AOL Travel
Print

Best Boise Restaurants

AOL PICK from our Editors

In 2006, this city went crazy when The Cheesecake Factory opened in Boise Towne Square. We know, this wouldn’t seem to indicate that the best Boise restaurants are all that great of a destination for foodies, but they are. Local restaurateurs were keen on buying and working with local ingredients long before eating local was a movement. Like the hotels here, the best Boise restaurants aren’t formal affairs. Several ask that you make reservations, but we’re not aware of a single one where you can’t call and get a table for that night (not counting Valentine’s Day and holiday eves). There are a handful of fine dining establishments complete with white linen tablecloths, but where Boise really excels is in the casual food arena. One of our favorite meals in town is pizza at a restaurant in a strip mall.

Berryhill & Co.

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
People love the bacon and Mr. Berryhill (and in that order) at this downtown lunch and dinner spot torn from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog. The tomato basil soup comes in third. If chef/owner John Berryhill spends any time at home, we can’t imagine when it is. The restaurant is obviously his life and he always seems to be there, greeting guests, folding napkins as diners excuse themselves to go to the restroom, and happily chatting about his suppliers and food. If you’re frightened by the formality of a dinner accompanied with live piano music, you shouldn’t be. Berryhill might serve up one of the best racks of lamb in the northern hemisphere—brushed with honey and lavender, then seared and finished in the oven with rosemary roasted potatoes and sautéed vegetables—but this is still Boise, where you can show up most anywhere in either suit and tie or jeans and flip-flops, even if it's to one of the best Boise restaurants. Or try lunch, when there’s usually no pianist on duty and, weather permitting, the prized seats are on the patio.

More Details on

Berryhill & Co. »

Le Cafe de Paris

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
What to do when your family’s restaurant tradition in the Burgundy region of France stretches back generations? Open your own place in Boise, Idaho, of course. When Mathieu Choux (pronounced “shoe”) opened Le Café de Paris in 2002, the city was Ground Zero for bad bread in the Northwest and had no French cuisine beyond French fries. Choux started baking classic French baguettes and pastries, eventually adding breakfast, lunch and dinner, while keeping the pretension and prices in check at his restaurant, often hailed as one of the best places to eat in Boise. White-linen tablecloths only come out for dinner and the amazing Confit de Canard (less than $20) is explained humbly as pan-fried duck leg.

More Details on

Le Cafe de Paris  

Red Feather Lounge

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive

Even before the Oxford English Dictionary chose “locavore” as its 2007 Word of the Year, Boise foodies flocked to this sleek, sexy space opened in 2002, where an entire page of the menu is needed to list the local purveyors used. At another restaurant, a glowing blue wine cellar and metal spiral staircase might be there to serve as a distraction from sub-par food. But at Red Feather, the design needs to be a little audacious to compete with the food. This is a restaurant where the macaroni and cheese is a blend of three local cheeses—Ballard Family Farm’s white cheddar, pepper cheddar and Danish pearl—and where a lamb burger (grass-fed and local, natch) is topped with Ballard feta, crispy onion and jalapeño. Although Red Feather is known as a top Boise restaurant for dinner, it does one of the best weekend brunches in town (8:30AM-2:30PM Saturday and Sunday).

More Details on

Red Feather Lounge »

Donnie Mac's Trailer and Park Cuisine

Neighborhood: Linen District Price: Moderate

Few places are as polarizing as Donnie Mac’s. We can’t think of any others in Boise. People either love or hate Donnie Mac’s. Or rather Love or Hate—with capital letters. Surprisingly, it’s not the kitschy trailer-park theme that turns the haters off. Even the most vitriolic reviewers on the websites don’t begrudge the entertainment value of having a rusted out, jacked-up 1941 Chevy Deluxe Sedan for a booth. And no one can find fault in a $1 cold bottle of PBR. So what’s the problem? The service here is a total crapshoot. Yes, your mac and cheese topped with a cut-up hot dog, or Ding Dong sundae, could arrive in a timely and friendly manner. Or it could come skidding across the linoleum-topped table without so much as a “sorry it took so long,” an hour after you’ve gnawed your pinky off. Maybe people wouldn’t be so divided if the service was consistently bad. After all, Ed Debevic's in Chicago has achieved fame and fortune by treating its customers badly all the time.

PizzalChik

Neighborhood: North End Price: Moderate

If there was ever a restaurant to teach you not to judge a book by its cover, PizzalChik (PIZZ-al-chick), is it. Occupying two storefronts in a strip mall sandwiched between a power substation and one of Boise’s busiest intersections, PizzalChik—the name is a jumble of syllables representing the restaurant’s main menu items, pizza, salad and chicken—is one of the best Boise restaurants, but without the waiter, prices or tablecloths. Walk in, walk up to the counter, place your order, take a seat and wait for someone to bring you your food. All the food here, from the elk sausage to the secret seasoning rubbed beneath the chicken’s skin, to the pickled beets, is made on the premises. Chef/owner Brad Breakell even has a little smoker for salmon behind the restaurant (for his Great Salmon Caper pie). The only oven is a 6,000-pound stone hearth. Breakell cooks even the “afterthought du jour” (dessert) in it.

More Details on

PizzalChik  

Jenny's Lunch Line

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget

Stuff the sensibility of Alice Waters and the convenience of McDonald’s inside an avocado and you’ve got Jenny’s Lunch Line. Designed with the downtown office set in mind (hours are Monday— Friday, 11AM-3PM), Jenny’s is the freshest, healthiest, cheeriest (how can a place with green walls not be cheery?) lunch spot in downtown. Non-workers are equally welcome. Everyone can sit down or take Jenny’s food to go. The menu is simple, but not Spartan. On any given day she’ll have nearly half-a-dozen soup options and even more sandwiches to choose from. None of Jenny’s sandwiches are crazy combos; she just does staples really well with the freshest ingredients, which helps make her restaurant one of the best places to eat in Boise. Plenty of customers skip the sammies and salads entirely, though, and make a meal out of her sides—warm baked sweet potato, arugula pesto pasta salad, crunchy broccoli slaw with toasted almonds, quinoa salad with black beans, fresh lime, cilantro and tomato.

More Details on

Jenny's Lunch Line  

Goldy's Breakfast

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
There are several reasons the line for Goldy’s often winds from the red velvet curtains at its entrance out the front door and around the block. The fact it has only 56 seats—with about half of them on a second-story loft tall people need to duck to walk in—isn’t truly one of them. What is? The way Goldy’s takes breakfast classics and tweaks them in ways you wonder why you’ve never thought of them.  A salmon cake, instead of a potato pancake. Sweet potato hash browns. Poached eggs over baked marinara sauce made with ham, chorizo, asparagus and peppers. (Goldy’s calls this “Andalusian Eggs.”) Sourdough French toast stuffed with a mash of bananas, walnuts, cinnamon, butter and brown sugar. Goldy’s hollandaise is such that an entire page of the menu is dedicated to dishes that use it. If you're looking for something tasty that is just a bit different, Goldy's is the best Boise restaurant to find these concoctions.

More Details on

Goldy's Breakfast »

Gernika Basque Pub & Eatery

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
You can’t help but be intrigued by a restaurant as excited about beef tongue as Bar Gernika Basque Pub & Eatery. “Beef Tongue Saturdays!” its website proclaims. “Served from 11:30AM until we run out.” We’ve never (ever) had a desire to try beef tongue, but must confess we’re now more than a little intrigued.  A restaurant can run out of beef tongue? It’s just not possible to have Bar Gernika’s fries, which are hand-cut—never frozen—sprinkled with a secret mix of spices that we’ll guess includes garlic, salt, paprika and pepper; a few ludicrously good potato croquetas, and a chorizo sausage swaddled in a downy soft bun, and still have room for beef tongue—if there was even any left.

More Details on

Gernika Basque Pub & Eatery »

Java Coffee & Cafe

Neighborhood: Hyde Park
Price: Budget
This coffee shop is as cool as the neighborhood it’s in. It was no surprise when “Mountain Living” magazine named Java the “Best of the High Country” coffee shop. Take the qualifier out, and Java could just be one of the country’s best coffee shops. I’ll start with the space: a historic cottage home with wood floors and a shady patio smack in the middle of Hyde Park. Of course the coffee is fabulous; fresh roasted, certified organic and Fair Trade, and available in trademarked concoctions like the Bowl of Soul®, a chocolate-espresso blend with some secret ingredients. Baked goods are made from scratch. Menu items are simple and served all day at one of the best places to eat in Boise.

Big City Coffee & Cafe

Neighborhood: Linen District
Price: Budget
The heart of the Linen District beats with caffeine. If there were nothing here but Big City Coffee, it’d still be enough to make it one of the best neighborhoods in Boise. When the weather’s nice, bright red picnic tables appear in front of the shop, a former farm-supply store complete with a working garage door, and are immediately filled with families, businessmen and cyclists waiting for a seat inside. Profits from sales of the shop’s signature Big Titty Blend go to fighting breast cancer. The sunrise muffins, along with the rest of the baked goods, are sometimes bigger than the plate they’re served on. The day-olds are a steal at $1. Some people have an issue with the way Big City fixes its eggs—steamed in an espresso steamer—but if yours come with a side of potatoes (soft but crisped on the outside), you won’t care. If you think you will, choose from over a dozen different types of waffles.

More Details on

Big City Coffee & Cafe »
See All Boise Restaurants »
ADVERTISEMENT