Many folks in Boise’s North End were scratching their heads when they heard another pizza joint was opening up along 13th Street in Hyde Park.
Sun Ray Cafe had the market cornered when it came to pizza in this funky, historic neighborhood. (And until nine years ago in that same spot, Lucky 13.) So when North End Pizza set up shop about an olive’s throw away this summer, it drew mixed reactions from the local denizens.
Competition is good, right? Depends on how you want to look at it. Let’s pull up a seat at Sun Ray and newcomer North End Pizza and see how their pies fare.
North End Pizza
1513 N. 13th St., Boise, (208) 345-5669, open 11:30 a.m. to midnight (kitchen closes at 11 p.m.) Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. (kitchen closes at midnight) Friday and Saturday. northendpizzaboise.com
T.J. and Missy Sayles opened Prost German Pub last year in Downtown Boise to rave reviews from local beer geeks. The enterprising young couple, along with their business partner, Chris Navarra, debuted North End Pizza in Hyde Park in late June.
The pizza joint and watering hole became an instant hit for those looking to unwind with a pint or two of draft brew while digging in to a menu that spotlights inventive pizzas, sandwiches, salads and Italian-inspired appetizers. The short wine list has just enough offerings — mostly Italian labels and some draft wine from Boise’s Split Rail Winery — to keep wine drinkers from getting bored.
A good way to get things started is with an order of turkey meatballs ($7), two meaty orbs (about the size of a racquet ball) with no shortage of basil and garlic, cloaked in chunky marinara sauce and molten mozzarella.
Sandwiches are named after destinations in the Boise Foothills. Try the Crestline #28 ($10), a veggie sandwich made on a chewy Acme Bakeshop baguette with a stratum of squeaky fresh mozzarella, roasted eggplant, marinated artichoke hearts, Roma tomato, arugula and sliced mushrooms.
Let’s talk pizza. In a true act of diplomacy, North End Pizza names its specialty pies after other businesses along the 13th Street strip (even Sun Ray Café gets a shout-out). They come in two sizes: 12- and 18-inch. Expect to drop some dough on these expensive pizzas.
The Casa Mexico pie ($18/12-incher) will remind you of eating tacos. This pizza (simply brushed with olive oil) brings together spicy chorizo, pico de gallo, cilantro, dabs of goat cheese and mozzarella on a charred-around-the-edges crust, garnished with lime wedges for spritzing the blistered pie.
No, the Goodies pizza ($18/12-incher) doesn’t have jelly beans and a banana split on top. That would be silly. Instead, it stays the traditional Italian course with a fragrant red sauce, toothsome sausage bites, sliced bell pepper and splotches of fresh mozzarella. One night, the pizza was slightly undercooked in the center, thus not quite as crispy as its Mexican counterpart. It’s an easy fix, though.
The kitchen staff is still in the fine-tuning mode, but North End Pizza appears to be a good fit in the neighborhood.
Sun Ray Cafe
1602 N. 13th St., Boise, (208) 343-2887, open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (bar stays open till around midnight), facebook.com/sunraycafehydepark
This neighborhood haunt — housed in an old gas station at the corner of 13th and Eastman streets — arguably has the best patio in the North End. That’s what gives the corner spot its ultimate appeal.
Owner Dave Martin has continued the tradition of serving pizzas, sandwiches and beer from the Lucky 13 days, but he’s put his own stamp on the popular restaurant and bar since taking control of the establishment in 2007.
In addition to a litany of draft brews, diners also can score cocktails and a few wines by the glass. The Hyde Out Bar is a fun spot with garage doors and bicycles hanging from the ceiling, and the misters on the bar patio help to cool people off during the sweltering days of summer.
Sun Ray Cafe’s specialty pizzas come in three sizes: 10-inch (small), 12-inch (medium) and 16-inch (large) in a variety of prices. Diners also can order a mini-pizza size (8-inch) from the build-your-own-pizza portion of the menu. For starters, go the Mediterranean route and try the feta-topped roasted red pepper hummus ($9), creamy and redolent of garlic, lemon and tahini, served with Kalamata olives, sliced red onion, cucumber and puffy triangles of whole-wheat pita for scooping up everything.
The sandwiches and pizzas boast quirky names culled from popular recreational spots around the region. For example, Todd of the Tetons ($8.95/whole) is a muffeletta-inspired hot sandwich made on a crusty roll with salami, shaved ham, pepperoni, provolone and garlicky green and black olive relish. You get a little bag of Lay’s potato chips with the sandwiches. (Sorry, no fries here).
As for the pizza, expect to find three kinds of dough (white, whole-wheat and gluten-free) that gets hand-tossed and turned into a gamut of pies with a medium-thick crust.
The Botanical Garden ($13.45/small), made on a whole-wheat crust that’s brushed with garlicky pesto, comes profusely loaded with artichoke hearts, bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini, mozzarella and chopped fresh tomato. It wouldn’t be such a floppy pie (bordering on soggy in the center) if the toppings were used more sparingly, allowing the crust to get good and crispy. Not a bad way to put some broccoli in your diet, though.
The Bogus Bomber ($12.45/small), made on a much crispier white crust, hit with bright tomato sauce and a thin layer of vinegary sauerkraut, will take care of your meat cravings thanks to a jumble of pepperoni, ham, smoky Portuguese sausage and bubbly mozzarella, finished with chopped tomato.
The pizzas here may not blow your mind, but the cold brews, ambience and friendly service definitely keep people coming back.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORTH END PIZZA
SUN RAY CAFE
The interior design speaks to an innocuous Idaho sensibility. It could be just about anywhere in the Gem State, given that the walls are adorned with huge photos of local landscapes and patches of repurposed wood. The large windows on the street-side of the restaurant open up, connecting the outside environs to the inside in lieu of a patio, which it doesn’t have.
It’s hard to beat the atmosphere at this outdoor-focused haunt. A shady wraparound patio and the garage-style Hyde Out Bar with roll-up doors make you want to hang out for a spell. Plus, it’s a pooch-friendly environment.
The hip wait staff, which is knowledgeable about the food and libations, offers efficient tableside service with a smile.
Just like in the old Lucky 13 days, diners order at the counter, grab a small block with a number on it, and everything comes to your table relatively fast. The servers are super-friendly and helpful.
The pizza dough gets made with high-grade flour, sea salt and olive oil, and it proofs for a long time before it gets hand-tossed and made into pies. The result is a chewy and tangy crust — somewhere between Chicago and New York in terms of thickness — that stands up well to the select toppings.
The white and whole-wheat crusts don’t have that expected chewy resistance and pronounced yeastiness that make pizzas great. The pies often get overwhelmed with toppings, making for a floppy pizza experience.
You’ll find 15 taps flowing with local and regional brews and a couple of Bavarian beers (go figure) thrown in for good measure.
The large, rotating draft brew list (around 20 strong) covers the bases well with everything from PBR to Payette Brewing Hyde Park Ale to skunky Stella Artois lager.