In the early months of 2008, I traded a few phone calls with an editor at Food and Wine magazine who was working on a piece about Boise's food scene. Before traveling to Boise to do some work on the ground, she quizzed me about local restaurants and artisan food companies in an effort to get a handle on what the local food scene had to offer.
Looking back now, I'd say that when she toured Boise's restaurants in the spring of that year, she caught Boise at the top of its food game. A few months after her visit, I sent the first of several emails informing her that a restaurant she'd inquired about had closed. For a few weeks, it seemed like I was sending her an email with similar news every few days as the recession set in and doors closed.
Though a few notable eateries have captured the attention of Boise diners in the last year, by and large, the restaurant scene in Boise has yet to really rebound from the bloodletting that occurred a few years back. In fact, on the fine-dining end, it's hard to see that there's been any recovery after the loss of Mortimer's, Andre's, MilkyWay, SixOneSix and The Gamekeeper.
Guy Hand, who's been reporting on restaurants and food in the valley for six years as a restaurant critic with the Idaho Statesman, as a contributor to Boise State Public Radio, and as a writer with Boise Weekly, takes a look at the changes Boise's restaurant scene has undergone in the last few years. In "Tales of a Food Critic," he catches up with some of the people who were Boise's most-notable names before the economy took a bite out of the restaurant scene and asks whether an "if you build it they will come" approach could boost the quality of Boise's restaurant scene or if diners here are simply just not that interested in more-creative fare.
But it's not all bad news. After all, we found plenty to gush about in this year's annual Restaurant and Bar Guide, which you'll find inserted into this week's Food Issue of Boise Weekly. In Restaurant Guides in years past we've looked at the local-food movement, chatted up area chefs and turned the spotlight on little-known but great places to eat. This year, it's all about the food and those dishes that we think you'd be remiss to miss. I hope it makes you hungry.