Not only the largest city in Idaho but also its cultural capital, Boise has a diverse culinary scene that combines the best of Northwestern tradition with innovative approaches to cooking. Here are the best restaurants.
Image courtesy The Dish
The Dish is a downtown eatery featuring innovative American cuisine inspired by global flavours. With a warm neighbourhood feel, this restaurant serves lunch and dinner during the week plus a Saturday dinner in a comfortable environment. Creating a unique menu with ingredients found locally, diners can take delight in notable choices, such as grilled salmon with a red curry-coconut sauce served with jasmine rice, soy roasted peanuts, and cucumber salad and the quinoa burger topped with lemon-tarragon yogurt, sprouts, tomatoes, and cucumber on a focaccia bun. Many luscious desserts are also featured, including Nutella panna cotta — a must-try for anyone who loves this tasty spread.
Established in 2007 by award-winning restaurateur Rex Chandler, Chandlers is an award-winning upscale dining establishment located in downtown Boise’s Hotel 43. Specialising in fine seafood, which is flown in from Hawaii and Alaska, plus prime steaks, the menu also features fresh ingredients procured from local sources. Guests can savour a host of exquisite fare created by Executive Chef Luis Flores, including steamed mussels in a white wine, green curry, and ginger sauce; the French classic seafood stew, bouillabaisse; and the juicy Kobe rib eye. With impeccable service, an extensive award-winning wine list with over 650 choices, all complemented by nightly jazz music, dining at Chandlers is a culinary experience not to be missed.
BBQ4LIFE came into existence when brother-and-sister duo Brad and Sheila Taylor came together and combined their passions for BBQ and vegan cuisine. Opened in 2012, BBQ4LIFE is an eclectic joint where meat lovers can order delicious homemade cuisine, such as the Big Foot sandwich, which is pulled pork, mac’n’cheese, and BBQ sauce on thick Hawaiian bread, and succulent baby back ribs. Highlights from the vegan menu, which are prepared by a vegan cook, include the vegaloaf — tempeh, chocolate raspberry sauce, vegan potato salad grilled on Hawaiian bread — plus a host of side dishes.
Located in the heart of downtown, Alavita serves Italian cuisine for lunch during the weekdays plus dinner Monday through Saturday in a lively and welcoming environment featuring an open kitchen. Specialising in fresh pasta made daily, this eatery uses the best locally and regionally sourced ingredients available. Discerning diners can feast upon delectable meals, such as squid ink linguini with a variety of seafood and green olives in a spicy arrabiatta sauce; porcini tagliatelle with local mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, chives, and parmesan; and broiled halibut topped with gremolata accompanied by asparagus and orzo. Offering vegetarian as well as gluten-free options and a variety of wines plus handcrafted cocktails, Alavita ensures that a wide range of tastes will be satisfied.
Restaurant, South American, Spanish, Steakhouse, $$$
Courtesy of Bardenay
A haven for meat lovers, Barbacoa is a stylish restaurant featuring succulent steaks from local sources and flavourful Latin American fare created by Mexico-born chef Enrique Martinez. Diners can begin their meal with guacamole made tableside served with plantain chips followed by the cowboy rib eye — 24 oz. bone-in rib eye chop served with chipotle onion rings and borracho beans — or paella with braised seafood, chicken, chorizo, tomatoes, and saffron rice. A visually stimulating environment, this establishment also features the vibrant artworks by local artists, including restaurant co-owner Martine Castoro who is a painter plus Delia, an artist who works in enamels.
Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery - Boise, West Grove Street | Courtesy of Bardenay
Located on Boise’s historic Basque Block in a former warehouse complete with exposed brick walls and wooden rafters, Bardenay is the USA’s first restaurant distillery and specialises in the flavours of the Northwest and handcrafted libations. Featuring a large menu, diners can savour tasty highlights, such as the charbroiled salmon fillet served with sun-dried tomato butter and Caesar salad and the New York steak with blue cheese butter, veal demi-glace, garlic mashed potatoes, and fresh vegetables. A meal would not be complete without one of Bardenay’s signature cocktails like the cantaloupe cooler made with Bardenay vodka, watermelon liqueur, peach, lime, and orange juices — a truly refreshing option.
Guests in Boise interested in sampling comforting Basque cuisine can visit the Basque Block staple Bar Gernika Basque Pub and Eatery. On the Boise culinary scene for almost 20 years, this friendly dining establishment features authentic Basque fare plus some American stand-bys, tempting desserts, and a variety of beverages, including Basque wine. Notable choices include the chorizo sandwich — Basque pork sausage on a freshly baked roll — and the lamb stew with potatoes, carrots, and green peppers, plus they feature beef tongue on Saturdays only, which is a classic regional dish in a tomato, pepper, onion, and garlic sauce. For dessert, be sure to leave room for some sweet rice pudding Basque-style.
Open Monday through Friday only, Bleubird is an eatery specialising in mouth-watering house-made sandwiches, sodas — try the innovative pomegranate sage — and sweet treats, including cookies and brownies. Wanting to offer a variety of edibles made with the freshest locally sourced ingredients available, husband-and-wife team Dave Kelly and Sarah Kornfield opened this downtown sandwich shop in 2012. The seasonal menu includes tasty options, such as the grilled cheese with gruyere, brie, cheddar, caramelised onions, fig preserves, and Dijon aioli and the pastrami Reuben with gruyere, purple cabbage slaw, and Russian relish. Satisfying many palates, the menu also features vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Established in 2011 by the husband-and-wife duo Cameron and Amanda Lumsden, Fork is a warm and inviting restaurant serving contemporary Northwest-inspired cuisine. Located in a 1891 historic landmark that once housed the Boise City National Bank, Fork dedicates itself to the sustainable movement by featuring reclaimed materials in their décor, procuring locally sourced ingredients for their dishes, plus featuring a wine list, which includes many regionally sourced options. Delectable highlights include griddled mac’n’cheese made with pasta from Alavita, house maple-spiced bacon, pepper cheddar, and roasted poblano chilli; cast-iron buttermilk-fried chicken and cheddar waffle served with balsamic-infused maple syrup and orange-honey butter; and local bread pudding with chocolate and bourbon-infused caramel-cream sauce.
Established in October 2013 by Jay Henry and Remi McManus, State & Lemp is a newer addition to Boise’s culinary scene that specialises in contemporary American cuisine. The team builds relationships with local and regional purveyors ensuring that only the highest quality ingredients go into the dishes featured on the seasonal prix fixe menu, which have included tempting options, such as black cod with tomatillo, ground cherry, corn, navy bean, and chanterelle and crepes with coconut cardamom pastry cream, honeydew melon, and granola. Serving dinner Wednesday through Sunday in a modern and intimate atmosphere, guests can also pair their meals with wines chosen specifically to complement each dish.