Last year, Vogue reported that Boise was on the brink of a culinary revolution. Primed to be the next Seattle or Portland, Idaho’s capital is the more neighborhoody, small-town version of your favorite trendy western destinations. Often referred to as Denver 10-years ago or Oregon before the hipster revolution, while they are notable comparisons and some similarities, Boise is ready to stand into the spotlight all on its own with a culinary scene to match. Boise food is fresh, tasty, and innovative and hungry young chefs are primed to take their homegrown farm-to-table cuisine to the next level.
It’s time to show that the state’s depth and creativity that extends far beyond the state’s beloved potato. And just to prove it, I ate at almost every restaurant in Boise. Here’s everywhere to savor in edible Idaho for every type of palate pleaser. And yes, you can have fries with that.
For the Signature Dish – Boise Fry Co.
A fry bar with a sassy tagline of “burger on the side” there are seven different types of potatoes in five different cuts to choose from at Boise Fry Co. (the purple and the Laura are personal favorites). If that doesn’t overwhelm you, the sauce and seasoning bar surely will. There’s everything from traditional fry sauce to vanilla powder and blueberry ketchup to mix and match to your heart’s content.
For a Splurge Meal – State & Lemp
A pre-fixe meal with pairing options, three-time James Beard nominee Kris Komori heads up State & Lemp. One of the most coveted bites at Treefort, the cuisine is clean, fresh, and well edited– if you can get a reservation.
For Those Who Don’t Take Potatoes Seriously – Westside Drive-in
I’d heard rumors of an ice cream potato long before I ever set foot in Idaho so I made it my mission to seek out this strange creation. Set in a nostalgic 50’s pink drive-in, the ice cream potato is more ice cream and less potato, though it is shaped to look like the state’s signature dish — vanilla ice cream coated in cocoa powder. While potatoes are a mainstay of Idaho agriculture, I can appreciate anywhere that knows how to poke fun at themselves.
To Get in On the Donut Trend – Guru
Modeled after VooDoo Doughnut in Portland, Guru is known for their signature pinkish purple hipsterberry donut, flavored with blueberry, blackberry, and lavender. They are constantly creating new concoctions like the Afterparty for Treefort. Made with Woodland Empires’ So Juicy IPA and topped with salty and sweet candy, it woefully became the festival’s hangover donut. Pro Tip: Come at happy hour when it’s buy one get one free.
For the Most Innovative Pairing – the STIL
Why more people haven’t thought to pair ice cream with alcohol is beyond me, especially when boozy ice cream has long been a hit. Needless to say, the STIL (which stands for the “sweetest things in life”) has a sweet thing going. The make your own trays include four mix and match pairings of crazy ice cream flavors (seriously, ask them how they came up with some of the names), beer, wine, and bubbles.
For a Taste of Spain – The Basque Market
Boise has the second largest Basque population in the United States, which means tapas for days. The Basque Market is a hidden gem and specialty grocer, which sells pintxos by the toothpick for an epic afternoon snack. What they’re really known for though is their paella feasts in the street. Prepared in a massive drum, the meal is a true town to do.
For the Brew hounds – Bittercreek Alehouse
Boasting a beer-forward menu, Bittercreek Alehouse is a great place to sample a number of pints from Boise’s burgeoning craft beer scene. But if the food and beverages aren’t enough of a draw, the restaurant is also a leader in Idaho’s sustainability movement, employing a herd of 150,000 worms in their basement to help with their composting (ask for a tour, it’s fascinating).
For the Best Lunch in Town – Fork
If you’re wondering what the most Googled restaurant in Boise is, without a doubt its Fork. Committed to serving local cuisine, the menu showcases Idaho farmers, ranchers, bakers, and producers in all their glory.
For the Best Fast-Casual Dining – Meraki Greek Street Food
Make your own Greek bowls and gyros; Meraki has spit-fired down to an art. The perfect healthy-ish grab and go option for Boise Staters, this fast-casual spot downtown puts a modern twist on traditional Greek street food, while still catering to the college crowd with Greek nachos, loaded fries, and even Greek cheese sticks.
For the Freshest Fish – Paddles Up Poke
As someone who’s very skeptical of the seafood options in landlocked states, I can attest to how tasty Paddles Up is. With fish that’s flown in daily, their sushi burritos and DIY poke bowls are filling and tasty. The secret is the Piranha sauce, which seeps all the way to the bottom of the bowl so everything is flavored throughout.
For Fancy Pastries – Janjou Patisserie
Completely unassuming, Janjou is a strip mall gem owned and operated by a James Beard nominated baker. Hailing from Israel, Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas’ creations display an obsessive level of detail and precision. Croissants are her favorite thing to make because they’re so simple, yet it’s the quiche that’ll have me returning time and time again.
For All-Day Brunch – BACON
Vegetarians may want to skip this one as pig is definitely the menu highlight. Boasting bacon sampler shots, bacon bloodies, and bacon-tinis, they do have real food like breakfast sammies to pair with the pork, but make no mistake, bacon is definitely the star of the show.
For the Best Food Truck – Kanak Attack Katering
Kanak Attack has garnered quite the following in Boise with people happily lining up for their salty, sweet Hawaiian fare. Offering a variety of rice bowls, tacos, and other items, the fan favorite by far is the Kahlua Pork fries, essentially Idaho’s take on poutine.
For The Best Comeback Story – The Modern
Once a seedy motel, the Modern got a minimalist, hipster makeover and is now the cool place to chill with a classic cocktail over the fire. They’re the place to be during Treefort where their campfire vibes, live music, and spitfire roasted lamb is the talk of the town.
For the Best Asian Fusion – Mai Thai
Billed as “modern Asian cuisine,” Mai Thai has a massive menu that offers a fresh take on popular Chinese, Thai, and Japanese dishes. If you want to try a bite of everything, their lunch buffet is an absolute steal. And yes, it’s totally acceptable to pair sushi with tiki cocktails.
For the Best Farmer’s Market Find – Stuffed Beignets from Two Trees
New Orleans style beignets with a twist – these sweet breakfast sandwiches are fried right before your eyes under the hot summer sun and stuffed with goodies like eggs and bacon or banh mi style.
For the Best Breakfast – Goldy’s
Yes, Boise has jumped on the brunch bandwagon and tiny hotspot Goldy’s often haves waits upwards of an hour. Known for their benedicts and “create your own combo” platters, choose your egg style, potatoes, bread, and meat for an upscale version of the All-American breakfast. I dare you to try to leave without ordering a giant cinnamon roll.
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