Fort Street Station took over the former Richard’s Café Vicino space earlier this year with the intention of creating a neighborhood-focused public house where folks could quaff craft beers and order from a menu that goes beyond everyday pub food.
The eatery and watering hole is off to a decent start in this North End spot — across the parking lot from the Boise Co-op — where upscale Mediterranean fare used to be the norm when chef Richard Langston occupied the restaurant before moving uptown to his shiny, new digs in January.
The dining room doesn’t look much different than it did before, except the previous formal ambience (white linen that once covered the tables, for example) has been traded in for a decidedly more casual feel. Now diners will find tall pub-style tables in the bar area and walls adorned with black-and-white photos of Boise’s past.
Owners Rick and Suzy Sullivan hired head chef Mark Coates to take care of the day-to-day operations in the kitchen. His lunch and dinner menus keep the focus on libation-friendly food that exhibits a tinge of global flair.
The cuisine is not overly inventive, yet it strives to be straightforward in its approach and presentation. What I found was a menu that has some hits and other dishes that simply toe the pub-food line, not to mention a real dud.
During happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday) Fort Street Station offers reduced prices on its appetizers and draft beers. Coates is working on a new happy hour food menu that should be available in the coming weeks.
In terms of appetizers, the menu features deep-fried noshes, sliders, hummus and flatbread pizzas — choices that people around here have come to expect in this day and age. Let’s not forget about all that craft beer. The list of around 15 draft brews is always changing, so what diners try one week, they may not see during the next visit. (Beer geeks love this kind of system.)
I showed up one evening with a hankering for dark beer. A pint of Irish Death Stout ($4/happy hour), from Iron Horse Brewing in Ellensburg, Wash., took care of that urge, with its black-coffee hue and dark chocolate notes, followed by a slightly bitter finish. The brew paired well with the gamut of appetizers that soon came my way.
The Risotto Bites ($4/happy hour), served with roasted garlic aioli, are a good pick for those craving deep-fried food. The golden-brown orbs have a delightfully crunchy Parmesan crust that gives way to the velvety, aromatic risotto (Arborio rice slow-cooked with chardonnay and shallot) balled up on the inside.
The deep-fried zucchini appetizer ($5/happy hour) was not remarkable, but it was done right. That means the crunchy breading clings tightly to the thin slices of squash underneath, and the chipotle ranch dipping sauce adds a piquant punch.
Floppy, undercooked flatbread is a pet peeve of mine. I’m happy to report that Fort Street Station puts out good and crispy flatbread pizzas. I went for the Balsamic Flatbread ($10/happy hour), an oven-blistered round of yeasty dough (not too thick) scattered with big pieces of chicken breast, dabs of goat cheese, spinach and marinated red onion, squiggled with sweet and tangy balsamic reduction that’s as dark as creosote.
I found the pork sliders ($9/happy hour) to be average, with three puffy, little buns encasing tender shreds of barbecued pulled pork, thinly sliced red onion, charred bell pepper and creamy cabbage-carrot slaw with a hint of horseradish.
At lunchtime, I was hoping to try one of the pasta dishes my friendly server told me about during the previous visit. But pasta isn’t offered on the lunch menu, which is geared more toward sandwiches, soups, salads and other fare designed with expedience in mind. Oh well. Maybe next time.
Diners will find several tasty scratch-made soups on a daily basis, including a smoky and spicy andouille sausage-kale soup ($3/cup) and buttery clam chowder ($6/bowl) pocked with potato, celery and herbs.
The pub-style fish and chips ($11) was pretty standard. Two ale-battered cod fillets — treated to a bubbling deep fryer, locking in the oceanic freshness of the flaky fish — are dished up with crispy, natural-cut fries (the freezer-to-fryer kind), slaw and a ramekin of tartar sauce that had a bit too much dill for my liking.
Now let’s talk about that dud I mentioned earlier in the piece. It’s imperative that a pub puts out a good burger, a critical factor in the burger-and-a-beer equation. But unfortunately, the Station Burger ($9) appears to be an afterthought. What I got was an extremely overcooked quarter-pound beef patty, draped with melted cheddar and plopped on a lackluster white bun (think backyard barbecue at a boring neighbor’s house) with lettuce, tomato and red onion. The burger, in my case, came with sweet potato fries.
Fort Street Station is undoubtedly a nice addition to the neighborhood. But the kitchen just needs to fine-tune some things at this point.
James Patrick Kelly is the Statesman’s restaurant reviewer: Email Kelly: email@example.com
Fort Street Station
Address: 808 W. Fort St., Boise
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The lunch menu is offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then it switches to the dinner menu for the rest of the day.
Menu price range: appetizers, sides, soups and salads $2-$17; sandwiches and entrées $9-$25.
Libation situation: The pub maintains a well-curated lineup of 15 or so handcrafted brews on tap, many of which are from Idaho, Oregon, Washington and even Utah. The wine list has plenty of affordable labels from Idaho, Washington and California, in addition to some select imported wines.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: June 2017