With the recent blast of frigid air that glazed the Treasure Valley in a sheet of ice, basking in the glow of a fireplace sounds more appealing than ever. Here’s a look at several establishments where you can stay toasty during the winter months while enjoying food and belly-warming libations.
Cottonwood Grille, 913 W. River St., Boise
This venerable Boise restaurant will remind diners of a mountain lodge with its massive stone fireplace situated in the main dining room. It’s framed by large windows that showcase a riparian view of The Boise Greenbelt.
Executive chef Jesus Alcelay, who was born in Spain’s Basque country, keeps the focus on Northwest-inspired cuisine, but the menu does have Basque touches.
Enjoy a glass of wine from the extensive wine list (or a cocktail or draft microbrew) while thawing out in front of the roaring fireplace. Start things off with steamed clams ($15), croquetas with romesco sauce ($5), oozy baked brie with lingonberry chutney ($11) or the Cottonwood Platter ($16), an assortment of smoked fish and meats, cheeses, fresh fruit and crackers.
Notable entrées include baked halibut Onati ($31), sautéed elk loin with green peppercorn sauce ($37), Muscovy duck breast with lingonberry-cabernet sauce ($30) and Mediterranean-tinged veggie rigatoni ($15).
Cottonwood Grille offers happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday-Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. During these times, diners can get half-priced appetizers and $3 well drinks and select wines by the glass.
(208) 333-9800; cottonwoodgrille.com; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
The Matador, 215 N. 8th St., Boise
How does a shot of top-shelf tequila sound on a wintry evening? The Matador, located along the bustling 8th Street corridor, stocks more than 100 tequilas to warm the bellies of those who come for a taste of the Latin-fusion cuisine here.
Diners can sit around a stylish, gas-lit fireplace with a custom-made metal hood while digging into appetizers, street-style tacos, torta sandwiches, enchiladas and entrées. (Casa del Matador, The Matador’s sister restaurant at The Village at Meridian, has a similar fireplace in its bar area.)
The bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed jalapenos ($11) are a good place to start. Other appetizers include chipotle mushrooms ($9.50), black bean queso dip ($6) and chunky guacamole ($7) served with warm tortilla chips.
Got a big appetite? Try the skillet-seared fajitas ($17-$19; chicken, beef, shrimp or chipotle mushrooms) or braised pork carnitas ($17) dished up with annatto rice, saucy black beans, guacamole and pico de gallo.
The Matador offers deals on appetizers and drinks during its two happy-hour time slots, 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
(208) 342-9988; matadorrestaurants.com; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily (21 and over after 9 p.m.).
The Grove Hotel, 245 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise
The lobby bar at The Grove Hotel has one of the most romantic fireplace settings in town. Chillax on a comfy sofa in front of the flickering, two-sided fireplace while indulging in a cocktail and appetizers put out by executive chef Chris Hain and his crew.
The food menu in the lounge area is a hybrid of the Northwest-inspired lunch and dinner menus from Emilio’s, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant located right across the lobby. For starters, go for the bacon-wrapped jalapenos ($11; served with white peach chutney), smoked chicken flatbread ($12) and poutine ($15), a pile of hand-cut fries topped with smoked Idaho trout, asiago cream and local dill cheese curds.
Here you can also get various hearth-oven pizzas ($13), salads and inventive sandwiches. Go for a pulled pork sandwich ($12) with huckleberry barbecue sauce or an upscale grilled cheese sandwich ($13) constructed on black rye with spicy capicola ham, Manchego cheese and apricot jam.
Diners can order from the regular Emilio’s menu as well.
(208) 333-8000; thegrovehotelboise.com; 4 to 11 p.m. nightly.
Papa Joe’s, 1301 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise
The Italian eatery and bar has become a staple over the years for Boise State University students and faculty who cross Capitol Boulevard for a taste of the Sicilian-style pizzas, sandwiches and other Mediterranean fare.
Owners Mike and Rae Grant, who also own and operate Grant’s Neighborhood Grill in Meridian, have been meticulously remodeling and expanding the business since they purchased the 32-year-old restaurant in 2005.
The place is a collection of separate dining areas, one of which is a cozy section with a wood-burning fireplace. This is an excellent spot to thaw out in front of the towering rock mantle and comfort yourself with appetizers such as tomato-basil bruschetta ($8), a house-smoked salmon plate ($10) and Manila clams ($14) sautéed in garlicky white wine cream sauce kicked up a notch with red chili flakes.
After priming your palate with a few starters, you can fill up on hearty pasta dishes and entrées. Good picks include eggplant Parmesan ($11), shrimp scampi ($14), grilled chicken risotto ($12) and al dente spaghetti bathed in fragrant marinara sauce ($9).
Papa Joe’s offers happy hour (half-priced well drinks and $1 off on beers and wines by the glass) from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
(208) 344-7272; papajoesboise.com; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Highlands Hollow Brew House, 2455 N. Harrison Hollow Lane, Boise
This longtime brewpub in Boise’s North End often comes to mind in terms of fireside dining and drinking.
Frozen folks thaw out here after skiing and snowboarding at Bogus Basin. The circular brick fireplace with its black overhead hood boasts wrap-around seating, making it a great spot to enjoy Northwest-inspired pub grub and handcrafted beers made by head brewer Chris Compton.
Grab a pint of Face Plant Porter and dig into appetizers such as pan-fried Pacific oysters ($8.95), smoked salmon cakes ($9.95) and Hollow-style chicken wings ($8.95) with beer-spiked tomato sauce.
Diners can also score burgers, sandwiches and pasta dishes. The pulled pork sandwich ($9.25) and grilled eggplant sandwich ($8.25) are notable picks.
Highlands Hollow offers happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, when you can get a $1 off on pints.
(208) 343-6820; highlandshollow.com; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
O’Michael’s Pub and Grill, 2433 Bogus Basin Road, Boise
Situated a beer cap-flip away from Highlands Hollow, O’Michael’s has been going strong for more than 40 years. The Irish-themed pub and grill keeps its fireplace blazing throughout the winter months.
Quaff a few pints of brew and order from an appetizer list that includes beer-battered finger steaks ($8.79 small/$12.99 large), tempura mushrooms ($5.49) and clams steamed with garlic, wine, butter and basil ($9.89 half pound/$15.89 one pound).
Besides smaller noshes, the popular watering hole is known for its Irish pub classics such as fish and chips ($13.99), corned beef and cabbage ($14.95/Thursdays only) and hearty lamb stew ($7.29/Tuesdays only).
Let’s not forget the big burgers and pub-inspired sandwiches served with hand-cut fries.
Happy hour is offered from 4 to 6 p.m. daily. Check the website for a schedule of live music in the evenings.
(208) 342-8948; omichaelspub.com; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
13th Street Pub and Grill, 1520 N. 13th St., Boise
The popular Hyde Park restaurant and watering hole has one of the most attractive fireplace features in town. Grab a seat at the wrap-around bar in the enclosed patio area and feel the warmth from the gas-lit fire.
This upscale neighborhood gastropub offers eclectic appetizers such as shrimp and grits ($9), American Kobe beef sliders ($11) and mushrooms stuffed with bacon, blue cheese and garlic cream ($11). Wash everything down with a craft cocktail or a selection from the well-curated draft beer and wine lists. Bartenders here mix an excellent Old Fashioned, made with top-shelf bourbon, barrel-aged bitters, brown sugar and simple syrup.
In addition to burgers, sandwiches, salads and soups, diners will find plenty of globally influenced larger plates with comfort in mind. The entrée portion of the menu includes chile-lime jerk chicken ($17), slow-roasted Kurobuta pork short ribs ($20) and charbroiled Idaho trout topped with lemon-dill butter ($22).
During happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday) you can get $1 off on well drinks, pints of microbrews and wines by the glass.
(208) 639-8888; 13pubandgrill.com, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Sockeye Grill and Brewery, 12542 W. Fairview Ave., Boise
In 2014, Sockeye Brewing opened a second brewpub at its production facility in West Boise near the corner of Cloverdale Road and Fairview Avenue.
The expansive, open space has the air of a mountain lodge with large windows bathing the dining room in light and a rustic-looking bar area with a stone fireplace.
Executive chef Dan Hihath recently revamped the upscale pub menu by adding modern touches while keeping a few of the mainstay dishes in place.
The bar is a great spot to catch a game on one of the many flat-screen TVs and cozy up next to the flickering fire with a pint of Winterfest Seasonal Ale.
New starters include smoked bone-in wings ($11.99), smoked sockeye salmon spread ($10.95) and poutine ($9), a heap of fries smothered in rich demi-glace, white cheddar curds and bits of smoky bacon. Also expect to find old standbys such as Hell-Diver finger steaks ($10.50) and Galena Gold steamed clams ($10.95).
You can get $3 pints during happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. The brewpub also offers $3 pints all day on Monday and Tuesday.
(208) 322-5200, sockeyebrew.com, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, 3690 E. Monarch Sky Lane, Meridian
The stylish restaurant and bar at The Village at Meridian doesn’t have a fireplace, per se. Instead, right inside the front door, its ornate fire feature looks like a big coiled metal spring.
Hang out and sip martinis while thawing out in close proximity to the fiery sculpture, which does radiate heat. Here you can get globally inspired starters such as wasabi pea-crusted ahi ($16.99), Argentinean fish tacos ($14.99) and spicy Moroccan beef tenders ($14.99) on grilled focaccia toast with Gorgonzola fondue and syrupy balsamic glaze.
Larger plates include slow-roasted pork osso buco ($23.99), shrimp carbonara linguine ($21.99) and pesto-crusted chicken topped with tomato and mozzarella ($19.99), to name a few. Diners will also find plenty of pizzas, sandwiches and entrée-sized salads.
Twigs offers happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close daily.
(208) 895-0029; twigsbistro.com; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday-Saturday.
Hilltop Station, 12342 Idaho 21
Brothers Eric and Tate McCullough opened Hilltop Station three years ago in the former Kodiak Grill spot near Lucky Peak Reservoir. It’s become a craft-beer haven for those recreating at the reservoir and traveling to and from the backcountry in the Boise Mountains.
Considering the bar and grill’s lofty location atop Highland Valley summit (elevation 3,782 feet), stoking the longtime fireplace in the small dining area only makes sense during the winter months.
Besides blistered pizzas, salads and burgers, diners can sit near the warm rock mantle and nosh on appetizers such as spicy Korean street tacos ($8.99), freshly baked pretzels ($3.99 each), Asian-inspired chicken lettuce wraps ($8.99) and creamy crab and jalapeno dip ($7.99) served with tortilla chips.
There’s plenty of local craft beer on tap, hard cider and wines by the glass to help warm you up after cross-country skiing or snowshoeing all day.
(208) 338-8859; hilltopstation.com; 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Get outside — next to a fire pit
With the recent bitter-cold snap, the idea of hanging out and having appetizers in the frigid elements probably doesn’t sound like a good time. Many fire pits were covered in snow and weren’t being lit. But as temperatures settle at more reasonable levels, brave diners can check out these places to see if they’re firing up the pits.
Lucky Fins (801 W. Main St., luckyfins.com) has a large, above-ground pit on its patio in Boise, which faces the action on The Grove Plaza. Here you can wrap your frozen digits around a hot libation (a Mexican coffee, perhaps?) in an effort to stay warm.
Even Stevens (815 W. Bannock St., evenstevens.com) has a small, in-ground fire pit on its patio in colorful Freak Alley. Take the chill off with a hot sandwich and a pint or two of local handcrafted brew.
Barbacoa (276 Bobwhite Court, barbacoa-boise.com) has an above-ground fire pit (a large stone feature filled with lava rocks) on its lakeside patio that you can sit around while enjoying Latin-inspired appetizers and a sip of tequila.
Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria (3139 S. Bown Way, flatbreadpizza.com) at The Marketplace at Bown Crossing has two fire pits on its street-side patio. This is an excellent spot to indulge in a big glass of chianti and a pizza blistered in the wood-fired oven.
Bodovino (404 S. 8th St., bodovino.com) in BoDo has an above-ground fire pit with seating on its small patio near the front entrance. For those not interested in braving the elements, the modernized wine and tapas bar has a comforting, gas-lit fireplace in the dining area. Bodovino Ristorante (3630 E. Monarch Sky Lane), Bodovino’s sister establishment at The Village at Meridian, has a stylish, sit-around fire feature on its back patio, which may or may not be lit this time of year. No worries, though. The Village at Meridian keeps two attractive, gas-lit fire pits burning in Fountain Square.
Also at The Village at Meridian, Backstage Bistro (3711 E. Longwing Lane, cinemawest.com) has a gas-lit fire pit with comfy couches around it on the second-floor patio above Village Cinema. Grab a cocktail before catching a flick.
Not many burger joints have fire pits, but Fanci Freez (1402 W. State St., fancifreez.com) in Boise’s North End recently constructed an above-ground stone fire pit to keep customers warm while enjoying burgers, fries and shakes.