We asked Bittercreek/Red Feather Lounge's culinary team (BC/RFL), Kacey Montgomery at Juniper ( J ), Nate Whitley at The Modern ( M ), Brian Garrett at Saint Lawrence Gridiron ( SLG ) and Kris Komori at State & Lemp ( S&L ) what they thought were the biggest trends in Boise dining this year and where the food scene is heading.
Boise Weekly: What were the trends in the Boise dining scene in 2015?
BC/RFL: Southern-inspired cuisine seems to be taking root in menus around town, in addition to fermented foods.
J: The service and food offered by locally founded restaurants is at its all-time high.
M: I recently learned about hot chicken. I notice that it is now being served in at least two places. Does that constitute a trend?
SLG: It seems to me every restaurant in Boise became low-country southern. That was weird.
S&L: Canned alcohol. Growler stations.
What do you predict will be the biggest trends of 2016?
BC/RFL: Fresh casual places will continue to open around downtown. Automated beverage service is our long-shot pick for 2016's big trend.
J: Global flavors. More thinking outside the box.
M: People will go crazy for wild berries.
SLG: Pickling... It's going to get huge in Boise.
S&L: Vegetable-driven dishes, tortas, cider, open fire cooking, and the return of the gluten.
What Boise restaurant/bar opening were you most psyched for in 2015?
BC/RFL: We got two awesome neighbors this year. Prost provides a fun and distinct addition to the beer culture, while Wild Root does the same for Eighth Street's food scene. Plus they're super cool people.
J: Barbarian Brewing.
M: Grit American Cuisine.
SLG: I finally went to State & Lemp. It was fantastic. Also, we got liquor at Saint Lawrence Gridiron, so for a few weeks, I was drinking way too much. I'm much better now.
S&L: Restaurant: Gangnam. Bar: Saint Lawrence Gridiron getting a liquor license.
What openings are you looking forward to?
BC/RFL: We think Works Progress Administration has the potential to be a really cool brewery.
J: One: More downtown living; moving up instead of out. Secondly: Telaya and Coiled's new space on the Boise River next to the Riverside Hotel.
M: I've heard that both Kibrom's and The Goodness Land, from the Boise International Market, will have new locations and I'm glad for that.
SLG: The Gardner Building is supposed to have some of the old food truck peeps coming in. Oh, they also have Buffalo Wild Wings... but what's up with that?
S&L: Restaurant: Kibrom's.
What ingredients are you most excited to work with?
BC/RFL: Pork fat, schmaltz and duck butter. Kinda seriously.
M: I've heard some people will be farming shrimp in Challis. I am super intrigued by that and want to see how they are.
SLG: We have a new chef, Daniel. I'm excited to work with [him], but he's not an ingredient. We're exploring aged meats right now. It's not new or trendy, but it's new for us. We're also smoking a lot of vegetables, butters and animal fats.
S&L: We always seem to latch onto a couple ingredients that sneak onto dishes throughout menus. 2015 was the year of coconut milk, mochi, tapioca and clarified broths. We are trying to retire them after the New Year.
What ingredients/dishes are you tired of seeing on Boise menus?
J: Pizza. Let's leave it to the folks with wood-fired pizza ovens.
M: Mac 'n' cheese.
SLG: Shrimp and grits. It seems that every restaurant put it on their menu this year.
S&L: My wife and I have a standing bet on whether or not a menu will have mac 'n' cheese. I say, "Yes," and win the bet too often. That said, I do love mac 'n' cheese.
What's your favorite hidden gem?
BC/RFL: Tony's Pizzeria.
J: Well it certainly isn't hidden, but I love everything they do at The Modern.
M: I'd say the Goodness Land, in anticipation of their reopening. I really liked their ful.
SLG: Bar Gernika is an absolute go-to for me. The Spacebar has a fantastic beer list and Mario Kart on N64.
S&L: As a grab-and-go, the mushroom banh mi at the Boise Co-op Deli. For drinks, Gil's K-9.
What's missing from Boise's food scene?
BC/RFL: Downtown Boise is missing a super cool fresh casual taco whiskey bar.
J: I'd say diversity. But it's a double-edged sword. To push the boundary a bit, you need a consistently willing consumer.
SLG: Ramen. It's been missing for a decade and it's still missing. Also, an authentic Mexican joint.
S&L: Late-night dining. At least a place open until midnight so we can grab a bite after service.
What's the best thing you ate last year?
BC/RFL: The local peaches this year were out-of-control good.
J: Fresh oysters at 900 Wall in Bend, Ore. You could taste the ocean.
M: Lamb brains.
SLG: Raw oysters. We tried running them on the menu, but nobody bought them. It was fun to have to eat them all ourselves.
S&L: Yukgaejang at Gangnam.