The Wylder hasn’t yet celebrated its second birthday, but it already feels like a staple of the Boise food scene. Since it opened its doors in fall 2017, people have packed the dining room seven days a week for its cocktails, pizza and nightly suppers.
It has also garnered praise from foodies far and wide. In 2018, food critic James Patrick Kelly declared that it served “pretty damn close” to the best pizza in town. It earned a complimentary paragraph in New York Magazine. And earlier this month, the website Eater placed The Wylder No. 1 on a list of Boise’s 25 essential restaurants.
Customers love spending the evening in The Wylder’s swanky wood and concrete interior, but the real attraction here is the 52-year-old sourdough starter. This living beast is the origin of The Wylder’s superior pizza dough, which is blasted in a 700-degree gas-fired oven until it’s simultaneously crispy and supple, with complex, tangy notes that elevate every topping in the same way that a squeeze of lime enlivens a taco.
The pizza lineup has remained largely unchanged since the restaurant opened. Highlights include the Honey Badger (Italian sausage, ricotta, caramelized onion, and spicy honey on white parmesan sauce) and the Farm Girl (heirloom cherry tomatoes, garlic, and parmesan on Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes).
Also unchanged are the lineup of big, fresh salads, which are a half-step ahead of the salads at competitors like North End Pizza and Flatbread. The Kale Caesar succeeds with an unconventional lemon tahini dressing that is bright, nutty and uncompromisingly creamy. Order it with chicken for a satisfying dinner.
Owners Lizzy and David Rex have made tweaks across the rest of the menu. They’ve toyed with the nightly suppers and expanded the selection of vegetable dishes and lunchtime sandwiches.
You should certainly sample the Summer Squash Noodles. The impossibly long pieces of spiraled squash eat like al dente spaghetti and inject snappy vegetable flavor into a creamy, slightly spicy sauce.
The sandwiches also deserve your attention. In the early going, they were made with bread from the popular ACME bakeshop. Things got more interesting when they leveraged that sourdough starter to bake their own bread in-house, and it replicates the pillowy, yeasty goodness of the pizza crust.
The French Picnic stacks a solid inch of smoked turkey on top of brie cheese, sliced apples, arugula, fig jam and house mustard. It’s eerily reminiscent of Bluebird’s flagship turkey sandwich, and nearly as delectable.
Despite The Wylder’s numerous achievements, there are still places for improvement. The salads are occasionally bland and overdressed. The Wylder Chopped salad isn’t as flavorful as you’d hope given its wealth of cured meat and oregano. The fried chicken sandwich, festooned with sweet apple cider slaw and sweet spicy honey aoli, is nearly a dessert. The rather dry North End pizza, topped with kale and spinach, won’t convert people to vegetarianism anytime soon.
The pizzas are certainly understated, yet I’d argue that subtlety is part of the success. You won’t find that concentrated punch of meat or cheese, but the fresh ingredients achieve cumulative excellence. Even Yaya’s House, a cheesy sausage pizza, prances lightly into the belly, buoyed by the sweetness of fennel pollen.
Not satisfied with one hit restaurant, the Rexes are already expanding their culinary empire. They’re currently remodeling the space formerly occupied by Certified Cleaners in Hyde Park. They plan to open Certified Kitchen + Bakery later this summer. The slender, order-at-the-counter bakery will focus on coffee, baked goods, breakfast sandwiches and to-go sandwiches.
What about that sourdough starter? Don’t worry. The breakfast sandwiches will be built on house-made sourdough English muffins.
It all sounds very intriguing for the residents of the North End and beyond. If everything goes according to plan, Certified Bakery might soon feel as essential to Boise as The Wylder already does.