It's been 15 years since food before noon in Boise was transformed by Goldy's Breakfast Bistro, which blew past what everyone else was doing. When I discovered it, I ate there every day for a week. I marveled at the eggs baked with tomato sauce and asparagus, the spaghetti noodles in the frittata. But most days, I find a reason to order the smoked salmon hash with hollandaise, which encapsulates the now-so-overused term "eclectic Northwest comfort food."
You'd have thought Goldy's long weekend lines and perennial "best of" wins would have inspired a wave of breakfast innovators - or at least some decent copycats. But aside from a few regular restaurants that put out a killer brunch on Sundays, breakfast in the Treasure Valley hasn't moved forward from biscuits and gravy or Denver omelets.
We should look west, to Moe Joe's Breakfast Eatery. For almost a year now, affable owner-operator-chef Joe Boyd has been building his business one table at a time. Though he told me one day he got into kitchen work because he's not a big fan of manual labor, his work here is evident. He is cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients, the creativity is boundless, and his crew is well-trained. While forging his own path, Joe is aware of Goldy's presence on the landscape. And he made it clear to me recently that he had a clear goal for himself: to serve the best breakfast in the area.
So far, so good. It's a tall order to prove to someone there's something better than their favorite restaurant, especially an institution such as Goldy's. (Want to start a fight? Tell someone Flying Pie isn't the best pizza in Boise.) But if you are more interested in food than the room in which it's served, and less willing to wait an hour on the street to get into a breakfast place, Moe Joe's might convince you.
Located just south of the Eagle exit in Meridian, the restaurant is tucked into a business complex away from Overland Road. Inside, the room is tall and wide open, with white walls and blue ceilings, ornamented with a few bits of generic country-kitsch. Right away when we visited, the service staff was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, a good sign. They spoke proudly of the food they were serving. We ate and we got it.
Among the myriad signature dishes, there is one that seizes the imagination. Called Doughnut and a Cup of Joe ($9.99), it's actually a stack of buttermilk pancakes, served with a tiny pitcher of syrup right in the middle. You lift out the pitcher, and the pancakes look like a doughnut. Cute enough. But this is more than merely clever: The pancakes are perfect, light and not too sweet, balanced against a glaze of sugary icing as thin as window frost. On top are toasted crushed almonds. The syrup is reduced house coffee and maple, and it is cunningly delicious. My wife and I don't normally order pancakes, but between the two of us, we've managed to get these on four separate trips when we set out to order something else. Once, we were going to the gym, and we ended up instead eating doughnut pancakes.
It's not because of a shortage of other interesting choices. The jalapeno berry pancakes ($9.99) are daubed with pockets of cream cheese cooked into the batter, and served with sweet, just-shy-of-spicy syrup and sliced fresh jalapeno. (A $3 upcharge will get you specialty pancakes with most meals in place of toast.) For the cinnamon roll French toast ($10.99), a whole pastry is halved into wide slices, battered, griddled, glazed and crusted with almonds.
The savory fare is rich but lightened by the freshness of the components, and the portions are appropriate rather than coma-inducing. Among the unusual offerings, the chilaquiles ($10.99) is a well-made breakfast nacho dish of corn chips with housemade green chili and ranchero sauces, black beans, onions, fresh jalapenos, roasted pork, and cheese with eggs.
There are classic Benedicts and omelets, as well as hashes for the meat-and-potatoes crowd, including straight-as-an-arrow versions that are elevated by elements such as prime rib and house-roasted corned beef (also on a delicious sandwich with Russian dressing for lunch, with terrific hand-cut french fries). The standard items are done right: the country-fried steak ($10.99) is a battered, craggy knob as big as your fist with cream gravy and crisp potatoes.
Even the pedestrian-sounding breakfast burrito is made memorable by the house-made sauces. The egg-cheese-and-potato burrito ($8.99) is customizable with your choice of meat, wrapped in a huge tortilla. With chorizo and a molten lake of brick red ranchero sauce, this was outstanding - something like an enchilada, the best I've had at breakfast or otherwise.
Once, when offered a warm-up on coffee, my wife asked if our server could just reheat what was left in her cup, only to learn that there is no microwave. It's a small detail, but an important one. No microwave. Joe is not cutting corners. That reminds me of this other breakfast place ...
Email Alex Kiesig: firstname.lastname@example.org