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Best Boise Nightlife

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Many of the best Boise nightlife spots, including our favorite Boise bars, do double duty as restaurants. You’ll stop in looking for a pint of a small-batch regional brew and end up enjoying it with a burger made of locally grown lamb. Downtown, there are plenty of non-descript, cheap bars popular with college kids, but there are also gastro-pubs you’ll enjoy at any age (above 21, that is). Hyde Park and the Eighth Street Marketplace are the zones of sporty, beautiful people sipping beers or Snake River AVA wines and talking about how the trails are riding or the skiing is up at Bogus Basin. In Hyde Park, a sleeping baby in an Orbit Baby stroller is often the accessory of choice, even though it's an area with the best Boise nightlife.

Neurolux

Neighborhood: Downtown

The stiffest drinks in town, an eight-hour long happy hour (noon until 8PM), an eclectic jukebox, an overly-friendly staff, just the right amount of light—enough to recognize people and shapes, not enough to see how filthy the floor really is—and a red pool table make Neurolux one of the best Boise clubs. What more could you want? And you can smoke inside (which can be good or bad depending on your point of view). Weekends usually mean live music. Locals complain about the cover charges for these shows—usually between $3 and $10—but anyone visiting from a city on the coast will laugh, especially once they realize the music is actually pretty good, even if they’ve never heard of the band (Frontier Ruckus, Lord of the Falconry, Jucifer). Bands you will have heard of play here too: Cracker, Josh Ritter.

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The Front Door

Neighborhood: Downtown

For years, many Boise residents have walked or pedaled past The Front Door, which shares a nondescript entrance with two other bar/restaurants, without even knowing it’s there. Their loss. Yes, the wine list is less than impressive, but this is still one of the best Boise bars that goes for, and knows, its beer. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, and the taps are always changing. The place needs three chalkboards just to keep track of its bottled beers (Stone Arrogant Bastard, Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, PranQster, among others). Coming and going from the bar and open kitchen, bartenders proudly wear shirts that say, “Domestic Free since ’06.” This doesn’t mean The Front Door doesn’t serve American-brewed beers, but that it doesn’t serve microbrews. Want some Coors? Don’t come here. Whatever beer you order, know that it will arrive at the appropriate temperature and in the appropriate glass. Knowing there’s no finer food to accompany beer than pizza, The Front Door’s pies are among the best in town. Our favorite? The Bootlegger, topped with barbecue sauce, house marinated roasted chicken breast, red onions, jalapeño, mozzarella and grana padano. There are few better ways to spend an evening than sidled up to one of The Front Door’s heavy wood tables with the rest of the city’s beer and pizza connoisseurs. Perhaps because of the quality of the beers here, it tends to attract those above college-age. The Front Door’s cozy brick walls are particularly inviting once the weather cools down. It’s like being inside a giant, warm hug.

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The Egyptian Theatre

Neighborhood: Downtown

Almost as interesting as the movie premieres and concerts it hosts (all three Bourne movies had their premieres here), Boise’s Egyptian Theatre is the last of the city’s single-screen theaters and one of only a handful of Egyptian-style theaters built across the country in the 1920s still standing. Boise’s Egyptian was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The discovery of the tomb of King Tut in November 1922 triggered the Egyptian revival trend, and it’s estimated that up to 100 faux-Egyptian theaters sprang up across the country. This one waned in its Egyptian-ness over the years, but a 1999 remodel brought it back as close to its original state as possible, replacing its gilt, carved Pharaohs and sphinxes, gilt, columns, gilt. Whether it’s a rock concert, an indie movie, the premier of a Warren Miller ski movie or the Idaho Opera that’s going on here when you’re in town, get tickets to the Egyptian Theater, it's definitely one of the best Boise nightlife scenes. You want to experience the inside of this building.

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Bittercreek Alehouse

Neighborhood: Downtown

If The Front Door is the neighborhood bar, Bittercreek Alehouse is The Place to be Seen and one of the best Boise nightlife spots. The only thing that outnumbers the 39 taps flowing with microbrews from Idaho, Washington, California and Oregon are the pretty people.  Pretty, relaxed people. During Bittercreek’s Low-Power Happy Hour (weekdays 4-6PM), you’re more likely to see bike shoes than suits, both on the packed outdoor patio and in the cavernous, wide-open interior, where a bar takes up most of one wall. Adjacent to Red Feather, owned by the same person and run under the same “keep it local” philosophy, the food here—turkey and rhubarb chutney and corned beef Reuben sandwiches, a nice selection of burgers and salads and some entrees that are also on the Red Feather—is nearly as pretty as the patrons.

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Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery

Neighborhood: Downtown

Bardenay has nothing to do with anything Basque, but nobody seems to mind that it has made itself right at home on the Basque Block. Nor does it have to do with anything nautical, despite the fact that “bardenay” is a term used by sailors for "cocktail.”  Bardenay was the first combination restaurant and distillery in the country. If you’ve got restaurants that brew their own beer, why not one that distills its own vodka, rum and gin? Oddly, given Idaho’s reputation for fine potatoes and grain, Bardenay’s spirits are all distilled from Hawaiian brown sugar cane. Very few gins and vodkas are made from sugar; this wasn’t done without serious thought, though. All the spirits are made right here. Have you ever smelled fermenting potatoes? “Yuck” doesn’t begin to describe it. The food here is beyond bar food—the rum pepper steak is out of this world. Like most bars in Boise, the crowd here is mixed. You’ll have a few drunken college kids looking to branch out from beer, young professionals looking for potential dates, and cocktail connoisseurs appreciating the time and effort the distillers here have so obviously put into their spirits for them to enjoy at one of the best Boise bars.

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