Food & Drink » Food Review

Red Room Tavern

On the plate of Reviewer No. 2


Blink and you might've missed the old Red Room. Surrounded by the chaos of Sixth and Main streets, the gasp of a dive bar pulsed with pop punk and the chatter of PBR-faced fixie riders. Known for its stronger-than-shit drinks in red plastic tumblers and its pervasive cloud of smoke, the old Red Room was not for the uninitiated.

In September 2009, the Red Room picked up its petticoats and swapped spots with its much larger upscale sister, Pair. Though the velour kitsch and divey vibe remains, the place is an entirely different beast. Not only does the new Red Room Tavern feature a full menu--with a selection that wanders from greasy bar food to sushi to barbecue--the joint also features grit-your-teeth-loud live music and a not-too-shabby happy hour.

On a recent after-work jaunt, I decided to put that happy hour to the test--$5 specialty cocktails and a selection of small plates for $1.95. I went with the Dragonslayer sushi roll, tempura-battered pickle chips and a strawberry blonde mojito. Not generally a fan of any drink preceded by the words "strawberry blonde," I was hesitant to follow my server's suggestion. But, man, am I glad I did. The drink was strong, in a familiar way, and the house vodka was surprisingly not sweet and flecked with fresh basil.

The sushi--four pieces of tightly rolled ahi, jalapeno and cucumber topped with a dollop of mango aioli and sriracha--was passable but outshined by its own presentation. Arriving on a heavy slab of marble with thick, house-made hunks of pickled ginger, the four bites cowered amidst their accoutrements. The tempura-fried pickle chips, though greasy, made for excellent bar grub.

On a Saturday afternoon, I returned to Red Room Tavern to check myself into the Betty Ford Recovery Brunch. Staking out a sunny patio table, a handful of pals and I began our quest to find the bottom of the bottomless mimosas ($6). On the recommendation of our super attentive (read: heavy-handed with the mimosa pitcher) server, I decided to share an order of the black bean huevos ($8) and the smoked salmon platter ($9). While the salmon platter was straightforward--toasted bagel, rolls of fresh lox, a smear of dill cream cheese, tomatoes, capers, onions and lemon wedges--the black bean huevos stole the show. Served on a pile of thick homemade tortilla chips, the black beans were topped with a couple of sunny-side-up eggs, fresh tomato, onions and sour cream. The dish was awesome, but avocado and goat cheese would've ratcheted its awesomeness level up even higher.

Though I would've never imagined the old, hole-in-the-wall Red Room serving up a delightful sunshine-drenched brunch, it's a change I'm getting used to. As our server topped off our mimosas for the who-knows-how-many-th time and a tattooed dude lit up a cigarette at the next table, I realized things haven't changed all that much. The vibe is still charmingly sleazy, and the drinks are strong and oh-so ample.

--Tara Morgan has hit rock bottomless mimosa.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Red Room Tavern.