I've driven by the Sockeye Grill and Brewery dozens of times, usually in a bad mood, fleeing the Milwaukee/mall area, desperately trying to find a way to drop off the Boise Bench. Recently, I've slowed down approaching Sockeye to stop into the new branch Library! at Cole and Ustick or to duck into the neighborhood Albertsons down the street.
Sitting in the pub's bright sunroom on a chilly fall afternoon for lunch, it dawned on me that this corner is becoming a destination in its own right, and Sockeye, already known in other 'hoods for its Dagger Falls IPA, has become an established West Boise neighborhood hangout. A dark interior table of retired men lounged over coffee talking about their guns and taxes, several groups in the sunroom appeared engaged in business lunches, and regulars addressed the waitress by name and riffed on the daily paper.
I ordered a seven-beer sampler ($6) and studied the menu. Sampling from light to dark, I was struck by two things. First, each of the seven beers shared a common Sockeye flavor. It was a slightly soapy and not quite bitter enough taste, but unique and highly drinkable nonetheless. Second, I realized as I ran the gamut from the seasonal and blonde ales to the Hell Diver Pale Ale and the Powerhouse Porter, that I really do prefer darker, thicker beers, as much as I support our regional hoppy IPA love affair.
But beer and geography weren't the only lessons of this meal. Sockeye also taught me that a wrap is not always a lame, politically correct excuse for a sandwich.
The lemon-peppered (wild Alaskan) Coho wrap ($9.75), a salad of salmon, bacon, red onion, feta and basil vinaigrette stuffed into a lightly toasted flour shell, redefines not only the "wrap" concept, but also the "salad" and "fish" concepts. Every bite was drenched with fishy, basily, bacony and, yes, wrappy flavor.
I also tasted a Coho burger ($9.75)--Sockeye does have a heavy fish influence, which I apparently bought hook, line and sinker. The burger was a thick salmon fillet, ostensibly healthier and pinker than its ground-beef counterpart would have been. The kicker, however, was the thick-cut sweet potato fries and the chipotle mayo (thank you for not calling it aioli), both of which I added to the coho instead of the tarter sauce. The beautiful red hot and sweet mayo was a great enhancement to both the fries and the burger.
Homemade garlic vegetable soup also graced the table, full of fall veggies and giant cloves of garlic that melted away on my tongue.
I tried hard to order dessert but couldn't handle another bite. It felt good to admit to myself, and now, to my buddies, that I'm not always going to drink the pitchers of IPA they order. I might get a porter if I feel like it. And perhaps even a Powerhouse Porter float for dessert.
--Nathaniel Hoffman was a social drinker but now stouts it alone.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Sockeye Grill and Brewery here.