Food notes: New Treasure Valley restaurants flourish, others languish

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANMarch 7, 2014 

state and lemp, food review, dining

State & Lemp in Boise is helping keep the dining scene vibrant.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

The dining scene in the Boise area appears to be making a comeback from the Great Recession, a tumultuous time when a dozen or so locally owned restaurants closed across the Valley.

Remember Mortimer's? How about The Milky Way? Franco Latino ring a bell?

So soon we forget.

The important thing is that the past few years have shown steady growth in the restaurant industry around these parts, especially in Boise, where exciting concepts such as State & Lemp, Fork, Alavita and The Dish have reshaped the once-sputtering scene.

"Against the backdrop of 2008, when everything collapsed, it does seem like there's a lot going on now with all these new places," says Guy Hand, a Boise-based food writer who reviewed restaurants at the Statesman during the economic downturn.

Could this boom possibly be a harbinger of happier days to come?

John Berryhill, chef and owner of Berryhill & Co. and Bacon, thinks so.

"Banks are loaning money again," he says. "Buildings are being built like (Eighth & Main and The Village at Meridian). When people see this positive change, it's a good thing. It impacts all of us."

Impact does work both ways. While the local dining scene continues to flourish with a multitude of new restaurants, other longtime eateries continue to call it quits at what some are calling an alarming rate.

Café Olé recently closed its flagship restaurant in BoDo's 8th Street Marketplace, after being in that subterranean spot since 1981. The owners cited slow business as the reason for shutting down. In other words, the restaurant got overlooked down there amongst the bricks as the development of BoDo blossomed. (The Casey family still has its Boise Towne Square and Meridian locations.)

Stagecoach Inn, a Cold War-era steakhouse in Garden City, saw its numbers plummet in the new millennium as well. The restaurant served its last T-bone in early January.

Cazba dished up its swan song plate of moussaka earlier this year, at least on 8th Street. Co-owner Max Mohammadi didn't state a drop in business as the reason for closing his longtime Mediterranean restaurant, but the empty dining room there in recent times told a different story. A sign in the window reads: "Cazba/Opa has closed the doors at this location. We apologize for any inconvenience. Watch for our new grand opening to be announced."

We'll have to wait and see.

Hand doesn't believe the scales are being tipped in the wrong direction with all these closures.

"The volume of restaurants that have opened and closed has increased recently. But more seem to be opening than closing," he says.

Additional new restaurants are expected to open soon, so don't be surprised to see other older establishments get outshined in the coming months.

Call it restaurant Darwinism: adapt or die.

Berryhill is a good example of a restaurateur who has diversified his restaurant group over the years, adding a breakfast and lunch concept called Bacon and Plan B Lounge to his repertoire, all of which gets bolstered by a thriving catering business. This has enabled him to compete in the always-changing and highly competitive restaurant environment in Downtown Boise.

"We make adjustments about every single day, in bits and pieces. I'm always trying to freshen what I do," Berryhill says.

"Of course, the longer I'm in business, the more I'm concerned and feel the importance to make changes."

Pug Ostling recently closed Grape Escape, a wine bar he owned and operated at the corner of 8th and Idaho for 20 years, after he was unable to secure financing for a much-needed renovation. He saw the maelstrom about to take place down the way at the Eighth & Main building, namely Ruth's Chris Steak House, Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria and Dustan Bristol's On the Fly.

But he also had reason to be concerned about the highly anticipated opening of Bodovino, a modernized wine bar in BoDo that would've surely given Grape Escape a run for its money.

Russ Crawforth, owner of Pie Hole pizzeria next door to Grape Escape, quickly took over Ostling's prime spot and turned it into The Mode Lounge, a swanky cocktail bar that debuted in late January.

It's survival of the fittest in the food and beverage game.

HAND NAMED AS FINALIST FOR VIDEO AWARD

Local food writer, photographer and videographer Guy Hand, managing editor of Edible Idaho South magazine, was recently named as a finalist for an International Association of Culinary Professionals video award in the single-subject food category.

Winners will be announced in March at the IACP conference in Chicago.

He's being recognized for his short video "Making a Meal," which montages a day in the life of State & Lemp, one of Boise's hottest new restaurants. The video was made for "Edible Feast," a new PBS series presented by "The Victory Garden" set to air on Idaho Public Television starting March 30.

FREE YOGURT AT NEW MENCHIE'S

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt will celebrate its new store at 2126 N. Eagle Road in The Village at Meridian by giving away yogurt March 8.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., customers can enjoy a free 8-ounce cup. It's part of a weeklong grand opening March 8-14. Other events are planned as well.

Email James Patrick Kelly: scene@idahostatesman.com. Michael Deeds contributed to this article.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service