Words & Deeds

Boise landmark Trolley bar on track for new life at local brewery

Partially restored, the old Trolley bar now sits behind Sockeye Brewery’s parking lot on Fairview Avenue.
Partially restored, the old Trolley bar now sits behind Sockeye Brewery’s parking lot on Fairview Avenue.

With the exception of a cat possibly living inside, there hasn’t been much happening at Boise’s treasured Trolley bar recently.

The neighborhood tavern closed in 2006 after being engulfed in flames. A Boise landmark for 72 years on Rose Hill and Roosevelt streets, the old railroad car now sits among shops behind Sockeye Grill and Brewery, 12542 W. Fairview Ave.

Sockeye Brewery owner Fred Schuerman bought the burned rail car a few years ago. He wants to transform it into a private banquet room — complete with beer taps.

Much like riding in a passenger train, it’s taking a while to reach that destination. Perhaps by next year, says Mark Breske, Sockeye’s marketing director. Right now, restoration is at a standstill. Sockeye has been expanding beer production, and restoring the old Trolley “took a back seat,” he explains.

Still, while you’re sipping a Dagger Falls IPA at Sockeye, it’s hard not to notice the axles and railroad track set up outside the brewpub — waiting patiently.

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Railroad track and axles already are set up outside Sockeye Grill & Brewery, waiting for the old Trolley. Mark Breske

Where’s the historic rail car?

“They have the outside restored, but the inside needs everything installed,” Breske says. “We’re just waiting on the rest of the restoration, and then we’ve got to figure out how to mount it, too.”

It has too much history to be put on hold forever.

How old is the thing? It was built as an executive rail car in 1883. In a photo showing the car being used as a caboose, folks waiting to board were wearing tophats. (Despite the Trolley bar name, it was never actually a trolley.) In 1933, the car was retired from the railroad. Horses pulled it from the Boise Depot to its location on Rose Hill Street in 1934.

Over the years, it cycled through bar names before becoming The Trolley. Neighbors on the Boise Bench played cribbage there. They tossed horseshoes at the outdoor beer garden.

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The Trolley was a local institution on Rose Hill and Roosevelt streets in Boise before it closed in 2006 after a fire. Brad Talbutt Statesman file

A new life as a banquet room seems fitting. Especially at a Sockeye brewpub. Founded in a storage facility more than two decades ago, Sockeye has made its own sort of Idaho history.

What if they installed a winch that could slowly pull the rail car back and forth on the track?

“We want to do a special beer for it when we get it up and running,” Breske says, “and have a huge kickoff for it. Hopefully, next summer it will be operational.”

Ranch Club to reopen June 2

Don’t expect the same ol’ Ranch Club when the landmark watering hole reopens June 2.

After closing in February, the nightclub at 3544 W. Chinden Blvd. was purchased by Boise bar mogul Jason Kovac. He’s been remodeling the space since, creating a new stage, dance floor and food menu.

“It’s beautiful,” he says.

The Ranch Club will reopen Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, with live music and no cover charge. Smoking won’t be allowed inside — a first in the bar’s storied history. Garden City law still allows smoking in bars.

Two Idaho groups will break in the new stage. Buddy DeVore and the Faded Cowboys will perform from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday. Dusty Leigh and the Claim Jumpers will perform during the same time slot Saturday.

Aiming for an outlaw country feel, Kovac has embellished a new Ranch Club logo with the word “outlaw.”

Ranch Club logo

(In the words of Cosmo Kramer: “Giddy up!”)

An official grand-opening celebration is being planned for later in June.

Keep up with the Ranch Club on Facebook.

9 acts to see at Alive After Five next month

Alive After Five is back. After temporarily relocating to The Basque Block last summer to accommodate construction, the free music series will return to the newly renovated Grove Plaza on June 7.

Held on Wednesdays, Alive After Five has been a tradition in Downtown Boise for three decades. The event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and features a headlining act and a local opener.

Here’s what the Downtown Boise Association has lined up for us in June.

▪ June 7: Shook Twins — Alive After Five’s opening day is the official coming-out party for the spiffed-up Grove Plaza and its fancy new fountain, shade umbrellas and fresh seating. Because of this, the party starts early and features two opening acts. Guitarist-singer Ned Evett will perform at 4:25 p.m.; singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Steve Fulton will gig at 5:15. The Shook Twins, who were raised in Sandpoint, hit the stage at 6:15 p.m. The Shooks are part folk-pop act, part groove band — and a lot of fun. They’ve headlined Alive After Five before. A blend of beatboxing, rapping and singing, the medley below is basically the Shooks’ “Freebird.”

▪ June 14: Western Centuries — This Seattle country band, which alternates between three lead vocalists, gigged last summer at Neurolux. If you’re into old-school honky-tonk music, this is your ticket. (Somebody book these guys at the Ranch Club when it reopens.) The local opener will be Idyltime.

▪ June 21: Too Slim and The Taildraggers — Fans of slide guitar and rocked-up blues are familiar with Tim “Too Slim” Langford. An award-winning performer, he’s been tearing up the Northwest for 30 years with his backing band, The Taildraggers. The cool thing? Langford recently moved to Eagle, Idaho. Yeah, Too Slim and the Taildraggers can be considered a local band. Opening: Zack Quintana Band.

▪ June 28: Jamie McLean Band — Formerly the guitarist for the New Orleans-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jamie McLean branched out on his own in 2006. Now based in New York, the Jamie McLean Band specializes in gritty rock and roll. The group’s sound appeals to the Southern-rock contingent of the jam-band crowd. The Jamie McLean Band has hit the road with acts such as Gov’t Mule, Gregg Allman, Drive-By Truckers and North Mississippi Allstars. Local opener: Tylor and the Train Robbers.

Tim and Faith eat local

Despite the name of the arena, you couldn’t expect Tim McGraw and Faith Hill to feast on Taco Bell grub when they rolled through Boise.

The menu for country’s power couple took a healthier path — to Peaceful Belly Farm.

On Tuesday, Peaceful Belly co-owner Josie Erskine got a phone call from Rob White of Tennessee-based Dega Catering. White, the lead chef on the “Soul2Soul Tour,” ordered a list of produce to be picked and delivered to Taco Bell Arena before Thursday’s concert: arugula, baby chard, baby kale, spinach, green garlic, asparagus and more.

Erskine found the purchase “heartwarming.”

“If they just want fancy produce, there are options to get it,” Erskine said. “They could have fresh produce mailed in from Blue Apron. ... But their chef’s making a conscious choice to support local farms. I was, like, ‘That’s cool.’ ”

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Peaceful Belly co-owner Josie Erskine wrote down the harvest pick for the “Soul2Soul Tour” on the farm’s wash station whiteboard. Josie Erskine

This isn’t the first locally sourced tour for White and Dega Catering. They’ve done it for years with the Dave Matthews Band.

“Who doesn’t love to support a local farmer?” White explains. “It’s just a much superior product. It’s amazing for me to come through town, and I’m getting fresh asparagus from a local farmer.”

Erskine has been contacted by a couple of famous folks’ chefs before, she says. Once was when the Dalai Lama visited Sun Valley. And the Willie Nelson tour has reached out multiple times when he’s performed in Boise.

She admits to not being super-familiar with Tim and Faith. But after seeing a photograph of the impossibly attractive pair, White’s request made sense.

“Yeah, they’re eating greens, because that’s how you look like that,” she says. “You’re not going to look like that if you’re not eating healthy.”

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The chef for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill ordered local produce from Peaceful Belly Farm to prepare fresh food while in Boise. Wade Payne Invision

McGraw, 50, and Hill, 49, are no strangers to the Treasure Valley. Thursday marked the third time they’ve co-headlined a concert here. Both have headlined shows individually in Boise, too.

Erskine might not be able to sing along to million-selling hits such as Hill’s “This Kiss” or McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying,” but she’s definitely become a fan.

And if you’re a true, diehard Tim-and-Faith follower? Hopefully, you kept your eye out for leftovers when you were sneaking backstage, hoss.

White’s food plan? “One of the dishes is going to be pasta with baby spinach, dried chilis, pine nuts, torn basil, Parmesan reggiano and light citrus green garlic cream,” he said.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds

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