Even if you've been to Jeffrey's before and aren't scared off by the scruffy building that includes what used to be one of the city's most rough-and-tumble biker bars, a barbershop and a popular laundromat, you have to be committed to get in the door.
First, you'll have to fight the lingering happy hour crowd for a parking spot in one of the poorest designed lots in town. Then you have to count your faded, dented blue metal doors correctly lest you end up in the Broadway Bar (Jeffrey's is behind door no. 2). The most difficult challenge may be actually getting the door open on an early summer evening. As you palm the shiny metal doorknob, which has been baking in the dry Idaho heat all afternoon, you're going to wince.
Get inside, though, and it's hole-in-the-wall meets diner meets bistro. Linens, fresh flowers and candles top tables. Water glasses each have a slice of cucumber and are refilled from a heavy, shiny metal pitcher beaded with sweat. Bread is served burrowed beneath a linen napkin and sided by a ramekin of herb-infused rice oil with a kiss of citrus.
Lunch is slightly more casual in approach, though neither the food nor the service reflect that change in attitude. On several visits the waitstaff was prompt and courteous, and lunch and dinner portions of entrees were similar in price and size.
Thinking back to Lim's, the lackluster Chinese restaurant that preceded Jeffrey's, it's difficult not to be enthusiastic about the food based simply on the degree of improvement. But owner Joshua Jeffrey's grub earns the enthusiasm. The simple stuff is well executed: thick chunks of halibut came thinly battered atop a pile of handcut fries, run-of-the-mill mac salad was made over with diced peppers and spices, a nacho app is nicely starter size, and a moderately thick rib eye was perfectly cross-hatched on the outside and a perfect medium rare on the inside. The more complicated fare holds its own as well: Pork chops were tender. A special of prawns and thinly pounded chicken breast was slicked with a light butter sauce so as to complement rather than overwhelm.
That's not to say there weren't a few misses. The salsa, tartar and cocktail sauces could all use the same attention lavished on other details. Sides of white rice smack far too much of the buttered Minute variety. Strawberry shortcake, with a dull, jammy strawberry spread and too-thick, too-gummy Chantilly cream, was a complete fuggedaboutit--although dessert itself was not. Jeffrey will do a half 'n' half option if you can't decide between two desserts, and I'd highly recommend both the orange dream cake with vanilla cream frosting and the double chocolate pound cake.
An experience at Jeffrey's isn't easily summed up, but when the bill arrives, the relatively tiny total might be all the "summing up" you need to return.
--Rachael Daigle likes to sum things up in one word.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Jeffrey's Next Door.