Do you want to eat at Darla's Deli? To get to Darla's Deli, you have to really want to eat there. But try her chicken, cheese and spinach quesadilla and you'll soon have the code to get to Darla's memorized.
Housed on the penthouse floor of the C.W. Moore Plaza, you wouldn't know Darla's was there if you didn't know it was there. A poster on an easel sits in the lobby of the building, but if you enter from the west side, you won't see the sign until you're on top of it; it always seems to be facing east. The elevator to the penthouse requires a passcode, which isn't much of a secret because it's engraved on a plaque near the doors. But there's no indication as to whether the passcode should be entered or the up button pressed first. And the elevator is painfully slow, which leaves you wondering if the pushing order was wrong.
Once on the top floor, the penthouse view makes the odd trek worthwhile. The handful of building employees seated at the smattering of tables and chairs add a sense of camaraderie and the vistas of the Foothills beyond and glimpses of the city life below make leaving the eating space almost as difficult as finding it. And Darla's cheerfulness as well as delicious food make it that much harder.
With only a gas-fired griddle and a microwave, she turns out surprisingly delicious, joyfully affordable food. And specials are the payoff for the trip upward, like the half-quesadilla special ($6.99): three warm triangles of thick crispy-on-the-outside flour tortilla stuffed with chunks of chicken, tangy Monterey jack and cheddar cheese, and fresh spinach leaves pressed against a small bowl of chicken tortilla soup full of colored corn-chip strips, corn, tomatoes and beans. Or the rich open-faced chicken, walnut, cranberry, bleu and Swiss cheese melt with pesto mayo on Zeppole's village loaf bread ($5.75). Even the regular menu items, like a simple BLT ($4.95)--which can be the signature of a decent deli--is easy to savor, while you watch the tales of the city unfold below.
If you're a shiny, happy early riser, Darla is behind her counter at 8 a.m., ready to pile Black Forest ham, bacon, soft, fluffy eggs and Swiss cheese on toasted village loaf for less than five bucks. She'll even wrap up a breakfast burrito full of egg, hashbrowns, bacon and cheese, although if she's out of the 'browns, it's a 13-minute wait for fresh ones.
When I attended Boise High, I used to occasionally get lunch in the Boise Cascade employee cafeteria just up the street. When my husband worked at Morrison Knudsen, I'd join him in MK's cafeteria. When I worked at First Security, I ate in the cafeteria nearly every single day. (Weird how all of those businesses no longer exist in their original form--is it me?) I've missed that feeling of familiarity but I sure as hell don't want to go to work for a huge corporation to get it. With Darla and her deli so close, I don't have to.
--Amy Atkins has never dropped a penny or a BLT from a penthouse.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Darla's Deli.