The Way We Were
It's hard to be enthusiastic about this week's opening of Bonefish Grill. Another corporate restaurant is setting up shop in downtown Boise, gladly collecting your money and putting it into their Florida-based company. Meanwhile, you all act like a bunch of giddy schoolgirls because somehow these chain restaurants make Boise feel like it's finally growing up and becoming part of the real world. Sigh.
Bonefish Grill is opening in BoDo this week. There, I said it. Now ask me if I care.
Last week, Boise lost one of the cornerstones of its foodie scene. After seven years in business, The MilkyWay gave up. Reports had been circulating for months that paychecks were bouncing, the longtime sous chef had quit and had not been replaced, and that chef-owner Mitchell "Milky" Maricich had been opening and closing the kitchen every day, prepping and cooking almost every plate that went out the door just to keep costs down and keep the doors open.
In the restaurant business, the margins are miniscule. Even after several successful years, a few slow months can do a restaurant in. Even if the local guy has been around for decades, the opening of a national chain right next door can force a family-owned restaurant out of downtown Boise in a matter of weeks. And sometimes the competition doesn't have to be right next door, it just has to be there vying for your dollar.
I've known Milky since the days when he was heading up Murphy's Seafood and Chop House, before opening The MilkyWay with his chef wife, Andrea. From the original cramped, subterranean location in the Garro Building to its open, streetside location on 10th, The MilkyWay made comfort food not just eclectic, but fine. Paired with beef cheeks and imbued with horseradish, simple mashed potatoes became chic. Served whole, wrapped in bacon and shrimp stuffed, jalapenos lost their menace and secured a place among the menu's best. And in the hands of the Mariciches, the dessert often disdained by the fickle diner was almost misnamed as "bread pudding," when really, it was the ethereal example to which all sweets should strive.
In its final days, news crews descended and the dining room was packed with dirgeful fans. At my final MilkyWay experience, I looked around wondering where everybody had been these last few months. Ironically, the week it closed, an editor from Food & Wine Magazine stopped into The MilkyWay for Oysters Milkafeller while making the restaurant rounds through town. It wasn't the first time in its seven years that The MilkyWay garnered major foodie attention. In fact, it's fair to say that the Mariciches are among the best reasons Boise gets any foodie play at all on a national level.
Boise, I hope this is a lesson learned. You want to eat at Bonefish Grill, fly to Florida or one of the other 30 states it's in. You want to eat at The MilkyWay, you'll just have to hope Milky and Andrea have it in them to redefine our city's culinary scene yet again sometime in the future.
This Week's Wine and Dine
If you have plenty of money to blow on a night of food and wine, you can catch the tail end of Boise Art Museum's annual Beaux Arts Wine Festival. It's year 21 for the fundraiser, which has some of Boise's best chefs and local wineries raising money for BAM's exhibits and educational programs. Berryhill and Co. hosts Wednesday night's vintner dinner, and Thursday night, the festivities move over to Chandler's Steakhouse. Friday night is the wine tasting and silent auction at the Boise Centre on the Grove, featuring 250 wineries, and Saturday is the big to-do at The Arid Club. Reservations and tickets are required for all events.
April 23 to April 26. Dinners are $125 per person, wine tasting tickets are $50. For more information, call BAM at 208-345-8330, or visit idahotickets.com.
Something a little less pretentious more your style? Check out the fundraiser dinner at College of Idaho on Thursday. Senior students Jacob Fulcher and Samantha Fundingsland will feed the crowd a spaghetti dinner to raise money for their upcoming trip to Malawi, where they will work with local doctors to combat malaria.
Thursday, April 24, 6 p.m., $10 adults/$5 students, College of Idaho. For information, call 208-459-5811.