For the past few years, Boise's growth has been nearly unparalleled on a national scale. But for all the gripes about traffic and increases in rent and property taxes, one undisputedly positive outcome of that growth has been the food. As more people come, new, savvy restauranteurs have stepped up to fill culinary niches and give both locals and visitors more choices for dining out. 2019 continued the trend in spectacular form with fresh restaurants and watering holes that reflect the zeitgeist of the City of Trees.
In a city center that already has its fair share of coffee shops and cafes, A Cafe set up shop on 10th Street next to Good Burger with one goal in mind: to create a simple yet satisfying dining experience. From its avocado toast to its "Turkey Situation" sandwich, this cafe, for all its minimalist decor, is more than meets the eye.
- Lex Nelson
- Bei Lounge
Yen Ching has been an institution on the BoDo dining scene for nearly 30 years, but rather than rest on its legacy, the restaurant has upped its game by opening Bei Lounge. Built out of what was once the Yen Ching bakery, this upscale enclave attracts office workers and Eighth Street diners with the promise of carefully crafted Asian comfort food and pub fare. The inspiration for Bei Lounge's cuisine comes not only from China, but also Vietnam, Thailand and Korea. While some restaurants are set in their ways, Bei Lounge proves Yen Ching is prepared to embrace Boise's changing foodscape.
Blue Toro's owner, Brandt Casey, knows a thing or two about Mexican-inspired food. His father, Jeff Casey, has run Cafe Ole Restaurant and Cantina for 37 years, and Brandt started working there when he was 12 years old. Brandt's expertise favors anyone who loves succulent street tacos, crispy quesadillas and tasty burrito bowls—especially Californian transplants to Eagle, where Blue Toro is located. Whatever customer base it ultimately draws, Blue Toro's doors are open to those looking for some Baja-style tacos and a laid-back atmosphere.
While some restaurants dabble in fusion or high-concept culinary experiences, others just want to bring food from one country to another and keep it as authentic as possible. The Harp, which sits at the intersection of Eagle Road and Fairview Avenue in Meridian, strives to emulate the food, drink and atmosphere of Ireland. Its menu includes dishes like shepherd's pie, and corned beef and cabbage, and its drink menu wouldn't be complete without Irish coffee and, of course, Guinness beer. For diners who love authentic international food close to home, this a a spot for the bucket list.
Boise's Main Street Deli may have found the secret sauce for casual Italian dining. After faithfully serving stacked sandwiches to Boisians for years, the deli decided to trade in its Coke machine and chip baskets for wine and tableside service—at least after 3 p.m. The deli still runs during lunch hours, but after that, the space transforms into il Sugo, an Italian restaurant where customers can choose from a variety of pasta dishes with house-made sauces and pair them with wine. Few restaurants could pull off such a dramatic personality swap.
- Lex Nelson
An underground haven for ramen and Ping-Pong enthusiasts, Ramapong finally came to fruition in April, three years after Boise Fry Company CEO Brad Walker first proposed the idea in 2016. Far from the twinkle in a CEO's eye that it once was, this venue has table tennis, a full bar, and of course, a no-nonsense menu of ramen dishes that draw on both Japanese and Idahoan influences. At 4 p.m., the family spot becomes a 21-and-over venue, leaning heavily on its full bar.
Hyde Park, the North End's miniature city center, got a new upscale watering hole of its very own this year. The Royal opened its doors to the public in mid-July, around the same time another drinking spot, Water Bear Bar, invited guests in downtown. The Royal serves classic cocktails with "a modern twist," according to its Facebook page, along with a wide selection of craft beers. If you stop by, try pairing a lemon-basil fizz with a sandwich from Archie's Place, the food truck parked patioside.
- Harrison Berry
Vegan and vegetarian options have long been reserved for larger cities in America, but that trend has seen a slow reversal thanks to Boise's steady growth. Toasted, the latest addition to Boise's vegan scene, offers its customers a wide variety of toasts and toppings that are 100% plant-based. Even with this rigorous standard, Chef Brad Wegelin has had no problem drawing vegan-curious and meat-eating customers into his space in the historic Idanha building right next door to Guru Donuts.
Water Bear Bar
Water Bear Bar opened its doors in July, and hasn't closed them since. Rays of natural light illuminate everything in this quirky cocktail bar, from houseplants to floral wallpaper to taxidermy. The style, called "Mountain Tiki" by the owners, is an ode to the oddity of the Pacific Northwest. The quirkiness of the space belies the sophistication of its drinks and snacks, however, which include plenty of designer cocktails, sweet and savory popcorn, and fresh oysters on the half-shell.
Have you ever heard tell of an executive chef from a renowned French restaurant opening a food truck to share his culinary expertise with the masses? Well, in late August, Chef Richard Jimenez of popular Eagle restaurant Le Coq d'Or did just that when he opened Umami Avenue. Jimenez's desire to focus on savory flavors led him to create a menu of Asian/Italian-inspired dishes that are as tasty as they are off-the-wall. Don't let the opportunity to experience Umami Avenue drive away!
Piling onto the list of new eateries, Certified Kitchen + Bakery, a fresh breakfast and lunch concept from the owners of The Wylder and the chefs once behind Jenny's Lunch Line, brought pastries, sandwiches and craft coffee to Hyde Park in late September, and Room and Boards Cafe opened in Meridian to offer a space for tabletop gamers to eat, drink and play. Boise also attracted a number of popular national names in 2019, like the Tennessee eatery Donut + Dog, the all-you-can-eat Lone Star State steakhouse Texas de Brazil, and the meaty Utah-based restaurant Mo'Bettahs Hawaiian Style. Anthony's Seafood and Tupelo Honey, two more national chains, are poised to join the Boise food scene very soon.