In the food business, restaurant owners come in two varieties: real restaurateurs and those who "play" restaurant. Even culinary plebeians can spot the difference between the two. Restaurateurs run a tight ship. In Boise we often know real restaurateurs by the longevity of their establishments, but more correctly, they run joints in which the food is always spot on, the service intuitive and prompt, and the digs appropriately created. Of the sort who play restaurant, some are quite good at it. They may exist for years on a slipshod operation, but more often than not, they are functional rather than exceptional places to find a meal.
The Office, an adult-only bar and grill on the Bench, is an eatery in the hands of an owner who's firmly entrenched in the latter set; and if a recent visit is any indication, even "functional" is a bit of a stretch.
The initial feel of the interior may be off-putting, but the details seem to indicate a step in the right direction. A carpeted interior, bright walls, dark exposed beams on a low-sloping ceiling, bare tables and ashtrays everywhere create an awkward "bar-only" scene. However, the sign outside, the creative menu presentation and the few decorations do indicate some attempt at branding. The menu is several thick sheets of paper on a clip board offering clever dishes like the "oxymoron basket" (jumbo shrimp), the "hot secretary wrap" and the "lose the suit sandwich." The decor—phones and fax machines nailed to the wall and a large shelf above the bar with a desk, computer and copy machine—is in keeping with the theme.
Unfortunately that's where all attempts end.
A wander around the several sprawling rooms of The Office reveals a front of the house in shambles, which is a likely indicator of the state of the back of the house as well. The only part of the place that seems to be a well-oiled machine is the bar, where most customers gather at high-topped tables and where, on a recent week-night visit, the service was outstanding. The failings of the kitchen, however, echo the scene in a back room in which a pool table is surrounded by junk.
After ordering several items that were either permanently or temporarily 86'ed—a list that included pig wings, all steaks, Jell-O shots and the entirety of the dessert menu—the food that did come out of the kitchen made a very definitive statement: The Office is a bar that happens to serve food, not a restaurant that also offers booze.
None of the food was remarkable. Pepper clips ($6), which were sliced and fried jalapenos, had lost their zing to the freezer. Wings ($7) were standard skin-on, fried and slathered in Frank's. The Boss' Black and Bleu Burger ($9), which stood in for the unavailable New York State of Mind steak sandwich, was a hot, saucy mess and just fine as burgers go. With the burger, at least, the kitchen did earn props for hot fries and a side of Idaho's state condiment, fry sauce.
When it came to other condiments, however, The Office completely struck out. Rather than fork out the extra $6 a gallon bleu cheese dressing costs the restaurant to stock, the kitchen has opted to add bleu cheese crumbles to ranch dressing, a poor decision.
Lesson one, readers: When a restaurant has done away with its kitchen's expensive ingredients (like steaks and bleu cheese dressing), you'll likely want to sit back and enjoy a beverage but seek sustenance elsewhere.
Lesson two: When a woman walks through the dining area eating a wrap with her bare hands sans plate while she's on the move and talking, it's time to ask for the check.
Third and final lesson: Not every "bar and grill" can be considered a restaurant. Some are just playing.
—Rachael Daigle doesn't enjoy playing make-believe.