Words & Deeds

Michael Deeds: Downtown Boise to get a taste of Amsterdam in new lounge, coffee shop

Michael Deeds
Michael Deeds

Ted Challenger had worked at the Main Street Bistro as a doorman-janitor for about a year before he bought it for $45,000 in 1992.

The Boise fine-dining establishment was quickly converted into a successful college-crowd bar by its eager, 23-year-old owner.

“All you had to do was put some beer lights in the window,” he remembers.

Almost a quarter century later, Challenger is brimming with youthful enthusiasm again as he prepares to reinvent the space a second time.

The Amsterdam Lounge, 607 W. Main St., will debut to the public at 4:30 p.m. on First Thursday, May 7. After that, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, offering a daytime coffee shop to augment a nighttime lounge — and even an ’80s arcade in the back.

“There’s something for everybody,” Challenger says.

The Bistro closed in March after a final St. Patrick’s Day shindig. A longtime rite of passage for Boiseans in their early 20s, the “Bro-stro” had devolved recently. Challenger wasn’t wild about the crowd, he says, nor the fact that the bar was becoming a dance-club mirror of his other Downtown bars, China Blue and Dirty Little Roddy’s. It was time for a change.

“I wanted to build something with more sophistication,” he says, “more options, a more mature staff, and have a great place to lounge around and have a cocktail.”

If you ever visited the Bistro, you remember the large, efficient main bar. It’s about the only thing you’ll recognize, Challenger says. Otherwise, the Amsterdam Lounge should feel like intriguing foreign territory.

“It has hints of Amsterdam with a lot of the artwork, and the lounge/coffeehouse feel that Amsterdam is so well-known for,” Challenger says, before quipping: “Except the marijuana.”

(Give Idaho a few thousand years. We’ll get there.)

The coffee bar will serve Fonte java from Seattle. Challenger describes it as Idaho’s only 21-and-older coffee shop, where you can have an open conversation or an informal meeting without being crammed into a tiny space. Liquor-infused drinks (“Really, really cool coffee recipes,” he says) will be available, as well as pastries and breakfast burritos.

Catering to a nostalgic Generation X crowd, the Amsterdam Lounge also will include an arcade with about 20 classic games, plus shuffleboard and pool.

At night, DJs will focus on music from the 1990s and early 2000s. After every few songs, video clips from movies over the last 20 years will pop up. There also will be a small dance floor for slightly rowdier night owls. “If people want to turn it up a little bit they can,” Challenger explains, “but we’re not going to be looking for a dance crowd, per se.”

In a nutshell, if you hung out at the Bistro 10 or 20 years ago? Hey, you just might be interested in stopping by again for a taste of Amsterdam.

“I had to grow up sometime,” Challenger says with a laugh.


Music website Pitchfork recently published an interesting, well-researched piece titled “How Much Is Music Really Worth?”

“After more than a century of cultural flux,” it posited, “music is now priceless. Or is that worthless?”

As my laptop uploaded my entire music collection to Google’s omnipotent cloud this week, I kept pondering that question. The technology juggernaut recently increased free storage on its Google Play Music service to 50,000 songs. Did I mention it’s free? I started the elephantine, five-day process — a sync with my iTunes music library — on April 25. As I write this, my grinding laptop’s torture is almost finished.

Watching the tracks float into the ether one by one, I’ve felt simultaneous pangs of guilt and wonder. It’s stunning that you can access tens of thousands of personally curated songs virtually anywhere. It’s also somehow ridiculous and awful that the service is free and void of advertising. Ads or not, I’ll always take my own music collection over the libraries at streaming services. Try to find super-obscure funk or decades-old indie rarities on Spotify.

With a wave of Google’s magic wand, my 160-gigabyte iPod Classic — the second one I’ve purchased — has been rendered all but irrelevant. Anyplace I go, I will now use my phone to access my vastly satisfying music collection.

That’s worth a million bucks to me. No wonder we love and fear Google.