It wasnt too many years ago that Downtown Boise was void of mainstream seafood restaurants.
Sure, Milfords Fish House had a long run in what is now BoDo, but the sea was barren for a while in the Downtown corridor after that venerable eatery closed nearly a decade ago, at least in terms of traditional seafood menus.
Corporate giant Bonefish Grill eventually opened up in BoDo, followed by Fresh Off the Hook, a local restaurant that moved into the former Milfords spot, a few doors down, in 2011.
Lucky Fins Seafood Grill, a locally owned chain with restaurants in Meridian and Greeley, Colo., added to this assembly of seafood restaurants when it recently debuted nearby in the longtime Brick Oven Bistro spot smack dab in the beating heart of The Grove.
Lucky Fins has assuredly taken advantage of this high-traffic location with an extreme remodel of the outdated space. A new wing was added onto the west side of the restaurant, partially enclosing a retooled patio that has instantly become a popular place to quaff cocktails and slurp oysters. Never mind the chill in the air; you can stay warm by huddling around one of two gas-powered stone fireplaces.
And you just know this patio is going to be a hit when the warmer weather comes around again, just in time for the Alive After Five concert series.
As for the inside, a cool blue paint job and soothing waterfall, separating the bar area from the dining room, reminds diners that they are in a seafood restaurant. Lots of natural wood accents and exposed brick juxtapose the contemporary aspects of the luminous space one that has a palpable corporate feel to it.
An expansive menu also offers diners a mix of traditional and modern, with a multitude of globally inspired seafood offerings, raw and cooked, not to mention a few poultry and beef dishes for the seafood squeamish.
The crab, spinach and artichoke dip ($9.49) is billed as possibly the best take you will ever have on a classic appetizer favorite. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but what I received one evening surely didnt live up to those grand expectations. A ceramic boat came to us brimming with bubbling cheddar cheese, encasing an average-tasting crab dip underneath. It was more like queso fundido (Mexican cheese dip) than a Mediterranean-style crab dip, which might help to explain why its served with tortilla chips and not baguette.
An order of Black and Bleu oysters ($12.99), however, lived up to their description. Imagine six large oysters on the half-shell (the Pacific variety from Puget Sound), grilled and topped with finely chopped jalapeno, crispy bacon and gooey blue cheese, all of which melts into the oceanic creaminess of the bivalves in an explosion of flavor.
The oysters played well with a glass of bone-dry sauvignon blanc ($8/Stoneleigh from New Zealand) and a deliciously spicy Bloody Mary ($8), shingled with blue cheese-stuffed olives and chipotle-cured bacon.
Lucky Fins also dishes up a gamut of sushi offerings. Try the bright and beautiful sushi salad ($11.99) with sticky rice and mixed greens, striped with rows of cubed raw ahi tuna and salmon, avocado, cucumber, crispy wontons and a sweet tangle of seaweed, splashed with citrusy yuzu dressing that smacks of wasabi. But I didnt find any little shrimp, as the menu promised.
The Drunkin Sailor salmon ($13.99) borrows its name from an old maritime ditty. What do you do with soy-and-whiskey-marinated salmon? Well, Lucky Fins grills the fish over an open flame (to a medium temperature), sprinkles on some zesty corn relish, and leans it on a mound of creamy mashed red potatoes studded with bacon.
Whether you show up for lunch or dinner, the menu is the same.
One day, I enjoyed a small bowl of beige-hued chowder ($5.49) pocked with toothsome chunks of clam, potato, bacon and lots of herbs. Its good chowder, no doubt, and Id add even more onion.
The lobster mac and cheese ($12.99) sounds more intriguing than it is. What I got was a bowl of pedestrian shell noodles in a lobster broth-infused Alfredo sauce sprinkled with crispy bacon bits. (Yes, more bacon.) I dont expect big pieces of lobster for that price, but I felt let down by the absence of shellfish.
The poboy sandwiches served here will probably not remind you of your trip to New Orleans, mostly because the restaurant doesnt offer one with fried oysters just shrimp, three different ways. I chose the blackened shrimp po boy ($9.99), served on a baguette roll with lettuce, onion and tomato, next to a pile of smoky-seasoned fries. The sandwich lacked a proper Cajun kick.
All in all, its obvious that Lucky Fins does some dishes better than others. With a menu this large, not everything can be a winner. There are bright spots. Its definitely affordable. The servers, fresh off the corporate spiel, are friendly and attentive. And a prime location like this pretty much guarantees a steady stream of customers, even if the menu has a few kinks in the anchor chain.
Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org