Charles A. "Skip" Smyser—an attorney, lobbyist and former Republican state legislator—purchased the former District Coffeehouse space at 110 S. Fifth St. and is transforming it into a restaurant and wine bar called Capitol Cellars.
"Everything's going to have a political theme," said Smyser, whose life after elected office includes founding Lobby Idaho, LLC. "That's sort of the fun because my wife [Melinda Smyser] was a state senator and so was I. So we sort of live in the world of politics."
The small, subterranean space, which once housed fine dining favorite Mortimer's, is currently in the midst of a makeover. Gesturing to an empty area near the front door, Smyser described how the restaurant will look once construction is completed.
"We're going to have three booths along here—this is going to be the Speaker, this is going to be the Pro Tem and this is going to be the Governor," said Smyser, walking under a gray brick archway and pointing to another vacant space, "And this will be the Lobbyist table, which will be the nicest place in the building."
Smyser plans to serve a limited breakfast, with an assortment of pastries and quiches sourced from other local businesses. He also plans to offer DOMA Coffee from Post Falls served in tableside coffee pots.
"We're going to try to have an upscale coffee experience with china and real coffee cups and we'll bring you a china coffee pot," said Smyser. "We're trying to have it as a place where people can do business."
Capitol Cellars will also serve lunch and dinner, with dishes that highlight local ingredients.
"We're going to really focus on Idaho food and Idaho wines; trying to do the farm-to-market, fairly limited menu," said Smyser. "We're looking at prime rib, though, every night. Idaho lamb, Idaho pork, Idaho beef, Idaho trout. And having a good selection of salads and sandwiches and soups."
Though the main dining area is relatively small—it seats 58 people—Smyser also purchased an adjacent unit to use as a private dining room/wine cellar space. A mural of the Idaho Capitol will adorn one wall in the wine cellar, while wine bottles from across Idaho and the world will be prominently displayed elsewhere. Smyser plans to collaborate with local winemakers to host wine tasting events and dinners in the space.
"Downtown Boise's really the heart of Idaho politics. ... We want people to be able to civilly talk about politics or anything else here," said Smyser. "We won't be having TVs; it's going to be a place to come enjoy the food, enjoy your company and hopefully enjoy the coffee or the wine."
Though Smyser is hesitant to "self-impose some deadline" on when Capitol Cellars will open, he said he hopes it will be sometime this year.
"When we're ready, we're going to open," he said.
In restaurant relocation news, MFT BBQ & Vegan Food is vacating the Rodeway Inn hotel space at 1115 N. Curtis Road and moving to the former Rooster's Eatery and Catering spot in the Vista Village Shopping Center.
"We were unhappy with how they run things here so we started looking for another spot," said owner Brad Taylor. "So we found the old Rooster spot and signed a lease for it and then like two days later ... the owner of the hotel told us that they were closing the doors [Sunday, Oct. 19]. So if we hadn't already been on top of it, we would've been in serious trouble."
But the address isn't the only thing that's changing. MFT BBQ is also rebranding to BBQ4LIFE. Though the spot will still use My Family Tradition brand barbecue sauces, Taylor said the two companies aren't actually linked in any other way.
"Scott Tharp is the one that does the [My Family Tradition] barbecue sauce. ... When we started out, we were a mobile unit and he came to us and we started using the sauce and eventually he came to us with an offer to take on the name, and so we did," explained Taylor. "But at this point, both companies are growing pretty quickly and it just sort of works out better for both of us if we just make that separation now."
Taylor plans to start offering a small breakfast menu at BBQ4LIFE's new location, which will include a fairly traditional lineup of eggs, house-ground sausage and possibly biscuits and gravy.
"For the most part our menu's going to stay the same," said Taylor. "We are in the process right now of adding more stuff to the vegan side of the menu. ... There's some jackfruit involved, we're working on a vegan burger and then all of the breakfast stuff we're going to do."
Asked whether he thinks customers will be confused about the sudden move and name change, Taylor said: "Luckily for the majority of our customers that come in on a regular basis, they're used to seeing BBQ4LIFE because we've had that name around for the past four or five months on T-shirts and stickers and stuff so it's not a real big surprise to anybody."
MFT BBQ & Vegan Food's last day at the Rodeway Inn will be Sunday, Oct. 19. Taylor hopes to have BBQ4LIFE open at 930 S. Vista Ave. on Tuesday, Oct. 21.
"We're going to do our best; it's going to be hard but we're shooting for the 21st," said Taylor.
For more info, visit bbq4life.net.