In this town obsessed with patio dining, you wouldn't expect a restaurant would willingly choose a subterranean location. But for some reason, the basement in the Garro Building on Bannock in downtown Boise has hosted several eatery incarnations. First, one of Boise's premier sushi bars and then the impressive Milky Way occupied the spot. Both moved on to bigger, above-ground digs. Next came the fine dining destination Andre's. By then, a complete remodel had transformed the spot into a delightfully comforting and quiet respite from the clatter of the world above.
Andre's is also gone but the plush ambience has been retained, and if anything, improved by the latest tenant, Twig's Cellar. The cozy booths are still there, the tables are close set but don't intrude on one another, and an inviting bar has been added, behind which the owner, Twig, pours equal amounts of wine and friendly conversation. She and Tracey, who wanders the circuit of tables, are two of the main reasons this unlikely location exudes such a welcoming atmosphere. They treat you like a regular from your very first visit, and there are any number of reasons you'll want to come back.
First and foremost, this is a wine bar, and the wine by the glass list currently offered has something to please just about every taste. There are some 30 reasonably priced choices, most for under $8 a glass. These are not the usual California-based suspects. I was pleasantly surprised to find Ecker Gruner veltliner ($6), Wallace Brook pinot gris ($6.50) and Clayhouse cabernet ($8) to name a few. The bottle list is even more extensive and a better bargain with a dozen or more of the 70-plus offerings priced at $20 or less. On my first visit our table ordered a bottle of Sleight of Hand "The Magician" gewurztraminer ($25). With its floral aromas, lightly spicy fruit and pleasantly dry finish, this wine made a great match with the perfectly cooked garlic shrimp infused with rosemary ($12).
The menu at Twig's Cellar is designed to please the palate while pairing well with the wine. It's a thoughtful collection of small bites, salads, thin crust pizzas and desserts, though some are more impressive than others. I loved the baked artichoke spinach dip ($7), beautifully textured with small chunks of artichoke in a flavorful white sauce served with crisp and garlicky toasted baguette slices. The barbecue chicken pizza ($10) had a nice tang to it with its smoky red sauce, marinated chicken, pepperoncini and smoked gouda, all on a thin, whole wheat crust. I fell in love with the locally bottled Marjorie June's blueberry ketchup that accompanied the Potato Twigs ($7). The mix of sweet potato and Yukon golds could have been a little crisper, but they went beautifully with that just-sweet ketchup. I'm definitely looking forward to further exploring the menu, the wine list and checking out the live music. Here's hoping Twig's Cellar has a long and prosperous future.
--David Kirkpatrick wines when he reaches the bottom of a bottle.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Twig's Cellar.