Downtown Boise may not be as bustling as Seattle, Portland or Vancouver but the mid-size city is growing its downtown with the 8th Street pedestrian zone of sidewalk cafes and restaurants as the hub. The area also contains the Basque Block, which gives visitors a glimpse at Basque heritage though bars, restaurants and a cultural center. When you’re not checking out the state capitol, Egyptian Theatre, the Boise Art Museum or Julia Davis Park, there are plenty of options to quench and satiate in this budding mid-size Northwest city.
Reserve a table at State & Lemp. || Before all else, reserve a seat for dinner at State & Lemp, one of Boise’s most lauded establishments. Beyond the museum-quality plate presentation, you’ll find a prix fixe menu of dishes like sturgeon with blood orange, kumquat, fennel, coffee,and smoke, and lentil salad made with sprouts, black trumpets, miner’s lettuce and fried egg aioli. Shut-ins and first-date couples be warned: the dining situation is communal.
Change your perception of Idaho wines at Split Rail. || Boise’s burgeoning wine district is located in nearby Garden City, a mere 10-minute bike ride from Boise on the Boise River Greenbelt. Nearly all of Garden City’s urban wineries are worth exploring, however, Split Rail is the one place to go that will change your perception of Idaho wines. Cans and growlers, slick branding and available varieties such as Cinsault and Dry Rosé Saignée are all coming out of this urban winery.
Sip the 10-Minute Martini at Chandlers Steakhouse. || The signature martini at Chandlers Steakhouse, located in Hotel 43, does indeed requires 10 minutes of preparation. What at first seems like a gimmick reveals itself as an incredibly smooth martini. One upside to waiting 10 minutes for a drink at Chandlers? Jazz bands entertain guests in the lounge seven days a week, regardless of martini wait time. Quite possibly more enticing is the chatter among solo travelers posted up at the bar.
Elbow in next to regulars at Red Feather Lounge. || Having been around since 2002, Red Feather Lounge is no secret to locals, especially those crowding the bar on a weeknight. Head in on a weekday (as the locals do) for the energy-saving “Low Power Happy Hour” were you can $3 Boise beer (except the expensive ones) and $5 local wine by candlelight.
Do as the Basque do at Bar Gernika. || At Bar Gernika, the cider is poured from green bottles held high above the glass, as the Basque do with their traditional and non-carbonated cider. (The customary act creates nature fizz once the cider hits the glass.) The croquetas are fried up crispy on the outside and piping hot, and gooey on the inside, also as the Basque do. The northern Spanish heritage is celebrated in Boise thanks to the largest residing Basque population in the U.S., and Bar Gernika seems to be the unofficial drinking hub for all things Euskadi.