There’s one great thing about owning a small eatery: It’s easy to fill the dining room night after night. The downside is that you end up turning away business and making people wait a long time to get a table.
This has been somewhat of a quandary for Cloud 9 Brewery since the diminutive brewpub debuted a few years ago in a North End strip mall — near Janjou Patisserie — at 16th and State streets.
So when the nail salon next door decided to move to another spot in the same development, it paved the way for owners Jake and Maggie Lake to blow out a wall and give their loyal patrons more room to enjoy the house-brewed craft beers and nuanced pub fare.
Not only did the renovation more than double the seating capacity, the retooled kitchen — across the hallway from the glass-encased brewing room — is now substantially larger to boot.
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Cloud 9 uses a four-barrel brewing system (that equates to about 300-350 barrels of beer a year) to produce an array of flagship and seasonal beers, keeping it in the nanobrewery category. Jake Lake and his brew crew are in charge of making all those handcrafted beers that dominate the draft handles.
Interior design elements speak to natural and industrial sensibilities, thanks to the dominant wood accents and profusion of metal chairs. A smaller satellite bar was added in the new addition, giving folks additional space to rub elbows. The recently enlarged patio area (yes, you can bring Fido) makes it a good neighborhood hangout on warm summer nights.
The all-day menu has mostly stayed the same since the place opened in 2014, though all the dishes have been fine-tuned over the years. The kitchen sources as much locally produced food as possible for the small yet thoughtful menu, featuring appetizers, big salads, sandwiches, burgers and seasonal entrées.
Appetizers, shared plates if you will, are an important aspect of the menu — enticing people into ordering a gamut of dishes to go with their pints of cold brew.
Beef sliders ($7.50) are a solid choice for soaking up the beer. Two shiny slider buns contain juicy, little grilled beef patties (grass-fed, organic beef, no less), gooey local white cheddar, sliced tomato, lettuce, dill pickles and a skiff of stone-ground mustard.
Or go in an Asian direction with the tender chicken breast skewers ($8), grilled and situated in a puddle of sweet and tangy hoisin sauce, then simply topped with chopped scallion.
This time of year you can wash everything down with a pint of refreshingly light-bodied pilsner ($5.50) and Belgian-style golden ale ($4.75), a quaffable brew with bright, hoppy notes.
Cloud 9 goes out of its way to hand-cut the fries. Try the poutine-like blue cheese fries ($8/half order), a pile of golden-brown spud sticks (showing some skin) lightly smothered with velvety blue cheese sauce, blue cheese crumbles, chunks of smoky bacon and chopped green onion.
The crispy fries also comprise an essential half of the fish and chips ($12.50). Big knots of Alaskan cod get coated in thick ale batter and treated to a bubbling deep fryer, locking in the oceanic flavor of the fish underneath the crusty coating. The creamy tartar sauce, served on the side, is redolent of dill and lemon.
Vegetarians will find plenty to eat on the menu, like a roasted veggie sandwich ($11) made on a toasted ciabatta bun with lots of garlicky hummus, pungent kalamata olive tapenade and oven-blistered portabella mushrooms, red bell pepper, onion and zucchini. The sandwich came with a small kale Caesar salad, served with a side of Caesar dressing that’s surprisingly remiss of an anchovy kick.
You know it’s the 21st century when you see quinoa on a brewpub menu. Here, the ancient grains become a Tex-Mex-inspired salad ($5). In other words, the chewy, nutty-tasting pearls get mingled with black beans and roasted red bell pepper, then formed into a puck-shaped disk. The salad is not overly exciting, but it’s still a good option for the meatless crowd.
Granted, the Boise area has no shortage of pub fare. But it’s safe to say that the food at Cloud 9 is consistently better than a lot of the other brewpub offerings dished up around these parts.
Cloud 9 Brewery
Address: 1750 W. State St., Boise
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Menu price range: appetizers, sides and salads $4-$11; sandwiches, burgers and entrées $10-$12.50.
Libation situation: The brewery’s lineup of craft brews takes center stage with a rotating selection of mainstay and seasonal beers on tap, in addition to a guest tap or two and a small wine list that spotlights select Idaho labels.
Kid friendly? Yes
Wheelchair accessible? Yes