Boise, the state capital of Idaho, has a vibrant and varied restaurant community typified by relaxed dining, locally sourced produce and classical Northwestern cuisine. Whether a locally reared steak, Idahoan trout or redefined Italian fare takes your fancy, Boise has a restaurant to suit your taste.
Restaurant, Steakhouse, $$$
Barbacoa is a truly delightful and unique dining experience – a lakeside restaurant offering steaks and authentic Latin American fare made on an open-fire grill, recreating the atmosphere and taste of a campfire barbecue but in the opulent and theatrical setting of a cosmopolitan restaurant. Mexico-born chef Enrique Martinez cooks up a host of hearty and tempting dishes like the crab mojito starter, coco rum suffused crab with sugar cane and mint, and the ‘Latin steak’ – flat iron steak with an avocado salsa, tortillas, barracho beans and jalapeno rice – which have helped Barbacoa win the Best Fine Dining title in the Idaho Statesman’s Best of the Treasure Valley awards. Works of art by local artists adorn the walls including pieces by Martine Castoro, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband Robert, and Czech-born Filip Vogelphol, whose dramatic Iced Antlers chandelier is Barbacoa’s centerpiece.
Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery - Boise, West Grove Street | Courtesy of Bardenay
A trip to Boise wouldn’t be complete without visiting Bardenay – a stylish and modern downtown restaurant that in 2000 became the USA’s first restaurant-distillery with the means of blending onsite handcrafted spirits. Located on Boise’s historic Basque Block, home to many cultural events and restaurants, Bardenay resides in a former warehouse and retains original features like exposed brick walls and wooden rafters, updated with contemporary artworks and subdued lighting. The Northwestern menu offers guests a taste of Idaho with dishes like the fresh Hagerman trout fillet, reared in the neighboring city of Twin Falls, grilled in a caper and balsamic reduction and served with garlic mash and vegetables. Don’t leave without trying one of Bardenay’s signature cocktails like the Huckleberry Lemon Drop – Bardenay’s own lemon vodka, triple sec and huckleberry puree.
For an upscale yet casual dining experience, look no further than Berryhill & Co – local chef and restaurateur John Berryhill’s flagship restaurant. John, who also owns the Boise based restaurants Bacon and Plan B Lounge, is an accomplished chef who has been featured in publications including the Wall Street Journal and Northwest Palate magazine and bases Berryhill & Co’s unique, urban menu on Northwestern cuisine with distinctly global flavors. Try the ginger Kobe gyoza starter, made with local Snake River Farms Kobe beef and served with fresh ginger wantons and a chilli-maple soy sauce, followed by Berryhill & Co’s take on the classic macaroni and cheese. Made with penne, four cheeses, wild mushrooms and tomatoes, the dish was named one of the best mac and cheese recipes in the US by Food & Wine magazine.
Chandlers Steakhouse-Boise, West Grove Street | Image courtesy of Chandlers
Chandlers is a sophisticated restaurant located in downtown Boise’s boutique Hotel 43 that was established in 2007 by award-winning restaurateur Rex Chandler. Specializing in fine seafood sourced from across the globe and prime, corn-fed steaks that helped earn the restaurant the title of Best Steakhouse in the Idaho Statesman’s 2013 Best of the Treasure Valley awards, the menu is complemented by a selection of over 650 wines. Mexico-born chef Luis Flores brings 30 years’ experience to Chandlers menu which includes items such as Maryland blue lump crab cake and the 14 ounce rib eye steak served with mashed potatoes, broiled tomato and a choice of three house-made sauces.
State & Lemp is one of the newest additions to Boise’s dining scene. Opening in October 2013 to rave reviews from the local press and food bloggers, the restaurant is owned by Jay Henry and Remi McManus, who are also State & Lemp’s chef and sommelier, and offers guests a five course prixe fixe menu, with an additional paired wine menu also available. Located in a distinctive triangular building, the intimate 22 seat restaurant features stylish, understated grey walls complemented by beautiful blond wood tables and chairs, and artworks by local artists including Boise painter Noble Hardesty. The cuisine is based around the best organic, artisan produce that Idaho and the Pacific Northwest has to offer, and while the menu changes every two weeks, past highlights have included dishes like lamb served with oats, seaweed butter, fiddleheads, black sesame and umeboshi plums.
Café Vicino is an intimate Italian bistro-style restaurant that serves innovative and flavorsome dishes inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean. While the cuisine is European, the ingredients are distinctly local with chef Richard Langston selecting the best produce from local suppliers. These include goods from urban Boise farm Peaceful Belly and Idahoan wines like the Split Rail Winery’s Mouvedre. Chef Langston’s menu brings together the classic dishes of Italy, Spain and France with the best local flavors. Highlights include the gorgonzola stuffed figs with basil, prosciutto and local honey and the locally reared chicken breast, wrapped in prosciutto and served with crispy polenta in a golden raisin and Grappa sauce.
Established in 2011, Fork is an upmarket restaurant specializing in local and seasonal cuisine and located in one of Boise’s most historic landmarks – the former Boise City National Bank which was built in 1891 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Husband and wife Cameron and Amanda Lumsden, who have over 15 years’ experience in the restaurant industry, are the team behind Fork and their dedication to sustainable, local food is evident in their dishes. The majority of the restaurant’s key ingredients are sourced from around Boise – an ethos that extends to Fork’s beverages with 75% of wines, beers and spirits produced in the Northwest region. The menu features contemporary and creative American cuisine with local flavors like the mushroom ragout panfry, made with Sweet Valley Organics mushrooms and served over a grilled polenta cake.
The Cottonwood Grille offers guests innovative and contemporary Northwestern cuisine in elegant yet unpretentious surroundings that maintain a warm, relaxed ambiance. Established in 1999 by the Boise-based Hormachea family, Cottonwood Grille attracts a loyal and local crowd and resides in a beautiful location on the banks of the scenic Boise River. Patio seating allows guests to take in the gorgeous views, while inside, the stylish dining room is dominated by high windows and a dramatic stone fireplace. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, guests can choose from fare like aged sirloin steak, grilled and served with peppercorn sauce or, for something slightly different, grilled pheasant with a creamy wild mushroom sauce. Dishes are complemented by a wine list of over 180 varieties with a special focus on Northwest and California vintages.
Asiago’s is a chic and cozy Italian restaurant situated in downtown Boise in the recently renovated Gem-Noble Building – a beautiful structure originally built in 1902 in the Roman style. Inside Asiago’s original features such as turn of the century brickwork are retained and complemented by Italian-style tile flooring and original commissioned artworks inspired by the art movements of early 20th century Europe. Asiago’s, which was voted as having the Best Local Italian Food in the Boise Weekly’s 2012 Best of Boise awards, seeks to redefine Italian cuisine. Its menu features familiar Italian classics updated with bold, modern flavors. For example, the classic calamari is served with a citrus-ginger marinade and spicy polenta breading, while house-made fettuccine with shrimp is given a distinctly Eastern twist with a Thai inspired red coconut curry cream. Finish with a refreshingly modern lime mascarpone tart.
Established in 1977, Lock Stock and Barrel is one of the Treasure Valley’s oldest steakhouses and it has garnered a reputation due to its high quality meats, becoming a first-choice destination for meat lovers and being consistently voted as one of Boise’s best steakhouses. All meat is aged and carved in-house by Lock Stock and Barrel’s chefs, and the menu also features many fish, seafood and lamb options. Lovers of seafood will be spoiled for choice with starters like bacon-wrapped scallops in a brown butter and lemon sauce, and crab with artichoke dip and toasted baguette. For the main event, try the restaurant’s famous prime rib served with port au jus and creamy horseradish sauce or a specialty steak like the beef filet wrapped in bacon and topped with smoked mozzarella and a peppercorn port reduction.