At the peak of patio season, Eighth Street is the petite Champs-Elysees of Les Bois. Cafes and bistros unabashedly occupy sidewalk space between fashionable boutiques and an endless stream of foot traffic, creating a mecca for Treasure Valley residents wanting to preen in the summer air beneath umbrellas. From BoDo to Bannock, 8th Street is a veritable hub of outdoor downtown activity from Alive After Five on Wednesdays to the Capital City Public Market on Saturdays.
But as Boise well knows, while 8th Street sees most of the downtown core's patio action, Boise's center is littered with sidewalk cafes of all varieties. Be it morning or night, second floor or streetside, upscale or lowkey, Boise's patios have it all and it's all see-and-be-seen. Although we could likely fill every page of this issue with al fresco dining options throughout the Treasure Valley, we've made the daring decision to pare down the selection to those within walking--or stumbling--distance of Alive After Five (AAF). Of course, your tour must necessarily begin at the Brick Oven Bistro, the best patio for AAF viewing. If you manage to pull yourself away from the Bistro's palatial digs, here's a few more:
1 Chilled Out: Bar Gernika
As it is indoors at the city's quaintest little Basque pub in town, it is outdoors. It's the kind of laid-back corner where you can kick up your feet and nibble on an unpretentious cheese plate and pop a few croquettes while your iPod drowns out the noise from passing traffic on one of the city's hustling-est, bustling-est streets.
202 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-344-2175, www.thebasquemarket.com.
2 Bird's Eye View: The Balcony Club
Even if we neglect to mention the size of the nightclub's L-shaped patio, and the fact that there are so many tables it's a rarity not to find an open one for you and eight of your friends, the Balcony Club's patio gets our gabbers going just for its people-spying vantage point. Perched high above the corner of one of the most well-trafficked paths in downtown Boise, The Balcony's balcony offers voyeurs a place to watch the city come and go.
150 N. 8th St., 208-336-1313, www.thebalconyclub.com.
3 Bartop: Proto's
The eternal summertime restaurant dilemma--whether to bend an elbow up at the bar or take a seat in the great outdoors--is solved in one easy swoop, on a stool at Proto's in BoDo. With a cleverly designed, half-inside, half-outside bartop, diehard barflies can pester the bartender and sit outside, all at the same time.
345 S. 8th St., 208-331-1400, wwwprotospizza.com
4 Hob Knobbin': Grape Escape
If location alone is the definitive quality of an ideal outdoor dining space, Grape Escape makes a competitive bid for one of the top spots with its 8th and Idaho corner. Only a handful of chairs (comfortably cushioned for long, languid evenings sipping the specialty libation for which the bistro is named) are available on Grape's patio, and on wine flight nights you have to be downright lucky to get a seat. But the wait--and the elbowing you may have to endure to secure a vacated table--are worth the comfort and the grub.
800 W. Idaho St. # 100, 208-368-0200.
5 Swanky: Red Feather Lounge
You want a proper martini, real food and you want to be seen enjoying both. A little bit of style carries Red Feather a long way on the wind of cool, despite its constantly hubbubbing streetside spot, and swanksters coming from near and far to bask in the hipness.
246 N. 8th St., 208-343-3119, www.redfeatherlounge.com.
6 Entertainment: Satchel's Grill
Wayward tunes can be heard wafting from patios all over town, but on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and the occasional Thursday night, chances are the patio sounds are coming from Satchel's Grill. And it isn't just music. Satchel's has done its best to replace the drive-in movie with the dine-in movie. Wednesday through Saturday nights, Satchel's projects movies onto the concrete wall of an adjacent building.
705 W. Bannock St., 208-344-3752, www.satchelsgrill.com.
7 Out of Boise Experience: Reef
You don't even have to suck down a few pina coladas to feel like Reef's second-story rooftop patio is a tropical microcosm contained within the boundaries of tiki torches and palm fronds. Aside from stellar food and cocktails, Reef gets extra kudos for importing such an unobtrusive setting into the sometimes grotesquely crowded corner of 6th and Main streets.
125 S. 6th St., 208-287-9200, www.reefboise.com.
8 All-Outdoor Bar: Main Street Bistro
If some of these patios are chosen on atmosphere alone, some are picked without any regard to atmosphere whatsoever. Somewhere in that second realm is where the MSB comes in. Forget the boozefest, ignore the dancefloor and imagine a patio world in which you can club it all you want outside without even having to brave the big bad world inside to refill your cocktail. We may be mistaken, but wethinks MSB is the sole member of this outdoor bar species.
609 W. Main St., 208-345-9515
9 Coffee: Dawson's Downtown
It is with much love for Dawson's coffeeshop brethren throughout downtown that we deem Dawson's spacious, fenced-in patio the numero uno spot to sip a caffeinated beverage.
219 N. 8th St., 208-336-5633, www.dawsontaylor.com
10 Generating Envy from Passersby: Mai Thai
Just make an attempt to slink past Mai Thai's miniature patio without coveting a cocktail or letting out a little drip of drool over a diner's entree. It's simply not possible.
750 W. Idaho St., 208-344-8424, www.maithaigroup.com.
11 Wine Sippin': 8th Street Wine Company
While you're perched on the elevated patio space with a glass of wine in one hand, your other hand will be free to practice your movie star wave as you throw out a friendly nonverbal greeting to all the familiar faces you spy traipsing by the 8th and Broad location.
405 S. 8th St., 208-426-9463, www.8streetwine.com.
12 Neighborhood Bar: Old Chicago
Not everyone may know your name at Old Chicago, but the Boise location of the national franchise and its itty-bitty sidewalk patio certainly imbue a sense of neighborhood familiarity--despite it's behind the bus stop location.
730 W. Idaho St., 208-363-0037, www.oldchicago.com.
13 AAF Getaway: Piper Pub bar and grill
You're trapped by a half-sauced divorcee who's only halfway through her life story when you resort to a lie. "Oh my god, it's Bruce Willis," you say and point in the general direction of the Bank of America Centre. She looks, and in the snap of a second, you've created your getaway moment. Make a beeline for the patio at Piper Pub, pull up a seat and watch the madness unfold far, far below you.
150 N. 8th St., 208-343-2444, www.pipers.com.
14 Hidden Oasis: Angell's bar and grill
Whether you're a passerby looking down into the jungle-covered patio or seated beneath the cool flora on a hot afternoon, Angell's patio is a soothing green oasis in the heart of Boise's concrete jungle.
999 W. Main St., 208-342-4900, www.angellsbarandgrill.com.
15 Big Business: P.F. Chang's
If you have to go corporate, go P.F. Chang's for an outdoor feast. The shade-covered, corner location is superfab for BoDo people watching, and the grub gets plenty of people talking.
850 Broad St., 208-342-8100, www.pfchangs.com.
16 Late Night Hangout: Neurolux
Because the music always rocks. Because the patio is chronically crowded with people too cool for school. Because sometimes you want to sit outside until 2 in the morning. Because the building's new paint job does the view good. Because it isn't on 8th, 6th or Main streets. Just because.
111 N. 11th St., 208-343-0886, www.neurolux.com.
17 on the river: Cottonwood Grille
Walking to the Cottonwood Grille from AAF may require a little more physical effort and slightly more comfortable shoes than your Wednesday work heels, but it's the only riverside patio to make the grade. Though the view from the elegant outdoor seating is more Greenbelt than actual river, it's one of the few on this list surrounded by nature.
913 W. River St. # 913, 208-333-9800, www.cottonwoodgrille.com
18getting out of the Rain: Gino's
Take your pick: Gino's Italian Ristorante or Gino's Grill. Either way, the patio is set back from the open garage doors, tucked beneath the cover of a permanent building structure and provides outdoor seating at both Gino's locations that allows for dry outdoor dining on a warm, rainy nights.
150 N. 8th St., upstairs, 208-331-0475, 208-331-3771.
19 You Never Knew It Existed: Mulligan's Golf Pub and Eatery
Not the front patio, silly rabbit--though it is a great place to watch cruisers on a weekend night--the back patio. First-rate patio seating it is not, but for a quiet and less-crowded outdoor imbibing alternative, the back patio it is.: 1009 W. Main St., 208-336-6998. :