Pizza is one dining option that’s prevalent around these parts. There’s no shortage of oven-blistered pies in the City of Trees. Some might even say that we need another pizzeria like we need more squirrels in our backyards. So how does a new pizza joint set itself apart from all the competition out there?
Well it all starts with an excellent crust, followed by tasty house-made pizza sauces and a spattering of high-quality toppings. Easier said than done. Right?
The Wylder, which opened last fall just down the sidewalk from Boise Brewing, strives to achieve those superlatives. It’s situated on the ground floor of The Fowler, a new mixed-use apartment building in Downtown Boise’s burgeoning Central Addition district. Also in the neighborhood: Form & Function coffeehouse and across the street, Concordia University School of Law.
From the get-go, the stylish restaurant and bar has boasted that it offers a different kind of pizza experience. The crust, for example, is made with a 50-year-old sourdough starter that undergoes a 48-hour fermentation process (along with organic wheat grown in Utah) before getting hand- stretched into thin-crusted pizzas.
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Owner David Rex recently moved to Boise from California, after working in the restaurant industry there and in Arizona for 20 years. But he is no stranger to Idaho. Rex has spent many summers over the years visiting his grandparents’ cabin in the Salmon River Mountains. This may help to explain the décor. Natural light streams from the tall windows into the dining room, illuminating the rustic-looking wood tables and chairs. There’s also a small lounge area by the front door, in addition to a woodsy pizza counter with stools facing the exposed kitchen.
The Wylder doesn’t employ a wood-burning brick oven, though. Instead, executive chef Jennifer Minichiello opts for a gas-burning pizza oven (lined with bricks) that runs at 700 degrees. Even though wood-fired pizza is popular right now, these kinds of pies are sometimes burnt around the edges if the cooks don’t pay close attention. But with a traditional, gas-burning pizza oven, the crust tends to be more evenly cooked and consistently golden brown. That’s definitely the case at The Wylder, where the crust is chewy-good and crispy through and through, bolstered by a pronounced yeasty flavor and a lingering essence of sourdough.
The selection gets anchored by a host of signature pizzas and an always-changing array of pies that depict the seasons. The menu verbiage plays to local sentimentalities. For instance, carnivores will find a Bronco pizza ($18) that’s smeared with just the right amount of basil-perfumed red sauce, then topped with shaved dry-cured Italian salami, slices of pickled Fresno chilies and molten globs of burrata fresh mozzarella. The peppers offer spicy notes without being overbearingly hot.
As the name suggests, the Honey Badger pizza ($18) is a sweet number. There’s more going on with this crusty pie than meets the eye. It gets topped with fennel seed-tinged Italian sausage, caramelized onion, chili-spiced honey and blotches of house-made ricotta, finished with fennel pollen granules and a light drizzle of fragrant garlic oil.
Besides pizza, diners will find entrée-size salads, appetizers and a rotation of nightly supper offerings such as fried chicken and lasagna.
The ingredient-driven mushroom toast ($13.50) is a standout starter, or it could be a meal all on its own. Grilled slices of rustic Acme Bakeshop bread come smothered with sautéed mushrooms (mostly shiitake and oyster mushrooms), bathed in a velvety crème fraiche sauce that reeks of garlic. Flecks of freshly chopped flatleaf parsley add to the earthy profile.
The menu description of the crispy cauliflower and chickpeas ($8), chosen from the “Veggies” portion of the menu, didn’t quite match the reality of the dish. Cauliflower flowerettes and garbanzo beans get roasted at a high temperature — giving them a slight sear around the edges — yet they were hardly crispy as the menu promised. A coating of tangy Dijon vinaigrette gives this otherwise boring side dish a little zing.
Fried chicken ($17) is a noteworthy pick during the nighttime hours. A spicy breading (thanks to a healthy dose of paprika and garlic) clings tightly to two organic chicken breasts, locking in the tenderness of the bird. The crispy chicken comes next to a hillock of apple-cabbage slaw that’s a little on the bitter side. But the acrid slaw gets balanced out by an adjacent buttermilk biscuit (nice and flaky, I might add) served with a ramekin of honey-infused butter.
The Wylder certainly adds to the vibrancy of this regentrified district on the fringe of Downtown. But does it dish up the best pizza in town? It’s pretty damn close to that laudatory mark.
James Patrick Kelly is the Statesman’s restaurant reviewer. Email Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 501 W. Broad St., Boise
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday.
Menu price range: starters, sides and salads $7-$13.50; nightly suppers and pizza $14-$18.
Libation situation: Inventive craft-style cocktails, select wines from around the globe (bottles and by the glass) and handcrafted American and European brews — offered in bottles and on draft.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Opened: October 2017