Wine bars are sultry beasts. Sparkling candles, gleaming goblets, elegant small plates and the low chatter of wine-lipped couples. But if you're hungry for more than atmosphere, they often fall short.
Twig's Cellar, a semi-hidden basement wine cave in the middle of downtown Boise, offers more sustenance than your run-of-the-mill wine bar. Located in the ex-Milky Way and Andre's space between Eighth and Ninth on Bannock, the small restaurant's menu wanders from Italian--bruschetta, caprese salad, margherita pizza, tiramisu--to new American classics like hummus, barbecue chicken pizza and cheesecake. It's the kind of comfortable fare you'd imagine first-time restaurant proprietress Twig Munro whipping up for her pals in her home kitchen.
In fact, Twig's has a definite "girl's night" vibe with a warm red palette, a handful of high-top wooden tables and booths, and enough chattering middle-aged women to make a book club.
With this in mind, I grabbed a couple of lady pals for a spelunking expedition to Twig's on a Wednesday evening, the only night of the week, our server soon informed us, that the cellar doesn't have live music. We settled into comfy armchairs around a chess table in a special private dining area that felt part cigar room and part funeral parlor. The awkwardness of the space eased in direct proportion to the fullness of our bottle of Spice Route sauvignon blanc ($18 bottle). The light, grapefruit-y crispness of the wine cut through the greasy heft of a plate of potato twigs ($7), which came with a side of sweet, blueberry ketchup--the best I've had in Boise, where blueberry ketchup has inexplicably dripped onto a number of local menus. Augmenting the evening's rich theme was the Weiss pizza ($9), a decadent mess of sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted garlic and truffle oil. While the dough had a pleasant snap, the pizza had an overall je ne sais quois shruggability.
This sentiment was confirmed on a subsequent visit when I bit into the veggie pizza ($9), with artichokes, peppers, onions, spinach, diced tomatoes, squash, mushrooms and goat cheese. Though the mostly goat-cheeseless pizza went nicely with a heavy-handed pour of Tilia malbec ($16 bottle), it wouldn't have stood solidly on its own. Two menu items, though, did set Twig's apart from its fruit-and-cheese wine bar brethren as a bona fide restaurant. The garlic shrimp skewers ($12) were a delightful foray into subtlety. Large black tiger shrimp were sauteed in butter and lemon and topped off with little wisps of rosemary. They were juicy and perfectly bouncy--a lovely summer snack. Sealing the deal was the tiramisu ($6), a bed of not-too-boozy ladyfingers wiggling under a down comforter of airy, cheesecake-ish creamy topping. Heavenly.
Twig's Cellar is a pleasant place to duck out of the downtown chaos and kick-start or wind down your evening. But if you've got a hankering for pizza, you'd be better off snagging a slice somewhere in between.
--Tara Morgan has grape expectations when a new wine bar opens.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Twig's Cellar.