho State Capitol, making it a good hideout for local politicos or for those who just want to appear that way.
Texas Roadhouse: 3801 E. Fairview, Meridian, 208-887-9401; Lock, Stock and Barrel: 1100 W. Jefferson, 208-336-4266
Second Place: Stagecoach Inn
Third Place: Chandler's steakhouse
Best Local Fine Dining
This ain't no greasy spoon, and it sure won't be confused as a deli. In Boise, the Cottonwood Grille tops the list for fine dining. (Notice the "e" on the end of grille. That means it's fancy.) This is about more than the food, though. At Cottonwood, it's about an entire experience.
The main dining room has a modern ski lodge feel, with vaulted ceilings and a massive river-rock fireplace that dominates the room. Crisp white tablecloths cover each table, which are spread out far enough that you can actually have a private conversation over dinner—what a concept.
But if the weather is right, the patio is the place to be. The wrought iron tables are surrounded by trees draped in little white lights, and best of all, the patio borders the Greenbelt and the Boise River. The effect is a little oasis of calm in the middle of the city. The wine list is impressive, there's a full bar, the waitstaff is quick, professional and knowledgeable, and the food is fantastic. What tops it all off is the fact that Cottonwood Grille is not pretentious. No one wants to spend an evening worrying about being tossed out for not knowing the difference between the shrimp fork and the fish fork, and at Cottonwood, you can mix up your silverware until after dessert is long finished.
913 W. River St., 208-333-9800
Second Place: The MilkyWay
Third Place: SixOneSix
Best Local Patio
Lucky 13 Pizza
This is sad. The best patio in Boise is no more. Should we call this a sympathy vote or an homage to all the good times up there in North End? Was it the location, smack dab in the Hyde Park zone? Was it the thrill of seeing your buddies and just about every type of bicycle known to Boise leaned against the benches? Or was it the draw of the nearly gone—the notion that the era of great evenings spent swilling brew and downing savory pizza was about to end? All we can hope is that Lucky 13's new location somehow reclaims some smidgen of that vibe.
In Harris Ranch off Warm Springs Rd., 208-344-6967
Second Place: Reef
Third Place: Cottonwood Grille
Best Local South- of-the-Border Food
The extensive menu has old trusty items as well as ventures into the unfamiliar. The enchiladas are to pine for; the burritos are made to satisfy; and the tacos, oh the tacos, remain the staple of any mouth-watering Mexican meal. The service is impeccable with greetings and salutations rolling off the servers' tongues like bean dip off a salty tortilla chip. Chapala is a bit of a chain with multiple locations in the Boise area and more scattered around Idaho. Try not to fill up on the never-ending supply of warm tortilla chips and salsa, lest the main course be too much to enjoy.
5697 Glenwood St., Garden City, 208-321-8262
Second Place: Casa Mexico
Third Place: Los Betos
Best Local Barbecue
Goodwood Barbecue Company—Edwards
The champion reigns supreme. Once again, Boise has proclaimed Goodwood's finger-lickin', sauce-drippin' ribs the best around. But it's not just ribs that come doused in barbecue sauce. This place is a vegetarian's nightmare with brisket and pulled pork, half-chickens and, of course, those ribs—available in three styles, baby back, St. Louis and West Texas. There are all the required sides, cole slaw, potato salad, onion rings, fries, barbecue beans and even cornbread muffins with bits of peppers inside. You know you're in for a good barbecue experience when you arrive at the table to find two bottles of sauce and a roll of paper towels.
7849 W. Spectrum, 2 08-658-7173
Second Place: Eagle Rib shack
Third Place: Texas Roadhouse
Best Local Chinese Food
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
Yes, this is a chain restaurant, but Boise, apparently, can't help but love it. The food is good, the menu extensive, and the atmosphere makes you feel cooler than you actually are. Start off with a mandarin martini or maybe some sake and try the chicken lettuce wraps with some custom-mixed dipping sauce. If you don't fall for these, you're not human. Choose beef, pork, chicken, seafood and veggies as part of your main course, but for us, there's only the Dan-Dan Noodles: scallions, garlic and chili peppers stir-fried with ground chicken on hot egg noodles and topped with shredded cucumber and bean sprouts.
391 S. 8th St., 208-342-8100
Second Place: Yen Ching
Third Place: Twin Dragon
Best Local Vegetarian Food
From the deli case to the freezer aisles, and the store-made snacks to the vegetarian-friendly boxed goods, the Co-op is where you shop for your vegetarian food. Forget restaurant service and letting someone else do the dishes, shopping at the Co-op is worth the clean-up.
888 W. Fort St., 208-472-4500
Second Place: Mai Thai
Third Place: Zen Bento
Best Local Breakfast
Goldy's Breakfast Bistro
This makes year five that the cozy two-story cafe has made its way to the top of the breakfast food chain. So what makes Goldy's so great that even Bon Appetit has named it one of the top 10 breakfast restaurants in the country? Herbed salmon cakes, eggs benny with more than you usually bargain for (like tomatoes or broccoli), decadently stuffed French toast and even simple pancakes make the menu a combination of your usual breakfast with a serious culinary kick.
108 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-345-4100
Second Place: Capri
Third Place: Addie's
Best Local Sushi
Shige Japanese Cuisine
Sushi master Shige rolls incredible dishes in his eponymous downtown restaurant (we recommend the Volcano). It's so cram-packed with Shige-lovers during lunch, you'll need an extra-long lunch hour to fight the crowds. But in the raw food biz, popularity a good thing.
100 N 8th St., 208-338-8423
Second Place: Tacabi
Third Place: Happy Fish
Best Local Seafood
Murphy's Seafood Bar and Grill
When the Murphy's remodel did away with the most popular oyster bar in town a few years ago, many a regular griped their way back in the door to discover that not only had digs improved, but the menu had, too. Since then Murphy's seafood has only improved in both selection and quality. These days, fish is plucked from the sea and on your plate in a matter of hours. Seafood deliveries happen almost daily, which means the menu changes darn near each and every day to reflect the freshest seasonal choices of seafood. Diners are likely to see everything from ahi, salmon, ono, halibut and swordfish to menu staples like seafood chowder, prawns and three different kinds of crab. And even without the oyster bar that once was, you can still get your oysters raw or Rockefeller. (P.S. Even though this category only addresses Murphy's outstanding seafood, they dish up some pretty mouth-watering meat-stuffs, too. Check out the lamb shank.)
1555 Broadway Ave., 208-344-3691
Second Place: McGrath's Fish House
Third Place: Fresh Off the Hook seafood
Best Local Burger
If this were the front page, the headline would read something like: "Chef Lou's Place, Take 2 for No. 1." Which, of course, translates to, "This is the second year Westside Drive-In has been voted Best Local Burger." Go traditional, spice it up or get it hamburgesa completa style with a fried egg. Pick your burger poison, Chef Lou delivers.
1939 W. State St., 208-342-2957
Second Place: Bad Boy Burgers
Third Place: Red Robin
Best Local Italian Food
Gino's Italian Ristorante
Gino Vuolo has two restaurants on the second floor space of the Capital Terrace building, and believe it or not, the menus are different enough that each has separate and loyal followers. We are not-so-secretly in love with the bread dipping sauce (hey, it's the little things).
150 N. 8th St., 208-331-3771
Second Place: Asiago's
Third Place: Louie's
Best Local Restaurant
Tie: SixOneSix and The MilkyWay
We think this one may only be settled by a good, old-fashioned arm-wrestling match, since when it comes right down to what really matters about a restaurant experience—quality grub from samurai chefs in swanky digs—it's impossible to pick a clear winner between Eagle's SixOneSix and downtown Boise's The MilkyWay. And that could be because chefs Jered Couch of SixOneSix and Mitchell Maricich, who runs The MilkyWay with his wife Chef Andrea Maricich, are both grads of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York. Don't pick a favorite, Boise, we applaud you for daring to love them both equally.
SixOneSix, 1065 Winding Creek Rd., 208-938-3010; The MilkyWay, 205 N. 10th St. #101, 208-343-4334
Second Place: Gernika Basque Pub and Eatery
Third Place: Cottonwood Grille
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Madhuban Indian Cuisine
Empanadas at Tango's
Eagle Rib Shack
Zutto Japanese Restaurant
The Fried Sushi Rolls at Sono Bana
Happy Fish Sushi and Martini Bar
Idaho Candy Company