Seven years into this annual coldest beer gig, bartenders have finally stopped harassing BW beer testers for poking unknown objects into their beers. Well, almost. One sweet beer-pouring biddy—who had never witnessed the coldest beer ritual—asked politely for a brief explanation and after one was proffered on the part of the tester, her expression went from curious to downright dumbfounded.
Truthfully, we're a bit dumbfounded by the whole thing ourselves.
Every year, a horde of BW staffers and freelancers descends upon the bars and restaurants of the Treasure Valley to find the coldest pouring beer out there. It's a mammoth task. This year, we tested nearly 200 bars, a number that is actually down from previous years.
That's because we've revamped.
In 2007, four out of the top five coldest beers were found at corporate chain restaurants and many of those had multiple locations finishing near the top. So we drew a pretty general, but sufficient conclusion: chain restaurants have cold beer. Want something that's a cross between a slushy and a Coors Light? Get yourself to one of the valley's five Applebee's.
So this year, we decided to re-write the rules, omitting corporate, chain restaurants from the places-to-be-tested list. But then re-writing the rules became like a home-improvement project—you know, the one where you replace the kitchen linoleum and then realize you have to have new baseboards, too, because the old ones look dull next to the new floor. And then once you do that, you have to do the cupboards and the door and then before you know it, everything in the kitchen looks new except the appliances ... so those have to go, too.
Once we discarded chain restaurants, we kept finding more ways to improve our beer coverage. We tweaked our geographical reach to attempt to get every bar in Ada County, including not just Boise, but Meridian, Eagle, Kuna and Star. And then we had a really crazy idea: to test only one location of every restaurant or bar with multiple locations. Rather than send testers to every Smoky Mountain Pizza, for example, we looked up which location was coldest last year, and sent a tester to that location only. So in the following list of who does have and who doesn't have cold beer, you may find only one temperature listed for both McCleary's. But you will find addresses and phone numbers for both locations.
Without further ado, here are this year's winners and this year's warmest ...
The Crescent Bar
- Eric Obendorf
- The Crescent Bar
Judge Jody and Bailiff Butch preside over this adults-only sports bar mecca featuring 33 televisions, patio-side horseshoe pits and icy cold beer. If you didn't already know it, the note at the bottom of the menu that reads "lawyers add $100 to all prices," should be a dead giveaway. The Crescent is the least lawyer-friendly bar in town. Think we're joking? Underneath a note proudly proclaiming their happy hour deals of half-price drinks, Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. is a small but fierce codicil that reads, "(Offer does not apply to lawyers!)"
Too bad Boise barristers will get the cold shoulder if they stop in the attorney-unfriendly bar hoping for a glass of the frostiest ale in town. They'll also have to give a pass to the great pub food, including the lemon pepper ahi caesar salad from the Witness Stand Soups and Salads menu; an amazing Reuben off the Jailhouse Sandwiches page; and Testimony fish tacos from The Final Verdict entrees selection.
If you're a lawyer, don't bother trying to disguise yourself to get in. They'll see right through your ruse and you may be forced to prove you have the balls to down a plate of "lawyer fries," aka Rocky Mountain oysters. 5500 W. Franklin Rd., 208-322-9856.
Les Bois Park Clubhouse
- Eric Obendorf
- Les Bois Park Clubhouse
When you need a cold one, head to the renovated clubhouse at Les Bois racetrack. The facility, made up of the clubhouse, Turf Club and outdoor patio, is both a restaurant and bar welcoming bettors and their families. The clubhouse takes up the downstairs area and is open year round. With newly stained concrete floors, new paint and a smokeless interior, renovations also include flat screen televisions for every table. The Turf Club upstairs is available for group parties. The club's dress code—collars required and no abbreviated attire—makes the atmosphere a little nicer. All they ask is that you don't roll in there in a tank top and flip-flops.
Feeling lucky? Brush up on the difference between a quinella and a trifecta, and dig out a couple of spare dollars for bettin' on the horses. During live racing, everything is open. Les Bois Park offers simulcast wagering on both horse and dog races around the world. Open seven days a week, 364 days of the year from 10 a.m. until midnight or as long as there's adequate betting or drinking interest. The only thing to remain unchanged is the temperature of the beer and the spectacular view of the Boise Foothills.
"From the Turf Club upstairs, the view of the track along with the view of the Foothills is one of the best views in town," said Matt Heggli, operations managers at Capitol Racing. 5610 Glenwood St., Garden City, 208-321-0222.
Mulligan's Pub and Eatery
Boozers be warned: Mulligan's sassy staff and casual atmosphere will suck you in for hours of beer-swilling pleasure. Most popular with a rock-a-billy, hipster crowd, Mulligan's was once known as a "golf pub." These days, the only sporting happening here is of the tattoo and mohawk variety. 1009 W. Main St., 208-336-6998.
Taco Tuesdays ($1.50) and Friday's homemade chicken fried steak ($6.95) keep regulars coming back, and the beer isn't bad either. If you need another reason to check it out, try the indoor fire pit table—although this could get a little dangerous after a few beers. 9936 Fairview Ave., 208-322-9153.
The Beer House
The Beer House is the definition of a true neighborhood bar. It's like your buddy turned his bachelor pad into a bar with volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and barbecue grills, but apparently the neighbors don't mind. The converted house has been pouring since 1956. 9751 Cory Ln., 208-322-9958.
Maybe this stop isn't on the top of your Friday night out-and-about list, but at least you'll be more tempted to volunteer to pick up relatives from the airport next time the chore comes up. And if your plane is delayed or you just got strip-searched by TSA, you can always grab a frosty—and we mean frosty—one at this casual airport corner. (airport bar outside security) Boise Airport.
This surprisingly hip hotel bar skated up to the top of the list thanks to the ice on the top of the beer. Equipped with pool tables, darts, arcade games, a rockin' jukebox and a super-comfy lowered bar juxtaposed with the eerily classy vibe of the Red Lion hotel, this might be the place to hang out at before everyone catches on. 1800 Fairview Ave. Red Lion Downtowner, 208-344-7691.
A cement bar and sports on TV give this bar the right to be called a tavern, even if it is street level and lacking any dark, dank feeling. Drinkers sit at high tables in front of big windows and enjoy beer from an impressive tap selection. And don't forget the street-side patio—great for people watching. 780 W. Idaho St., 208-947-3111.
Windows roll up garage-style to let in the evening air as a crowd dressed in swank evening attire enjoys frou-frou cocktails. Add deep red lights, velvet curtains, chaise lounges, and you've got a bar that makes you feel suave. Even if you're not. Dance or lounge the night away, but if you want to be seen, this is place to set up shop. 760 W. Main St., 208-342-5874.
Boise's most aqua-aesthetically pleasing bar. Jimmy Buffett would feel a little closer to home at this tropical watering hole. Inside, each bar (there are at least three) is an island unto itself, while outside, a web of docks and patios provide an almost-beachside feel in the warm summer months. 3000 N. Lakeharbor Ln., 208-853-5070.
8th Street Wine Co.
You won't find draft Coors Light or Bud Light at this place. Instead you'll find Stella ... very cold Stella. And lots of wine. And a great menu. And an adjoining wine shop. And a giant patio in the center of BoDo. Most of the dining room looks out on BoDo foot traffic for interesting viewing. 405 S. 8th St., 208-426-9463.
Inside the updated eatery, you'll find scratch-made soups, 32 beers on tap, 11 flat screens and two banquet rooms. 6125 W. Fairview Ave., 208-377-2800.
The Boulevard Bar has been around a few years, but a new expansion at this cozy watering hole offers more seating and a spiffy wall-mounted big screen TV. 4079 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-342-9906.
- Eric Obendorf
Antique design flourishes and flickering candles make this Latino-fusion restaurant a sultry late-night happy hour destination. The interior can be a bit much for the senses to fully appreciate, especially with food and cocktails that fire on all cylinders and lakeside views that beg for attention. 276 Bobwhite Ct., 208-338-5000.
Restaurant on one side, bar on the other and nothing but friendly service in between. Lindy's looks like a brand new bar, but don't let that fool you. It's been serving up some of the state's best fingersteaks for more than a decade and the interior is so squeaky clean, you could probably eat a fingersteak right off of the bar—if you could remove one of the joint's adoring regulars from a barstool long enough to get a seat. 12249 W. Chinden Blvd., 208-375-1310.
This Boise institution has long been a place to gather with clients, customers, friends and family. An incredible menu keeps Angell's high on the list of places to take someone you want to impress, whether it's for the restaurant's famous Cantonese chicken salad, the tenderloin tortellini or black and bleu lamb chops. The semi-subterranean location keeps it intimate inside while the patio is hidden away from the world by a curtain of lush greenery. 999 W. Main St., 208-342-4900.
This sports pub moved up to Meridian from Eagle just recently, but don't worry, Shelby is still there. Need a TV and some hot wings? This is the kind of place that has you covered and throws in a few cute cheerleader look-a-like servers just to complete the effect. But don't worry, it's family friendly. 3541 N. Eagle Rd., Meridian, 208-939-9209.
This bar's Boise State blue-and-orange-striped walls are barely visible under the layers of laminated drink special posters and flashing flat-screened TVs. It's a college hangout through and through, especially on Boise State game days, when the place is packed with football fans who can't get tickets. Order a beer and look at the floor. We'll bet that blue Astroturf looks familiar—or should we say Smurf-turf? 1024 Broadway Ave., 208-345-9656.
Kahootz Steak and Alehouse
Younger, hip Meridian residents: Here is your beer-loving pub, with more than 30 brews on tap and a snappy interior. 1603 Main St., Meridian, 208-895-9861.
As the only bar in Star, Sam's is the place for locals to go. It's laid back and friendly and visitors are welcome. You can throw some horseshoes, play a little pool or just kick back with the rest of Star. 10937 E. State St., Star, 208-286-7794.
The Busted Shovel
Ah, a biker bar. Or, more specifically, a Harley bar with kick-ass flaming motorcycle engine T-shirts for sale. Need to sell or buy a bike, or need advice? Stop on in. 704 Main St., Meridian, 208-288-2217.
You've seen the neon alligator mascot, but have you taken a whiff of the barbecue coming out of this place? It's award-winning, no kidding. There's plenty of outdoor seating for summertime dining, so roll up your sleeves, order ribs and don't forget the extra barbecue sauce—and extra napkins, you'll need them. 1059 E. Iron Eagle Dr., Eagle, 208-939-8108.
The Ranch Club
What was once a Basque restaurant now offers electronic amusements and pool tables amid diamond tuck upholstery and dark paneling. It's a Garden City landmark, whose life-sized Palomino statue on the sign has marked the log-cabin-style building for decades. It's a 21-and-over-only restaurant without a single window in the joint, but the food is decent and the drinks are as stiff as they are quick to come. 3544 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-343-7447.
The fire marshal nixed the dollar bills tacked to the ceiling in this strip mall joint, but the staff is still just as sweet as pie. With the advantage of a glass chiller, we were hoping to see JJ's jump a little higher on the list this year. For the Benchites on BW's staff, it's a usual kind of joint any time after noon, er ... 5 p.m. 572 S. Vista Ave., 208-342-7620.
Looking for a place to quench your thirst and your desires? Take a seat at the Torch Lounge. OK, that was a little cheesy. If Boise had a beach, places like the Torch would be out of business unless the dancers bared it all. Thanks to Idaho law, however, The Torch keeps its booze and the dancers keep their bikinis. 1826 W. Main St., 208-344-0218. Other location: 610 Vista Ave., 208-336-4747.
Bittercreek Ale House
It's a downtown Boise icon. Exposed pipes and beams in the ceiling, dark wood floors and bar, and long mirrors on the walls make this bar feel spacious in spite of the fact that its always packed with folks enjoying a comprehensive beer selection and excellent food. 246 N. 8th St., 208-345-1813.
Open for about two years, Creekside Lounge is a classy joint with a full-service bar, Kuna's largest wine selection, a cigar box and a patio for drinking and dining alongside Indian Creek. Next door, you can dine at Peregrine Steaks & Spirits, and according to BW's publisher, Peregrine serves a mean steak—that's mean in a good way. A really good way. 751 W. 4th St., Kuna, 208-922-4421.
It's a brand new building with a definite Northwestern bent in the details. The horseshoe-shaped bar in the center is easily the heart and soul of the place, but the dining space sprawls for miles. Its decor has been accused of being too hotel-lobby in its execution, but if it's beer you're after, beer you'll get. 3560 N. Eagle Rd., Meridian, 208-895-0700.
Join the mug club at this college sports bar meets old ski lodge. Outside, catch fireflies and live music on the revamped patio. Beer not your thing? End Zone recently acquired the privilege to serve liquor. 1010 Broadway Ave., 208-384-0613.
Buddies Pub & Deli
Strip mall be damned; everybody's your buddy at Buddie's. The frequent friends all line up to snack and drink. Pool tables, darts and live music make the place a hoot any day of the week. 8654 W. Overland Rd., 208-658-0906.
The likenesses of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne intermingle with the Native American murals, brick fireplace and real wood decor. Celebrating 40 years in the business, it's a low-key place to meet, blend in with regulars or snag a cushioned corner booth. Go there for three plays for $1 on the jukebox, darts, pool tables and the opportunity to be the karaoke star you are. 4900 Emerald St., 208-343-5817.
Sports, sports, sports: They love 'em all. Muggsy's has big TVs, a sleek metal bar and some wooden stools that are actually comfortable to sit on. 501 Main St., Meridian, 208-898-9470.
The Bar at the Grove Hotel
Hotel bars like this can make you feel like you're in town for a high-powered business meeting. The neat and efficient bar is there to take the pressure off even when your only real stress is the yard work you have to do the next day. 245 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-333-8000.
This posh, metro-style joint in downtown serves an array of classy Americana food, treats straight from the city's only oyster bar and fancy, colorful ice-cold cocktails. It's a great place to impress a perspective lover or take your mother for her birthday. Just don't get the two events confused. 199 N. 8th St., 208-331-2384.
On a Saturday night, this "zoo" of a bar contains one of the best "cougar" displays in the contiguous United States. And maybe Canada. 621 W. Main St., 208-345-7557.
Gil's K-9 Bar
Gil's is your average neighborhood bar that's not in your neighborhood. It's all about pool, shuffleboard, alcohol and people drinking alcohol. This dive-ish bar seems like it would make for a great trucker hang-out, lounge lizards and all. 2506 Main St., 208-345-4420.
Longhorn Lounge is a classic good old-fashioned, well-stocked bar. With signs behind the U-shaped bar proclaiming "Sarcasm—Just one of the services I offer" and "Free Insults—Come Get Yours," you'd expect less out of the service, but it's top notch. The double-L also has Texas Hold 'Em tournaments on Sunday. 458 W. Main St., Kuna, 208-922-4163.
Red Eye Saloon
Red Eye is part of Kuna's apparently hopping bar scene. It's one of the happeningest places where locals stop in to cut loose. With a dance floor and monthly themed nights including contests, there are many good times to be had at the Red Eye Saloon. 414 W. Main St., Kuna, 208-922-9797.
Little Dutch Garden
To say this is a neighborhood pub is an understatement. This place is tucked right between houses, apartments and the like. The seats are filled with longtime patrons who aren't afraid to spend an afternoon bellied up to the bar. Frequent horseshoe tournaments, volleyball, darts and pool in the expansive backyard area are just a hop away from a jukebox and foosball table. 1910 S. Owyhee, 208-342-9034.
Opened in 1959, this beloved Garden City institution is a classic Western steak house where the original menu endures. It's a dark, windowless, cavelike hideaway made for indulgences like prawns, filet mignon, homemade dressings and stiff, cheap drinks. 3132 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-342-4161.
The Zone at The Grove Hotel
What was once a pretty happening sports bar is now just pretty empty. It's a crapshoot to find this place open except on Wednesday nights during Alive After Five. With a view overlooking the Qwest Arena on one side and the Grove Plaza on the other side, it's a wonder this place isn't always packed. 245 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-472-3333.
Fans help air the place out and the real wood decor puts the mind at ease. Lots of different seating options are available to throw back a few with pool tables, darts and games in every corner—except for one corner, which has a stage area for music making. 10704 Overland Rd., 208-376-9800.
Shorty's Country and Western Saloon
A big bar with a big stage and big cowboy hats, this is the kind of place that fits most non-Idahoans' stereotypes of Idaho. Where better to get a Coors Light and see infamous house band, the honky-tonkin' Pinto Bennett Trio? Stop in for a rip-roarin', shit-kickin' good time, but check your spurs and your sidearms at the door, pardner. 5467 Glenwood St., Garden City, 208-672-9090.
What was once the fly paper for short-on-cash daytime drinkers has fashioned itself a whole new image. You'll find prickly aesthetics but this ain't no desert; it's an easy place to get your drink on. And once it gets too hot inside, sneak out the back door, where an alley patio shrouded beneath an army of umbrellas ain't a bad place for a nice cold one. 517 W. Main St., 208-342-9732.
Rick's Press Room
Read all about it: This simple, fresh spot serves "all the food that makes news." Check out the historic front pages and wander into the conjoined Treasure Valley Smoke Shop for a little something to puff with your cold beer. 130 E. Idaho St., Meridian, 208-288-0558.
The bar at Quinn's is like a classic step back in time. This Bench stop is restaurant on one side and a dark, serious bar on the other. The epic booze selection promises to sate every hankering. 1005 S. Vista Ave., 208-345-0135.
Unlike other Garden City watering holes, this one is popular with a crowd that isn't gray or balding. The crowd picks the music, there's karaoke nightly, poker tourneys Wednesday nights and almost always a good time to be had. Not convinced? Pay attention to the reader board next time you drive by. 3933 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-429-9339.
The city's only art film house (as opposed to movie theater) is also the only place you can catch a flick and get a beer. No ticket needed to walk on into the cafe, order a gourmet plate of food and enjoy the patio oasis under a cover of greenery. 646 Fulton St., 208-342-4222.
The bar in this suburban version of Boise's downtown Mai Thai has an alcove with what looks like giant padded Lincoln Logs stretching from the floor, up around the ceiling and back down the opposite side. Sip a specialty martini, enjoy progressive Thai food and then bounce off the walls. 78 Eagle River St., #165, Eagle, 208-938-8424. Other location: 750 W. Idaho St., 208-344-8424.
Weird name, good food, cold beer, friendly, neighborhood atmosphere and a recent expansion that has doubled the size of the joint. It's definitely more of a restaurant than a bar, but should you find yourself stuck in traffic at the corner of State and Glenwood without relief in sight, head for Pizzalchik. 7330 W. State St., 208-853-7757.
Chandlers in Hotel 43
The steakhouse has arguably the most beautiful bar in town. It's become the happy hour see and be seen inside spot for those who don't want to brave the summer heat. Put on your fancy clothes and sip drinks bathed in neon blue light. 981 W. Grove St., 208-383-4300.
Bull's Head Pub
If ever there were a comforting respite from the ickiness that is Eagle Road, Bull's Head Pub at Blue Ribbon Bistro is it. The entire complex is a little slice of European heaven amid suburban sprawl, but once you're inside, the outside fades away beneath the froth of a nice proper glass of Guinness. 1441 N. Eagle Rd., Meridian, 208-855-5858.
You don't have to be on a league to feel the need to bowl. A kick back to the best of times, arcade games and air hockey vie for coinage against Dance, Dance Revolution Extreme and Ms. Pac Man. Have a beer to wash down the finger foods in this non-smoking neon atmosphere. 4860 W. Emerald, 208-344-2695.
Mustaches abound at this working-class dive. Pick up a game of horseshoes, crack a cold one and try to blend in. In the mood for some morning drinking? Jim's is where it's at. The Micron night-shifters wind down here. 2710 Broadway Ave., 208-342-9220.
The dimly lit space has pool tables, dart boards and a family racing wall in all its neon glory. Serving up great drinks and featuring loads of local flavor, the bar's star race car driver is the cutie serving up the sauce. 5783 Overland Rd.
Contrary to the common belief that you must have tattoos and hipster hair to enter, Neurolux requires only that you speak the language of stiff drinks to enter. No whiners allowed. Do bring your dancing shoes, a healthy tolerance for second-hand smoke and, of course, a tattoo or hipster hair don't hurt. 111 N. 11th St., 208-343-0886.
A great author once wrote, "Without question the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you the wheel was also a fine invention, but a wheel does not go as well with pizza." Indeed. 345 S. 8th St., 208-331-1400.
Other than a chorus of regulars breaking into song simultaneously with the opening lyrics of Elton John's "Crocodile Rock," the Emerald Club was pretty quiet when we went in to temp the beer. Usually, though, the place is one of the most popular straight-friendly, dance-crazy gay bars in town. 415 S. 9th St., 208-342-5446.
Filled with a working-class crowd of blue-collar men and tough-talking women, the staff at this bar might make you wait for service, but you'll like it. While you're waiting for your beer, take advantage of the shuffleboard on one side of the bar and the pool tables on the other. 3907 Overland Rd., 208-336-4707.
- Eric Obendorf
- Leku Ona
Cold beer and pintxos are a heaven-made match. The bar is a staple hangout for many legislators, but don't let that scare you off. When the cigar smoke fills the everything-is-wood bar, take a seat on the streetside patio and whistle at the suits as they beat feet between office and home. 111 S. 6th S., 208-345-6665.
Players Pub & Grill
It's a sports bar. Didn't see that one coming, did you? There's a big TV and a pool table, and if you get drunk enough, you might work up the courage to go bet on some horses across the street at Les Bois racetrack. If bowling more than betting sounds like a good time, head next door to Westy's Garden Lanes. Then again, sometimes, just hanging out bending an elbow at a sports bar is fun enough. 5504 Alworth St., 208-376-6563.
Stubs Sports Pub
The owner's ticket stub collection for various sporting events is so extensive, he needed two bars to be able to show them all off. Two Bench locations (one east, one west), lots of TVs (including a couple in the loos), recliners, popcorn ... why stay home when you can go to Stubs? 12505 W. Chinden Blvd., 208-378-8273. Other location: 3662 S. Findley Ave., 208-336-7882.
Kit Kat Club
The stereo rocks, the lights are dim and the TVs are numerous. The classic club is now fully remodeled for your viewing pleasure. 4842 W. Franklin Rd., Meridian, 208-888-7731.
You'll find shuffleboard, pool tables, homemade finger steaks and a good jukebox hidden near a bustling shopping center. The staff doesn't have a reputation for being overly gracious, so if you're not in the mood for pleasantries, Sam's is your place. 3395 N. Five Mile, 208-376-0074.
The Buffalo Club
Lively country-Western saloon with a wonderful ventilation system offers live music, billiards, poker and free dance lessons to Top 40 twang. Come on, how many bars can boast a "wonderful ventilation system"? 10206 Fairview Ave., 208-321-1811.
Beer is so not the main event here. It's not even the sidedish. An afterthought—or a prethought—to dinner, sure. It's Chef Jared Couch's place, which means it's plush, it's eccentric and it's serious foodie food. Curious little note: PBR flows from the tap. 1065 Winding Creek Rd., 208-938-3010.
When BW arrived one afternoon with thermometers in hand, three lovely ladies were bellied-up, having a drink and splitting a pizza over a long lunch. A glass of cold beer and a slice of clam pizza and you too might be saying, "what work?" 1204 S. Vista Ave., 208-331-3535.
White Water Saloon
Few places live up to their name as a saloon, but Whitewater is definitely among them. It's a bar's bar the way the Marlboro Man was a man's man—in a gruff and simple, Western sort of way. 1646 N. Meridian Rd., Meridian, 208-888-3063.
This wine- and beer-only pub has a slight Office Space feel: cherry wood tables, burgers and old movie posters. Flair? Minimal. 404 E. Parkcenter Blvd., 208-424-8211. Other location: 2032 E. Overland Rd., Meridian, 208-888-9868.
36th St. Bistro
Bet you've never even heard of this one. This airy, European-style cafe opened just days ago in the 36th Street Garden Center with breakfast, lunch, dinner and beer on tap. And it's fitting that the beer tests out at 36 degrees, don't you think? And, no, that wasn't planned. 3823 N. 36th St., 208-433-5100.
Play pool, shuffleboard, darts or pinball at this appreciative little pub. During testing, regulars piped in "You write us up good now," and the bar keep said the most popular item on the microwavable menu is the pork rinds; little hot and crispy surprises. (This is where one of your friends starts laughing and adds: "That's what she said.") 3823 N. 36th St., 208-433-5100. Other location: 9155 W. State St., 208-853-9910.
The nation's first distillery restaurant houses a massive 47-foot bar that can easily accommodate you and your extended family, and your extended family's family. The bartenders move fast, so keep your hands and arms on your side of the bar at all times. You can always avoid the echoing interior by taking a seat on the popular patio for some quality people watching. 610 Grove St., 208-426-0538. Other locations: 155 E. Riverside Dr., Eagle, 208-938-5093.
Lock, Stock & Barrel
From back in the days when it was tucked in on Emerald Street, Lock Stock and Barrel has been a go-to place for Boiseans looking for a great cut of meat. Prime rib, filet mignon and a surf-and-turf brochette have had people frequenting the steakhouse for years; their well-stocked salad bar has kept them coming back. 1100 W. Jefferson St., 208-336-4266.
10th Street Station
Need a place to hide? 10th Street Station is the answer. Slip into the dark smoky joint and even the cleverest private dick may not be able to pick you out of the basement bar's crowd. And even if the PI does track you down, after he's had a couple of stiff ones from the 10th Street well, he probably won't remember why he was looking for you in the first place. 104 N. 10th St., 208-344-2677.
Tucked into a pocket off the connector where everybody knows everybody, the regs enjoy the grub and groups sit together and watch some of the best pool players in the Northwest. The dim lighting is punctuated by neon signage, multiple televisions and arcade games like Golden Tee Live and Big Buck Hunter. Ah, the variety. 1487 N. Curtis Rd., 208-375-2474.
Mulligan's Pub and Eatery
Big screen TVs everywhere the eye can see, check. Pool tables, check. Stainless-steel wall accents, concrete floor and small patio, check. Lots of beer on tap and wings on special, check. Yup, it's a sports pub. 601 S. Main St., Meridian, 208-884-3737.
The bar that couples the two best ways to troll for dates—your beloved dog Fido and cheap beer. It's a dog's bar where people are welcome to toss a few back while the canines catch up on the latest trash talk. 2801 Fletcher St., 208-342-9420.
O'Michael's Pub and Grill
This dimly lit North End neighborhood bar is where the loud crowd hangs out during ski season. In the summertime, it's the spot to be inconspicuous with your sweetie or the place to rally a raucous group of friends. 2433 N. Bogus Basin Rd., 208-342-8948.
Pitch in for the Cab Club, play the regular Texas Hold 'Em games, or take in pictures of local car racers. In fact, local is the right word for this place with a loyal following. 229 W. Franklin Rd., Meridian, 208-888-4075.
The cozier, more laid-back bar on Main Street in Kuna, Four-E is where the locals go to get away from everyone else. They have karaoke Thursday to Saturday, ladies night on Thursday and the best bar sign in Kuna: "For more gun control use both hands." 379 E. Main St., Kuna, 208-922-9719.
The Gaslight Lounge
Everywhere you look in the Gaslight Lounge, you'll see bowling pins. Bowling pin stools, bowling pin wallpaper, bowling pin fairies dancing around your head ... Maybe it helps if we tell you it's in 20th Century Bowling Lanes. 4712 W. State St., 208-342-8695.
This shopping center pub is a grown man's clubhouse: abundant beer kitsch, sports on every TV. 610 E. Boise Ave., 208-388-8700.
The countdown to Cinco de Mayo is hovering right around 10 months. Best place to practice your body shots? The basement bar at Cafe Ole downtown. The maze of high-backed booths provides plenty of privacy for the Cinco de Mayo drinker in training. 404 S. 8th St., 208-344-3222. Other location: 210 N. Milwaukee, 208-322-0222.
The giant oval lanterns cast a serene glow over a black bartop and easy-going people enjoying sushi, while perched on velour seats. A groovy 3-D, backlit sushi bar, giant, seated Buddha and gold-metal beading made a 37.5-degree beer feel ultra-hip. 800 W. Idaho St., Suite #112, 208-343-3474.
The smoke-free dance club in Doubletree Riverside Hotel draws a post-college crowd. There's also the added advantage of the fact that the hotel offers room discounts for booked birthday, bachelor/ette or wedding parties, so there's no need to worry about how you're getting home. 2900 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-343-1871.
It's a McMansion-sized family destination with an open, airy bar. The restaurant may have left its home in downtown Boise, but its Meridian location is still going strong. The eatery has stayed true to its Italian food roots, and diners can still find their favorites. 2500 E. Fairview Ave., Meridian, 208-884-5200.
Sockeye Grill & Brewery
This friendly, low-key Bench brew pub specializes in grilled Alaskan Coho salmon and handcrafted microbrews created on site. You won't find any domestics on these taps, and for good reason: brewer Josh King is the baddest beer brewer in five states. 3019 N. Cole Rd., 208-658-1533.
Flatbread Community Oven
This certified Neapolitan pizzeria has a franchise feel inside that can be best avoided on the flowery patio, sipping a nice Chianti. Or a big glass of Stella Artois on tap. 3139 S. Bown Way, 208-343-4177.
Reaching Parrilla's bar is like dancing with a mass of people who don't know the moves, but if you can shimmy through and find a seat, it's a worthwhile venture. Bask in the sun—or the recently acquired shade (thanks to a remodel this winter)—and enjoy a bar without doors. 1512 N. 13th St., 208-323-4688.
Modern Hotel and Bar
Yes, beer is dandy, but have you tried the "Modern"? It's quite possibly the most refreshing drink on the planet. Despite its association with the hotel, the Modern Bar's austere, all-white uber-mod atmosphere attracts mostly locals. 1314 W. Grove St., 208-424-8244.
It's kind of like a happy dungeon minus the rack and the iron maiden. (We're talking about the torture devices here not boobies and the metal band.) In fact, J.T. Toads could be the much cooler, lower half of its upstairs old-wooden sister. 109 S. 6th St., 208-345-2505.
Idaho Pizza Company
There are few frills at this local family- oriented pizza chain. Yellow walls, soft rock and a small salad bar set the mood. Now who's ready for a beer? 1677 Broadway Ave., 208-343-1011. Other locations: 3053 S. Cole Rd., 208-362-7702; 7100 W. Fairview Ave., 208-375-4100; 6840 N. Glenwood, 208-853-1224; 4218 W. Overland Rd., 208-343-5455; 331 Ave. E, Kuna, 922- 5032; 405 E. Fairview Ave., Meridian, 208-888-4441.
This slightly hidden pool and karaoke dive off Boise Avenue is a college favorite. Go for Taco Tuesdays and make sure to bring cash. 1228 Oakland Ave., 208-344-6235.
Smoky Mountain Pizza & Pasta
If the red-and-white checkered tablecloths don't immediately make you think of food, the smell of pizza hanging thick in the air will. We're hungry just writing about it. 34 E. State St., Eagle, 208-939-0212. Other locations: 1805 E. State St., 208 387-2727; 415 E. Parkcenter Blvd., 208-429-0011; 980 E. Fairview Ave., Meridian, 208-884-1067.
Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine
If you'd enjoy dining in the body of an old Chevy, straddling a saddle or being surrounded by several pair of denim dungarees, you're going to love a meal at Donnie Mac's Trailerpark Cuisine. Mesquite-grilled burgers, mac and cheese and meatloaf share menu space with gourmet soups and Grape-Nuts-topped green salads. It's a dining experience you won't soon forget ... and one you'll very quickly want to repeat. 1515 W. Grove St., 208-384-9008.
Tavern at Bown
Go for the half-price wine and sushi happy hour but stay to enjoy the summer sunset from the rooftop deck with a Tavern cut ribeye steak. When you're done with the rooftop deck, head down to the streetside patio and people watch with a beer in hand. 3111 S. Bown Way, 208-345-2277.
With a rooftop bar offering views of downtown Boise from under a thatched tiki hut, the island-themed bar and restaurant is an oasis of tropicana. We're always fans of things like pupus, live music and anything with a plethora of tikis. 105 S. 6th St., 208-287-9200.
The Garage/Lucky 13
It's still busy and friendly as ever, but Lucky 13 without 13th Street will take some getting used to. The building is brand-spanking new and The Garage is back in business, all of which means the Greenbelt ride out to Lucky Peak just got a whole lot better. 3662 S. Eckert Rd., 208-344-6967.
This one fits comfortably into the neighborhood bar category. It also has a home under "dive." Some nights you'll need a scalpel to get through the smoke, but on other nights, the Fireside is as cozy as your living room. 1610 N. 31st St., 208-342-9075.
Ves's Broadway Bar
This dark den is renowned for its strong, cheap drinks so make sure to pick a few tracks off the free jukebox while you can still read. 1712 Broadway Ave., 208-342-9951.
- Eric Obendorf
- 1108 Lounge
Officially Boise's newest gay bar, 1108 could also be the city's tiniest bar. And boy, have the new owners cleaned up the place. Extreme makeover for sure. New paint, new furniture, a new bar (that lights up, mind you) and it's like a whole new place. 1108 Front St., 208-331-4110.
Brick Oven Bistro
Homestyle cooking goes best with 38.5 degree beer, as do plastic tablecloths, cafeteria-style trays, old-school jazz and college boys who miss their mammas. This place feels like home, which would be the other best place to get food like this. 801 Main St., Suite 107, 208-342-3456.
This tucked-away beer bar is immaculately clean, small and cozy, but has a distinctly '80s color-scheme. Plus it has that brand-new strip-mall smell that seems to complement a Coors Light so well. 6928 W. State St., 208-853-0526.
Ha' Penny Irish Pub and Grill
The term "cheap drunk" would take on a whole new meaning if you could buy a beer for a half-penny at this place. And you'd have to order two beers at a time because pennies are really hard to break in two. It's an Irish joint, mate, so get your Guinness on. 855 Broad St., Ste. 250, 208-343-5568.
Aarrgh! You've got to love a pirate theme. Add the giant sandbox/patio out back and the laid-back attitude, and it's a nice place to contemplate a career move from writer to pirate. Bet the booty is better pirating. 650 S. Vista Ave., 208-336-1790.
An added bar up front, a relocated soundboard and rows upon rows of gorgeous lights gave the aging Bouquet the equivalent of a shot of Botox. A partnership with Knitting Factory gave the downtown landmark a shot in the arm as well, bringing some great musical acts to the stage. 1010 W. Main St., 208-345-6605.
Willow Creek Grill & Java
Willow Creek's casual, sophisticated environment screams restaurant, but the food is mighty decent. Having a conjoined sushi restaurant, RAW, nestled next door don't hurt a bit, either. 2273 S. Vista Ave., 208-343-5544.
Busters Bar & Grill
The suburban version of this longtime Hooters-esque joint lacks the clandestine feel of the Broadway restaurant, but it certainly doesn't lack the short-skirted, all-female staff. It's one of those places where you and the guys go to toss back a few cold ones and "watch the game." 1396 E. State. St., Eagle, 208-938-1800. Other location: 1326 Broadway Ave., 208-345-5688.
Knitting Factory couldn't very well continue to call its upstairs bar the Bourbon Street Saloon after The Big Easy was no more, could it? Instead, new management offers a new moniker befitting of its changing digs. 416 9th St., 208-367-1212.
Turner's Sports Bar
Exit Turner's slowly to avoid getting the bends. It's a quintessential example of a State Street dive, but you'll want to visit Turner's soon because this bar could collapse upon itself at any time. 4022 W. State St., 208-342-9090.
If you ask us, the "sports" in this sports pub has all but disappeared from the downtown mainstay. Sure, in the depths of the building—beyond the gorgeous antique bar—you'll find a pool table, TV, video poker and a popcorn machine, but that does not a sports bar make these days. Instead, what you'll find is a college-kid vibe, great live music and an uber chill hangout downstairs. 109 S. 6th St., 208-345-2505.
Satchel's has the best patio in town, and it's all because of the movies. During the summer months, the quiet little deli-esque cafe takes advantage of the giant concrete walls towering over its patio by playing a free film a few days a week. Throw in a little night music and a panini and it ain't a bad stop any day of the week. 705 W. Bannock St., 208-344-3752.
Fine pizza and fine beer. No lie. Claiming a space next to Ridley's on Bogus Basin Road, the super-kid-friendly joint has effectively blocked out the parking lot with a lovely flowered patio. 2594 N. Bogus Basin Rd., 208-387-4992.
It's prime real estate on this Hyde Park corner, where the crowds still gather on the patio to fight over pizza crumbs and split a pitcher. While you're waiting out the line to order, amuse yourself with the static electricity ball on the counter. (Hint: it gets more amusing with each beer.) 1602 N. 13th St., 208-343-2887.
Ben's Crow Inn
Saddle into a red wooden patio table, order the three-and-a-half-pound bucket of steamed clams and let Bruce Springsteen take you back. And then get back on your bike and pedal your buzzed butt back to Boise. 6781 Warm Springs Ave., 208-342-9669.
Snuggled right next to the Edwards megaplex movie theater is a sports bar restaurant where any one can enter—and not just the sporty-type—to get some food and watch a myriad of sports on several different televisions. There are also plenty of ways to get competitive in a room filled with pool tables. 7609 Overland Rd., 208-377-1819.
Q's Billiards and Eatery
The $2.95 BFD (burger, fries, draft) is popular, as are 11 pool tables, four poker tables and pile of electronic diversions. This place may not look like much from the outside, but it's a hoot. Repeat often. 6570 Fairview Ave., 208-322-9122.
With chef Jon Mortimer in the kitchen, we can assure you the food is reason enough to patronize the place. But then there's that patio. It's an enviable riverside space in Eagle with nothing but greenery between your table and the water. Evening martini waterside? Done. 698 S. Rivershore Ln., Eagle, 208-938-2850.
Hyde Park Pub
In cold weather, it's almost impossible to find a seat in Hyde Park Pub's dining room. Once the warm weather rolls around, the patio is packed all day, every day. Pet friendly, kid friendly and beer-drinking friendly, the HPP is ready to serve. 1501 N. 13th St., 208-336-9260.
Burger & Brew
This one's been around Boise for years and the one thing that always confounds us is the random stuff on the walls. The bar section is barely discernible from the rest of the restaurant, but it's definitely where all the action is on most days. 4295 W. State St., 208-345-7700.
An extensive menu, a sweet patio with horseshoes, and cheap beers make this busy watering hole the choice for State Street's younger party-people. (P.S.: get the clams.) 3515 W. State St., 208-342-8887.
Flying Pie is more than a pizza joint: it's a lifestyle. From "it's your day" name days to the plea for whirled peas, the Pie has been doing cool shit from day one. Draw a face for the newsletter or have your out-of-towners put a pin on the map. And it's not just gimmicks, the pizza is the shiznit and the Triple Pi is brewed specially for the Pie. 6508 Fairview Ave., 208-345-0000. Other location: 4320 State St., 208-384-0000.
Meridian Bowling Lanes
Just the sort of homey place to kick back after a few sets and work on your attitude. Or maybe you should just try your hand at darts, there's a great setup in this local hangout. 324 S. Meridian Rd., Meridian, 208-888-2048.
Dining finely is the goal of any Berryhill journey. Inside, enjoy piano music with dinner, and outside, the patio is recessed just far enough from the street to render the busy downtown traffic nonexistent. 121 N. 9th St., 208-387-3553.
Terrapin Station is a hangout wherein you'll seldom see so much as an angry word much less an all-out fight. An incredible selection of brews and regular live music make the Grateful Dead-themed joint a great place to chill. 1519 W. Main St., 208-342-1776.
If you're searching for a quiet and stylish place to enjoy fine beer such as Chimay on tap, this is your haven. The North End restaurant and pub bills itself as your neighborhood hangout with the added bonus of a patio for all seasons. 1520 N. 13th St., 208-336-5122.
Piper Pub & Grill
The studded barstools and wood-lined bartop deserve pipes and jackets, but the crazy 3-D Idaho mural and placard proclaiming this to be "Jim Beam Country" may make you want to bring the fellas and whistle from the balcony. Or maybe just wear some flip-flops, order a good burger and drink a beer while you enjoy the good views through the wrap-around windows. 150 N. 8th St., Suite 200, 208-343-2444.
If you're lucky, you'll walk into this bar and get swept up in a Basque family reunion. After being inducted as an honorary family member, you'll wake up the next day just in time for a kalimotxo sunset. 601 Grove St., 208-342-9983.
"Gernika," as it's known simply by those who love it, is the kingpin of the Basque Block. Like a quaint, centuries-old pub in San Sebastian, Spain, Gernika is a home away from home for many. Order croquettas, vino tinto, a plate of Idiazabal and a beer. 202 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-344-2175.
The New Frontier
It's dark at noon and Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean jockey for space on the brick wall with NASCAR posters—you get the idea. 116 E. Broadway, Meridian, 208-888-9034.
Chef Lou's at 8th Street
Some foods don't go well with beer, but rest assured that everything on Chef Lou's menu goes really well with suds—especially the fries and the hush puppies. At the BoDo restaurant, beer is a perk that merely washes down Chef Lou's famous food. (Like the monte cristo.) 409 S. 8th St., 208-331-2080.
Cobby's Sandwich Shop
Wethinks this is a debut in BW's annual coldest beer contest, despite the fact that ye ole sandwich shop is a longtime city favorite for its order-by-number menu and free fruit. 1030 Broadway Ave., 208-345-0990. Other locations: 4348 Chinden Blvd., 208-322-7401; 6899 Overland Rd., 208-323-2371.
Forget your bra, remember your heels, and get ready to experience downtown Boise's bar scene in all its glory. VIPs only upstairs ... yes, it's that kind of club. It's also the kind of club with see-through stairs for ... well, you know. 100 S. 6th St., 208-338-6604.
Searching for a reasonably priced, well crafted, local brew accompanied by a kick-ass burger? Search no more, my friend. Highlands Hollow has what you crave. It's huge apres-ski when Bogus is open and has a patio of micro-swillers in the summer. A stop for all seasons, friends. 2455 Harrison Hollow Ln., 208-343-6820.
This dark and sleek bar lives up to its name every day of the week, and it's a vast improvement over the sandwich shop that used to inhabit this space. Gusto's also boasts a great jazz night on Thursdays. 509 W. Main St., 208-343-5159.
The Gamekeeper Lounge
The Gamekeeper Lounge hearkens back to the days when the word "lounge" didn't describe a place with hardly dressed hotties grooving across a dance floor lit from beneath. The Gamekeeper is cool, quiet, dark and the perfect place for a clandestine rendezvous and cold martinis. 1109 W. Main St., 208-343-4611.
The water feature out front makes this place look less bar-like, but it's a pretty typical bar—except that it's super clean and it has a slightly higher concentration of young, backward-capped jock-types than your average State Street bar. 4091 W. State St., 208-342-3250.
Terry's State Street Saloon
Terry's outside appearance is a disguise. Terry's is a haven for young, serious drinkers and fun makers. Two-fers during happy hour are just part of the reason. The others? Loud speakers, pool tables, karaoke and rows and rows of bottles. 3301 Collister St., 208-331-8225.
Kaye & Traci's 127 Club
NASCAR is spoken here. Beer-babe posters, pool tables and a nice, long bar just right for propping up your boots and grabbing a bucket of suds. 127 E. Idaho, Meridian, 208-884-0122.
Main Street Bistro
Wikipedia defines a "bistro" as "a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting." What? Someone needs to buy this bar owner a dictionary. Infamous for its hook-up scene, a bistro it is not. But a fun, shot-pounding, dance-the-night-away bar it is. 609 Main St., 208-345-4515.
This downtown classic was called one of the best bars In America by Esquire magazine, and for good reasons: free live music, a hulking wood bar and booths that you can duck into for some privacy. 513 W. Main St., 208-345-6344.
- Eric Obendorf
- Mac and Charlies
Mack & Charlies is dark and sleek like its Siamese twin Gusto's. On weekend nights it becomes a college bar, hosting what looks like Boise's entire 21-to-25-year-old population. During the week, it's calm, cool, collected and the perfect place to decompress. 507 W. Main St., 208-343-5159.
A big-city bar in little Boise. The skinny, scarlet entrance and bar are framed by skylights and red walls, and lead into an open seating/dancing area. The staff—usually followed immediately by all the patrons—lets out a collective "Opa" with every customer's coming and going. 213 N. 8th St., 208-342-6555.
Pair? I guess we could start calling them a pair of "martini goggles." Hardly. Hotties of all genders hang out in Pair's uber-mod, low-slung furniture sipping from beverages of all makes and models. 601 W. Main St., 208-343-7034.
Pizza, beer, a patio, a coffee shop next door and within walking distance of Boise State—what more could a starving, sleep-deprived college kid ask for? Well, money for one, but that's something to ask parents for. 1301 S. Capitol Blvd., 208-344-7272.
The Balcony Club
Drag queens dance, straight kids try to blend in and TV screens broadcast psychedelic swirls. The dance floor has boxes for exhibitionists and plenty of spots from which to watch them. When you need a breather from the crowds, head out to the wrap-around balcony and hang with a few friendly clubbers. 150 N. 8th St., Suite 226, 208-336-1313.
Once a bank, the Italian restaurant could be the most laid-back place in Eagle to get a beer. If you're counting calories, good luck getting out of here without having to order something from the kitchen. Order the lasagna and you can cut calories with Michelob Ultra on tap. 190 E. State St., Eagle, 208-939-2500.
Warm Springs Golf Course
Mix equal parts dowdy airport bar, gas station rotisserie hotdogs and chuckling polo shirt-clad golfers and you'll get this utilitarian hole. 2495 Warm Springs Ave., 208-343-5661.
Tablerock Brewpub and Grill
One of the proud, the few, when it comes to microbreweries in Boise. TableRock has endured for years as a restaurant, even as its beer bottling and distribution operation has taken off. Outside, you'll find an itsy-bitsy streetside patio and inside, it's a pastel-colored cafeteria with an excellent view of the brewery. 705 Fulton St., 208-342-0944.
OK, so maybe the beer is a bit tepid—but if you're going to the Cottonwood looking solely for an ice-cold domestic draft beer, you're priorities are mixed up. Fashioned after a Northwest lodge, Cottonwood is definitely destination dining, whether by a winter fire or on the summer patio. 913 W. River St., 208-333-9800.
One of Boise's gay-friendliest bars moved to a new location on Fairview last summer. If any place could comfortably take up residence in a building that used to be a McDonald's and a donut shop, it's the Lucky Dog, which definitely made the odd-shaped space its own. A non-smoking disco lounge offers respite for those without a nicotine monkey on their backs but who still want to mix and mingle with the cool kids. 2223 W. Fairview Ave., 208-333-0074.
It's getting hot in there—could be the less-than-effective AC or the ladies, or both. The Rhino is as glam as it gets for gentlemen's clubs in Boise so put on your good jeans and consider switching out the ball cap for combed hair. 1500 W. Grove St., 208-429-8229.
You know the one, it's the purple bar. Garden City's only NASCAR bar offers free tacos on race Sundays, live jam Wednesdays, classic rock bands on Friday nights. 4902 Chinden Blvd., Garden City, 208-327-0925.
The ultimate neighborhood bar with a pool table, jukebox and, of course, the requisite Golden Tee game. It's the kind of place where regulars have their favorite barstools staked out with the impressions of their backsides already worked in. 813 Vista Ave., 208-342-9911.
Ski memorabilia and fake plastic trees lend this popular breakfast spot more coffeeshop appeal than wine bar ambiance. But after a bike ride out to Bown, a rest on the corner patio and a nice cold one will get you ready for the ride home. 3110 S. Bown Way, 208-338-6632.
River Rock Alehouse
The deep green on the walls hugs you like a giant martini olive. It's a good place to sing a round of "99 taps of beer on the ceiling," and in the summer, the riverside patio is where it's at. 228 E. Plaza St., Eagle, 208-938-4788.
Front Door Pizza
- Eric Obendorf
- Front Door
No. Domestics. On-tap. And ... no cold beer. Its cozy, pizza-eatin' atmosphere with high tables, barstools and padded booths lures hungry clubbers preferring pizza over hotdogs, but watch out for some of the self-proclaimed beer snobs who work here—they only serve "complicated" beer that is 49 degrees or warmer to preserve the hoppy flavor.
You won't find any big-name, mass-produced domestics in this bar either. Of the 15 brews on tap, not a one carries the words, "Bud," "Miller," or "Coors." Everything served in this bar is either imported or from U.S. microbreweries—with a large representation from the Northwest.
Sure, it's not exactly a frosty beverage, but it will be a flavorful one, and possibly something you've never even heard of before. Your friends may call you a beer snob, they may even scoff at your new highfalutin tastes, but you'll be laughing all the way down to the bottom of your glass of really good beer while they choke down the cheap stuff. 105 S. 6th St., 208-287-9201.