Perhaps you hadn’t heard, but there’s something special going in Boise. The city has underwent a culinary renaissance in recent years, and today if you visit downtown Boise (pronounced boy-see NOT boy-zee), prepare to be shocked. I was: this city now has a foodie scene to rival many other larger cities. From drinks to dessert, the city has it covered. So here’s my recommendations for the best restaurants in Boise, Idaho. Or, at least, it’s a good starting point.
Best ‘Ethnic’ Cuisine in Boise: Basque
I do truly hate the word “ethnic” because it doesn’t really explain what you’re trying to say very well. In this case, what I mean to say is the most ultra delicious scrumptious yummy food that isn’t from Boise but is done very very well here. There are actually a lot of Basque restaurants in Boise, Idaho – and a lot of Basque people. It’s kind of a strange thing, but I guess the Basque migrated to wherever looked good, and there’s nothing wrong with Boise.
The Basque district is only one street long, so it’s easy to find everything. As you know, I’ve been to the Basque Country (click the link for my trip report), so I am happy to say the food is very good and true to the region. The Basque Market is a good place to start where you can sample some snacks and ask the staff to learn more about the region – and then there’s more food in every direction.
Best Wine Tasting in Boise: Snake River
While Idaho didn’t make our list of the most beautiful vineyards, the state is making a name for itself in terms of quality wines. Snake River Valley is where it’s all happening, a drive out to countryside, where there are now 44 vineyards and 22 wineries. You don’t have to leave town though to try the wines – Snake River Winery has opened up a tasting room where you can sample a free flight! We had 5 tastings on our visit – the Zweigelt was my personal favourite, but be sure to try everything, and while you’re there ask for a bit of an overview of Idaho wine history, it’s fascinating!
Best Breakfast in
Boise America?: Goldy’s
You don’t have to take my word for it – Goldy’s has been named one of the best breakfasts in the United States – so you can imagine it’s good. They’ll have your normal array of brekkie choices – meat, potatoes, bread and pastries, but their make-your-own breakfast combos are unbeatable value. It is a tiny place, and expect a wait, though I’m told you can have them call your mobile phone when your table is ready.
Best Food and Brew, Best for Local/Sustainability: Bittercreek Ale House & Red Feather Lounge
These two sister establishments are perhaps the greenest and most local-friendly restaurants in all of Idaho – they’re so green they have a wormery downstairs to compost, and they recycle everything, even refurbishing old wine bottles into glasses! Red Feather Lounge is more of a posh cocktail lounge with a stunning wine selection and a sleek, comfortable interior. Nextdoor, Bittercreek Ale House shines for the friendly good service, a killer beer menu, and our starter of sweet potato black bean quesadillas that left us talking them up the whole trip. You can’t go wrong with either of these venues, so reward their green-ness with your patronage, please.
Best Restaurant in Boise with its Own Distillery: Bardenay
I went to Bardenay not once, but twice – it was that good! Just kidding, actually – once was to eat, and once was to get a closer look at their distillery, which is the oldest in Boise. (The big still is newer, but the overall operation and the small still behind the big one are the old part.) Bardenay has a huge bar menu with lots of local choices, and because of their own still, they have the cheapest cocktails in Boise (and the most tasty, of course). Their menu has some creative options, such as a sweet potato chimichanga that was to die for. Add the casual atmosphere and friendly service, and you had me at hello.
Best “Fine Dining” Experience in Boise: Berryhill
Berryhill, if located in someplace like New York, would be classed as “fine dining.” But here in Boise, it’s definitely “amazing value fine dining experience without the stuffiness.” Tasty lemonade, house wines, fresh entrees, and killer desserts – translation: everything on the menu is good. There are also cooking classes (on the day we went, there was an romance class – “for adults only” – huzzah!), live music at night, and a fantastic ambiance that wouldn’t be out of place in rural France.
Best No Thrills Pizza Join in Boise: The Front Door
Sometimes, you want a fancy meal. And sometimes you just want something plain and simple. The Front Door is a small eatery that serves up plain and simple in delicious portions. A great wine and beer list, smart appetizers, and some fantastic pizza, I’m struggling to see what’s missing here. They also had some pretty tempting looking salads and desserts. Might be a great place to get in and out quickly if you’ve got some cranky children who need fed.
Best Cup of Caffeinated Goodness in Boise: Bowl of Soul at Java
Downtown Boise has plenty of caffeine to choose from – and thankfully, not all of it is those terrible chain shops. But what do you get when you put espresso, chocolate and Mexican spices, and whipped cream all in one cup? A Bowl of Soul. Get it – enjoy it – we’ll be here waiting when you get back.
Best Old Fashioned Treat in Boise: The Idaho Spud
We’ve talked before about candy around the world, but somehow this Boise classic didn’t make the list. And while many of my traveling companions had heard of the candy bar Idaho Spud, I hadn’t. It’s made by the charming folks at the Idaho Candy Company found in the same little warehouse downtown they’ve been in since 1901. You can sample each of their candies before deciding what you want to buy, so try a few things. The bars make for great souvenirs for friends back home too.
Best Dessert in Boise: The Ice Cream Potato
I’m feeling the need to update our list of the world’s best desserts (the number one most popular article on STE), because THIS, ladies and gentleman, is an eight world wonder. Ice cream shaped and frozen to the exactly right temperature, coated in cinnamon and cocoa, and topped with whipped cream. I have never in my life been so amused and at the same time satisfied with a dessert. You can get the ice cream baked potato at the Westside Drive-in. Please go – I’d go back to Boise just for another.
Other Noteworthy Mentions
Above is a picture of Spud Buddy, a new pal that joined me for my Boise adventure. He was kind of a quiet guy – though he got really excited when we did a tour of the distillery at Bardenay (see above) and he found out that they don’t use potatoes to make vodka there. (Whew). Spud is a native, so naturally he had some suggestions for other restaurants in Boise Idaho that you might want to check out while you’re in town:
- Cottonwood Grille: Tasty food and a great cozy atmosphere.
- Chandlers Steakhouse: As a potato I might be biased, but why not have some yummy yummy steak instead?
- Mai Thai: Thai-licious, thai-rrific, or choose your own terrible play on words. Good food.
- Moon’s Kitchen: Not always open for dinner, so check ahead for times, but best milkshakes in Boise (and Idaho, perhaps).
Have you been to Boise? What are your favourite restaurants in Boise, Idaho?
Photos by author except Goldy’s (dkjd), Red Feather Lounge/Bittercreek Ale house/Berryhill (venue photos),
Editor’s Note: While this trip wasn’t sponsored, some of the snacks and recommendations were from our friends at the Idaho Department of Commerce we met while at a conference. Thanks for the hospitality!