Hey, basketball fans. You’re in Boise — the Big Potato, The City of Trees — and whether you’re for Kentucky or Davidson, or you root for Arizona or Buffalo, every fan gets hungry just the same. And we all need a little libation.
So, don’t just get sucked into the arena concessions or hit the obvious chains.
Here are 8 ways to get a real taste of Boise. Most are within walking distance or a short drive from Taco Bell Arena and Downtown and off-Downtown hotels.
▪ Boise made gin? Oh, yeah, and vodka and rum, too. Check out Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery, 610 W. Grove St. Great fact: Bardenay is the first restaurant and distillery combo in the United States. Yes, it’s true. The History Channel did an episode about it. Now you can sample distiller Kevin Settles’ original take on gin and rum, and his bar staff’s rendition of classic and neoclassical cocktails. It’s all paired with with an eclectic, internationally inspired menu that will that blends Northwest fresh cuisine with Basque, Asian and other culinary flavors. Open: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays and Mondays, until 10 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It serves a late-night menu Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Want to explore more craft cocktail spots? Check out the 8th Street corridor between Idaho and Bannock streets. You’ll find The Mode Lounge, with a dazzling deco decor and eclectic concoctions; The Matador and its tequila bar that pours 100 varieties of the stuff; Juniper with a focus on yes, gin, but also a wide variety of flavors and local wines; and Red Feather Lounge, which puts the focus on local ingredients and unique combinations. Just around the corner is Saint Lawrence Gridiron, with a southern feel and a focus on bourbon. Just a few blocks away is The Modern Hotel and Bar, known regionally for its creative signature cocktails and food.
▪ Do not leave Boise without trying croquetas! What are they, you ask? They are balls of deep fried deliciousness that are as Boise as they are Basque. You’ll find them at Bar Gernika, 202 S. Capitol Blvd., named for the Basque city. Bar G, as the locals call it, is a landmark on Boise’s Basque Block, along Grove Street between Capitol Boulevard and 6th Street. You’ll often hear Basque spoken by the regulars and they gobble up Basque specialties, such as lamb grinders, solomo (roasted pork loin) and chorizo sandwiches. They also pour regional beers and Spanish wines.
▪ Where are you going to try great french fries in the potato state? Boise Fry Co., 204 N. Capitol Blvd., and four other locations in the Treasure Valley. This small, locally-owned chain serves up a rainbow of great, crispy thin-cut fries, including russet, sweet potato, yam, purple and Yukon gold (depending on availability). These fries go great with BFC’s gourmet burgers — beef, bison, turkey and vegan — and a variety of toppings and house-made condiments. And it’s all locally sourced when possible, and you’ll also find local beer on tap and a selection of regional and local wines. Open: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, until 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. on Sundays.
▪ Time for breakfast? Head to Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro, 108 S. Capitol Blvd., for eggs to order, gourmet sausages, crisp home fries and ridiculously good Benedicts and lavish pastries. This place was written up in Bon Appetit magazine as one of the 10 best places for breakfast in the country. And there might be a wait, especially after ESPN’s Rece Davis recommended it to Kentucky coach John Calipari on national television. No worries, just mosey on down the block to Goldy’s Corner for a cuppa joe and an appetizing pastry and wait for a table. Open 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
▪ Looking for a slice of pie that will rock your world? Check out The Wylder, 501 W. Broad St., a locally owned, upscale pizza joint that really has a flair. Executive Chef Jennifer Minichiello puts unusual spins on traditional red and white pizza sauces with a selection of ingredients from traditional to intriguing. If pizza is not your thing, then order the fried chicken or lasagna supper. They also pour a great selection of craft brews, wines and craft cocktails. Open: 11 a.m-10 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays, until 9 p.m. Sundays and Mondays.
▪ If you’re staying near the Boise Airport stop in at Willowcreek Grill and Raw Sushi, 2273 S. Vista Ave. The menu is incredibly diverse from traditional pub fare to Asian fusion. And where else can you get a side of sashimi with your burger? At its sister location in Downtown Boise at 205 N. 10th St. Open: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.
▪ Want to try local beer? There are several local breweries peppered throughout Downtown — Boise Brewing, Barbarian Brewing Downtown Tap Room, Woodland Empire Ale Craft, 10 Barrel Brewing and Payette Brewing. A good starting point is Pre Funk, 1100 W. Front St. This growler filling station is also a great local hangout and there you can sample beers from around the valley and the state. It doesn’t serve food, but there usually is a food truck or two near by. Open: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 9 p.m. Sundays.
▪ Get some tacos Boise style. Calle 75 Street Tacos, a former street vendor turned hip brick-and-mortar spot at 110 N. 11th St., which serves a variety of street-style tacos and original salsas and sauces on organic white and blue corn tortillas made in house daily in house. Their tacos come in a wild variety from traditional carnitas to octopus, plus a smattering of entrees from chef Tito de la Garza. Plus they pour a full bar menu including house margaritas and craft cocktails. Open: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, until 9 p.m. Sundays. Tin Roof Tacos, 115 S. Broadway Ave., puts more of a Tex-Mex spin on its tacos with barbecue brisket, pulled pork and baja shrimp. They even pour Texas-brewed Shiner Bock beer. This joint was featured by the Daily Meal as Idaho’s contribution to its Best Tacos in Every State feature. It also serves breakfast tacos filled with chorizo, jalapeno sausage or bacon and eggs. Open: 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Online orders taken.
▪ Boise’s Bodovino, at the corner of 8th and Broad streets, offers you as much fun as you can have with a wine glass. This self-serve wine bar literally lets you sip your way round the world of wine. You buy a card and then hit dispensing machines stocked with an array of wines from the Treasure Valley, the Northwest, California, Italy, France and beyond. The machines dole out 1-, 3- and 5-ounce pours ranging from $1.25 to more than $15 an ounce. The light-bite menu is a mix of cheeses, breads, nuts, olives and charcuterie, flat bread pizzas, sliders and salads. Open: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and until to 9 p.m. Sundays.