2014 Best of Treasure Valley: Food

doland@idahostatesman.comJune 20, 2014 

Barbacoa Restaurant  food review, 2011

"Hot Rock" Filet is a 10 oz. filet mignon with cognac sauce, $34. The steak is flamed over an ancient granite stone at your table. The stone is hot so your steak stays warm for the whole meal. Barbacoa Restaurant located on the lake at 276 Bobwhite Court in East Boise at Park Center.

SHAWN RAECKE — Shawn Raecke @ Idaho Statesman

The restaurant business is tough, and the formula for success is so precarious that it sometimes feels magical when it works. Success requires long hours, business savvy, the right location, and a combination of kitchen and floor chemistry.

Creating a great restaurant always comes down to the details, says Robert Castoro, owner of Barbacoa, a restaurant you’ll find scattered throughout this year’s Best of Treasure Valley Food and Drink categories.

“I’m a detail-oriented freak,” Castoro admits. “I’ve thought about everything that happens from the moment people walk in the door.”

From Michelin-rated chef Enrique Martinez’s menu to the art gallery-like decor, Castoro has created a multi-dimensional dining destination that readers voted into nine Best of Treasure Valley categories — more than any other restaurant.

Restaurateur Rex Chandler is celebrating his 40th year in the business. His Chandlers Steakhouse consistently receives accolades in the Statesman’s annual poll. Consistency is key to a great restaurant, he says.

“You have to have all the elements in place. You have to have an excellent product — then the thing that pulls it all together is the magic of service,” Chandler says. “You have to build a team that executes what you do consistently and graciously — graciously is a word we use a lot here.”

Gino Vuolo, owner and chef at Gino’s Italian Ristorante in Meridian, agrees.

“Whatever you do, it has to be sincere,” Vuolo says. “When I greet my customers, I want them to know I really want them here. Then it’s all about the quality of service, the food and keeping it authentic.”

Gino’s continues one of the longest multiyear Best of Treasure Valley winning runs — for Best Italian.

Lucky Fins Seafood Grill opened a second location in 2013 — this one in Downtown Boise — and edged popular Fresh Off the Hook by a narrow margin for Best Seafood.

There is always a bit of irony. The top two winners in the new Best Gluten-free Menu category are grocery stores — Whole Foods and the Boise Co-op. Neither has a menu per se, but both offer gluten- and wheat-free selections on their hot and cold food bars.

This year’s Best Coffeehouse is Dutch Bros. Coffee, a drive-through chain with 13 local locations. So, it’s not really a coffeehouse, but people rave about their coffee drinks.

This year’s readers poll has a new Best Chef category, which reflects the Valley’s growing interest in the local culinary scene. Chef Lou Aaron of Westside Drive-in — who gains additional exposure on a local TV station — took the top prize.

Restaurant Service

1. Barbacoa

2. Chandlers

3. Texas Roadhouse

Asian Restaurant

1. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

2. Golden Star

3. Mai Thai

Bakery

1. Pastry Perfection

2. Zeppole Baking Co.

3. Great Harvest Bread Co.

Barbecue

1. Goodwood Barbecue

2. Texas Roadhouse

3. MickeyRay’s

Breakfast

1. Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro

2. The Egg Factory

3. The Griddle

Caterer

1. Goodwood Barbecue

2. 3 Girls Catering

3. Kanak Attack Katering

Chef

1. Lou Aaron, Westside Drive-in

2. Jesus Alcelay, Cottonwood Grille

3. Jered Couch, The Dish

Coffeehouse

1. Dutch Bros. Coffee

2. Flying M Coffeehouse

3. Moxie Java

Family Restaurant

1. Red Robin

2. Idaho Pizza Company

3. El Gallo Giro in Kuna

Fine Dining

1. Barbacoa

2. Chandlers

3. Cottonwood Grille

Gluten-free Menu

1. Whole Foods Market

2. Boise Co-op

3. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

Grab-and-go Lunch

1. Jimmy John’s

2. Chick-Fil-A

3. Whole Foods Market

Happy Hour

1. Barbacoa

2. Cafe Ole

3. Applebee’s

Italian Restaurant

1. Gino’s Italian Ristorante & Bar

2. Asiago’s

3. Olive Garden

Late-night Food

1. Los Beto’s

2. Pie Hole

3. Merritt’s

Mexican Restaurant

1. El Gallo Giro in Kuna

2. Chapala

3. Cafe Ole

Outdoor Dining

1. Bardenay

2. Cottonwood Grille

3. Barbacoa

Seafood

1. Lucky Fins Seafood Grill

2. Fresh Off the Hook

3. Bonefish Grill

Sports Bar

1. Big Al’s

2. Buffalo Wild Wings

3. Ram Restaurant & Brewery

Steakhouse

1. Texas Roadhouse

2. Chandlers

3. Lock, Stock and Barrel

Food Truck

1. Boise Fry Company

2. Kanak Attack Katering

3. Pie Hole

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