The national press has been increasingly kind to Boise, Idaho including a recent writeup in the New York Times that described it as a formerly “hardscrabble” town that now “combines remnants of frontier charm with an appreciation of fine food, local history and Basque culture.” Indeed, the city has become a bit of a darling by those that previously discoved the larger Pacific Northwest cities of Seattle and Portland. The increased notoriety leads us to getting emails from friends and customers asking what to do when visiting Boise. Here is how one might spend a Saturday night on our town.
Downtown Boise has two main nexus points for dining and nightlife. A complete Saturday night could be contained to 8th Street between Main and Jefferson.
A great night on the town starts with great food and 8th Street does not disappoint. The evening could start with a stop at Fork Restaurant which bills itself as “loyal to local.” Fork was one of the first “farm to table” restaurants in the area as the local food revolution began to take hold. The emphasis here is on things raised, grown and made in Idaho including beers, wines and spirits.
Two alternatives for great grub on the same side of the street one block north are Juniper and Matador. The former is named for the berries which are the primary ingredient in gin which inspires their drink program. Our favorites here are the Korean spiced short ribs and their Hot Ham and Raclette Club sandwich featuring locally made Snake River Farms ham. Matador is about “scratch Mexican cuisine and hand crafted cocktails along with the most diverse selection of Tequilas.” Start with the Matador Guacamole before branching out to the extensive entree menu. We enjoy the various burritos and enchiladas. One benefit of Matador is that they have a late Happy Hour and serve food on the late side which makes them a favorite for those who work at other establishments grabbing a bite on the way home.
Cross 8th Street and you can visit Red Feather Lounge that the team there describes as “serving seasonal American cuisine, fresh interpretations of the classic cocktail, and an atmosphere inspired by our great lounge ancestors of eternal swank.” Start with their Grilled Kale Salad which is one of our favorite dishes in Boise then try their pizzas or the Idaho Seared Trout.
While the food is worth a stop, many visit just for the craft cocktail selection which is one of the best in the Northwest. Pull up a seat at the bar and order your pick of their award winning drinks.
After dining, it is time to hit the town a bit but a walk around the area is a great way to burn a few calories and let the food settle before turning things up a notch or two. Next to Juniper is the entrance to the Freak Alley which is the largest outdoor art gallery in the Northwest.
At first glance, Freak Alley appears to be an uninviting and seedy urban passthrough but the alley is well lit and demands exploration of the colorful space.
The art changes constantly and a visit to the area in the late afternoon will have you able to watch the artistic process close up. It is likely that you will run into amateur or professional photographers who use Freak Alley as a backdrop for their work. With the food settling, it is time to head back out to 8th Street for a visit to Fatty’s Bar.
The entrance to Fatty’s is next to a pizza parlor that gets really busy after the bars close but find the door and head upstairs. Getting here on the early side is a good idea to beat the crowd that comes to dance as a DJ gets everyone moving to the beat.
By now, the wee hours and last call approach and you have had a complete evening in the great city of Boise. The only thing left is to head back down stairs and grab a slice of pizza at the Pie Hole before calling for that Uber or walking across the street to grab a cab. Get home safe and come back soon. Boise is always a good time.