My day job has me on the road a lot in the summer, and while the miles add up, so do the chances to discover unexpected and amazing meals.
Im more into interesting than expensive (though Im certainly not opposed to those moments when both apply), and this list of suggestions reflects that. And Ive only eaten in most of them once, which isnt something wed normally do for a full review.
But take these for what they are: some places you may not have tried yet, but should if you ever get the chance.
McCall: Youve probably been to the McCall Brewing Co., which has been making beer and pub food for years, but just up the road, the Salmon River Brewery has great beers, delicious home-made sausages and brats, and the feel of a real locals joint. A full one-fifth of the meat in the double-smoked bacon brat is bacon a smoky, salty delight that went great with the Salmon River Quiver IPA this spring. Plus you can get elk burgers and deep-fried pickle spears and they offer up a gluten-free menu, too.
300 W. Colorado St., (208) 634-4772
Riggins: Ive driven through this town far more times than Ive stopped, but this summer, the smoke from the outdoor barbecue drew me into the Seven Devils Bar and Steakhouse. A buddy and I tried the steak sandwich and the pulled pork. Both were grilled to order while we sat outside on the beer-friendly patio. Both were served on a thin ciabatta-type roll that was a little salty, a little spongy and all-around tasty.
312 S. Main St., (208) 628-9260
Coeur dAlene: One evening in an absolute downpour, I stumbled onto the English-style pub Moon Time and gave it a shot despite my initial aversion to the sign. (I kind of thought it would be super-healthy, Goddess-type, sprouted whole grains and such.) I struggled between a Caribbean pork sandwich with an orange/ginger sauce (I know!) and the gumbo, but the cold rain made up my mind. The chicken, sausage, shrimp and veggies were spicy with just the right amount of stick-to-your-ribiness. Id definitely go back.
1602 Sherman Ave., (208) 667-2331
TOWARD THE MOUNTAINS
Lowman: Youve driven past the Sourdough Lodge every time youve gone to Stanley, but if youve never stopped in for its lauded breakfast (try the sourdough pancakes, of course) or its surprising dinner (a truly tasty bouillabaisse was a recent $12 special), its worth the effort. The Sourdough was my last meal before a five-day, 40-mile hike in the Sawtooths this summer (a filling ham and cheese omelet) and my first meal when we trudged out (a nearly obscenely loaded burger, but hey, I earned it).
8406 Idaho 21, (208) 259-3326
Stanley: The Stanley Baking Company & Cafe has some of the best breakfast in the mountains (Im intrigued by the quinoa croquettes, but tend to find myself drawn in by the Basque scramble with chorizo). Dont try it on a busy week if youre in a hurry, though the line can snake out the door and down the stairs.
250 Wall St., (208) 774-6573
WITH THE RICH AND FAMOUS
Ketchum: I love a steak and Manhattan at the Pioneer Saloon as much as the next cowboy, but if youve never done it, treat yourself to the far more genteel Cristinas at least once. Cristina Ceccatelli Cook serves up simple Tuscan fare with a lot of care and very little pretension, and for my money, this may be the best restaurant in the state of Idaho. Its more affordable at lunch, and the pace and feel of the bright, small café make the act of whiling away an afternoon seem like an event worth remembering. The bread bowl alone (with several varieties of homemade fare, all vying to be your favorite) makes it worth the drive.
520 2nd St. East, (208) 726-4499
Hailey: One of the biggest challenges facing traveling eaters in this state is trying to find late-night food in the smaller towns. I tried the Muleshoe Tavern the first time because it was open for dinner at 10 p.m. I went back the second and third times because it was so good. I would be a regular here if it opened in Boise. The food is kind of high-end pub fare with a Southern tinge. The crowd is all-local. The beer selection is small but well-chosen. My favorite meal: fried chicken with a sweet mustard glaze and garlic mashed potatoes.
107 S. Main St., (208) 788-0096
IN THE SOUTHEASTERN DESERT
Twin Falls: This was a real surprise for a former Twin Falls resident: A full-on New Zealand fish and chips joint, which serves up savory meat pies and a coconut/chocolate piece of awesomeness called a lamington. For the uninitiated of which I was before finding Kiwis Fish-n-Chips & Meat Pies that is a sponge cake coated in chocolate and coconut on top of another sponge cake coated with chocolate and coconut, all fused together with a layer of thick cream. How are you not starting the car right now?
778 Falls Ave., (208) 735-1535
Idaho Falls: For 77 years, the North Hi-Way Cafe has been the spot for breakfast in eastern Idaho. The old-West décor has lasted through all the trends and should be in a movie. The crowd tends toward the well-seasoned, but people serious about their breakfasts. One wall is covered with jokes shared by the patrons, young and old. The food is straightforward and every bit what youd expect from a place heading toward its ninth decade: simple and consistent.
460 Northgate Mile, 522-6212
Email Gregory Hahn: email@example.com