Across the U.S., restaurateurs are opening ever-more-casual places. I’ve seen it in New York, Chicago, San Francisco…and now Boise, Idaho. Although several Boise landmarks closed this past year, casual restaurants are thriving. The best are as good as they are accessible, which I discovered on a recent food crawl.
I started with lunch at Café Vicino. This Italian restaurant in the North End offers smart dishes like ahi puttanesca with fresh linguine; the chefs get much of their pasta from Ferranti Fresh Pasta, founded by Rome transplants Ubaldo Ferranti and Sigita Cernius. Afterward, I stopped at the new Boise Co-op Wine Shop, where I bought a lovely rosé from Cinder, a winery started by Melanie Krause, formerly of Washington state’s esteemed Chateau Ste. Michelle. This month, Krause opens a winemaking facility and tasting room, Urban Winemakers Cooperative.
At cocktail hour, I hit the City Grill, a grand 19th-century bank-turned-restaurant with Boise’s only raw bar. A crisp Hennessy sidecar with a half-dozen salty-sweet Kumamoto oysters were a great prelude to dinner.
At Berryhill & Co., mac and cheese seemed an odd starter, but the crusty, bacony mini gratin is among the best in this mac and cheese–mad city. Then I wandered down to the Basque Block (Boise has the third-largest Basque population in the world, after Spain and Argentina). Bar Gernika is the place to stop for a ludicrously good chorizo sausage on a soft bun and piping-hot potato croquetas.
For a nightcap, one of Boise’s best bars is in the new Modern Hotel, a whimsically transformed 1960s Travelodge in the Linen District. As a nod to the city’s changing restaurant scene, I ordered a Re-fashioned, a soothing mix of Canadian whiskey, Fernet Branca and muddled orange slices.