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Pho Nouveau, Sweetwater's Tropic Zone and Soul Food Extravaganza


Pho Sho and Some Sweetwater, Too

Monday afternoon went like this: lunch at Pho Nouveau in good company with fellow media grunt and cha gio nicely done with a mound of cellophane noodles, which I didn't have the chance to rummage through because lunch arrived quite quickly. Seems the folks at Pho Nouveau understand how short on time the lunch crowd can be. I found myself staring a little too longingly at my lunch companion's lily blossom salad of young lotus root, shrimp and pork. I'd rate my shaken beef salad just fine, but next time I'm all about a bowl of pho. I will be reordering the Vietnamese coffee, which comes properly served dripping from the Vietnamese "coffee pot"--a tin hat sort of thing that sits on top of a glass. Being an American woman, the best thing about taking coffee on a hot Vietnamese afternoon is always chatting up the old men who smoke furiously while squatting on miniature plastic stools at sidewalk coffee carts. You won't find any of them at Pho Nouveau, but it is the best excuse in Boise to slug down a few tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.

After lunch I walked over to the newly opened Sweetwater's Tropic Zone on 10th Street to have a look at what's become of the former MilkyWay. The new restaurant looks eerily similar but with a hefty dose of tiki kitsch. The big, blue Jestsons-esque booth is still firmly entrenched windowside, the same metal-backed chairs and bar stools are still there and the entire space has taken on a rainbow of tropical color to match its new theme. That theme, according to the restaurant's subhead, if you will, is: barbecue, Caribbean, Creole and island cuisine. Put into action, that translates into a menu with pineapple curry mussels, gator tots (from Idaho, believe it or not), conch fritters, Jamaican jerk chicken, Trinidadian curry goat and Indonesian satay. It's a globe trotter for sure, but one that makes a serious effort to stay between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. For you foodies who were around when Reef first opened, Sweetwater's concept isn't too far from that first menu. The one truly notable offering--aside from all the oddities, that is--is the return of a raw bar, which has been missing from downtown Boise since City Grill's closure. Oysters on the half shell, conch salad, lomi lomi salmon and fresh ceviche. I'll report back on the lomi lomi sometime soon, but someone else will have to do the honors on the ceviche--a bad batch in Peru left me incapacitated for days and my stomach still hasn't forgiven me.

Pho Nouveau, 780 W. Idaho St., 208-367-1111. Sweetwater's Tropic Zone, 210 N. 10th St., 208-433-9194.

This Week's Wine and Dine

Wine and dine the love of your life twice this weekend. But do it outdoors.

The Soul Food Extravaganza is this weekend, marking year 17 that we get treated to a plate of soul food. In addition to the usual vendors--B & B Soul Food for your catfish and collard greens, A Piece of Cake for your sweet potato pie and mac and cheese, and Chef Roland's for your jambalaya and gumbo--you'll find some other unusual suspects that are more food for your soul than soul food. Basillos Tacos will be there repping the So-Bo crowd, Kanak Attack has your island fix and a couple of hot dog places will be there for the truly picky eater. I'll get my dogs at Hyde Park Street Fair, thanks very much, and I'll get my soul food at the Soul Food Extravaganza.

Saturday, Aug. 1. Music and food start at 11 a.m. with headliner Teedra Moses on stage at 7 p.m. Julia Davis Park. Information on Page 16 or at

Opportunity No. 2 to wine and dine this weekend is the annual San Inazio Basque Festival. Maybe it's more about the wining (and the dancing and the singing and the good times) than the dining, but ...

Festivities are Saturday, Aug. 1, and Sunday, Aug. 2. See Page 16 for details or visit