Words & Deeds

Will a Treasure Valley icon close after 20 years? Restaurant’s future is ‘in God’s hands’

San Inazio Festival celebrates Basque culture in Boise

The Boise Basque community celebrates its heritage and culture with the San Inazio Festival Saturday, July 28, 2018 in Downtown Boise. Basque chorizos, paella, music and the Oinkara Dancers entertained a crowd on the Basque Block.
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The Boise Basque community celebrates its heritage and culture with the San Inazio Festival Saturday, July 28, 2018 in Downtown Boise. Basque chorizos, paella, music and the Oinkara Dancers entertained a crowd on the Basque Block.

As many Idahoans know, the largest population of Basques outside Europe is concentrated in the Boise area.

Idaho’s capital city is home to North America’s only Basque museum. It also hosts the popular Jaialdi festival every five years.

So when one of our few Basque restaurants hints that it might close, folks take notice.

Epi’s, which has operated in a quaint, converted house in downtown Meridian for two decades, issued a foreboding statement Tuesday on Facebook.

Longtime server Bridget Murphy wrote that “there are upcoming changes in this beloved house.” Murphy will retire next month. Chris Ansotegui, who opened Epi’s in 1999 with her sister Gina Ansotegui Urquidi, plans to retire at the end of July.

“As far as whether Epi’s will remain open, the answer to that is unclear at this time,” Murphy wrote. “As Chris says, she is leaving the answer to that in God’s hands. We love you, our Epi’s family.”

Comments piled up immediately on Facebook.

Epi’s closure would be a blow to Idaho food culture. In a 2007 review, the Idaho Statesman described the unassuming restaurant at 1115 N. Main St. as a “Treasure Valley icon.”

It’s one of just a few Basque eateries in the area. Bar Gernika, Leku Ona and Txikiteo each have special appeal, but Epi’s is different. It’s a one-room space. Eating there is like pulling up a chair at Grandma’s table. That’s not by accident. The namesake of the restaurant is Chris Ansotegui’s grandmother, Epi. Many of the homestyle dishes are inspired by her recipes.

“The thing that Chris has that’s so special is just the feeling that you get when you go in there,” Chris’ brother, Dan Ansotegui (who founded Bar Gernika), told the Idaho Statesman in 2006. “You get a hug either coming or going.”

Let’s just hope Epi’s isn’t really going.

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Michael Deeds is a columnist and entertainment writer at the Statesman, where he chronicles the Boise good life. Deeds invaded the newsroom as an intern in 1991.

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