Sunday, June 9, 2024

Weekend in Boise

Trip date: July 2023

My friend Aaron has been to almost every state in the US, he's only missing a few and Idaho was one. So last July, after reading about Kris Komori, the chef of KIN Restaurant in Boise, taking home the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Mountain region, we decided to meet up and have dinner there. Even though I grew up very close to the northern Idaho state line, I'd never been to the capitol city. I called the restaurant, because all of their online booking was completely full after their big news, and co-owner Remy found us a ressie after I explained we wanted to come to Boise just for dinner!

At SEA I checked out the Alaska C Gate lounge beforehand and even though it is small it is really nice with great cocktails and nice food options. Then it was just a 45 minute flight to BOI. Aaron's flight arrived just 10 minutes before mine so we were able to meet in the airport and share a ride to the hotel. 

We figured it was going to be pretty hot in Boise since we were going at the end of July, so we chose the Hyatt Place mainly as it had a pool and it wasn't ridiculously priced. This ended up being a great hotel! The rooms were really big, it was super centrally located, my room had a view of the capitol, and of course there was the pool.

After dropping our bags we headed out to one of Boise's growing number of wineries. Split Rail has a really cute tasting room but neither of us loved the wines. YMMV as wine is very subjective! 

We took a walk down the Riverwalk along the Boise River and watched people cooling off by surfing and paddle boarding. Boise is really easy to walk around in as it's very flat and at least most of the things we were checking out were quite centrally located. 

That evening before dinner we headed to The Modern Bar which is in the hotel by the same name. I absolutely loved my Celery & Smoke cocktail; tequila, mezcal, celery, lime, and agave! It was so refreshing and just perfectly balanced. Really great! The atmosphere of the bar was pretty meh for me though. Maybe it was because it was early evening? Maybe it would be better at night? Not sure but I would still stop in for a tasty drink!

Dinner at KIN was lovely. We got there a bit early and had a drink in a little waiting-like area. Then everyone found their seats at one of two communal tables. I really liked the set up, it gave you a chance to talk to others, but you had a designated seat. 

The set menu was 5-courses and we also chose the wine pairings. All the dishes were very good but I think my favorite was this rabbit with apricot, plum, umeboshi and Parisian gnocchi. 

After dinner we headed to one of Boise's many speakeasies (seriously, there are like 8 of them!). We found the ally and then the unmarked door, were let into a small library crowded with books, and then a bookcase opened and we were shown inside.  

We had made reservations at Gatsby but it didn't seem that busy on this Thursday evening and the space is quite large. The drinks are mostly takes on classics but with kitschy additions. My Josephine Baker (tequila, mezcal, chocolate bitters, agave, smoked) arrived in a chest which when opened was filled with smoke. 

It was a nice space and the drinks were well made and presented but they leaned a bit sweet for both of us. When you exit, you leave through a seperate door and find yourself also in an ally. 

The next morning we decided to walk to the Hyde Park neighborhood to check out Certified Kitchen which one of Aaron's friends had said have the "best english muffins in the world". We'd be the judge of that!

100% TRUTH! Damn! The english muffin was in fact the best I've had (better even than Model Bakery) and the bakery is super cute, has great coffee and a whole slew of other tasty treats. I'd say this is a must-stop-at while in Boise. And the neighborhood is lovely as well; great for strolling.

It was another hot day so we decided to cool off like the locals do- on a raft in the the Boise River! I had spent most of my summers, from high school until my late 20's, on a tube in rivers around eastern and western Washington, so I was very excited!  

Aaron had ordered a couple of beach towels from Amazon that had been delivered to the hotel, we bought some cold canned beverages from the lobby store and filled a plastic laundry bag with ice, then had an Uber take us to Barber Park where we rented our gear


We each had our own tube and paddle and spent the next 2 hours floating 6-miles down the very chilly river. It was soooo fun!! The river actually has 3 class-2 rapids, all in the first half of the float, so those paddles came in handy! 

Aaron had left our towels in the sealed plastic bag they had come in so that when we reached the take-out we would have them to dry off with. Unfortunately as he was getting out of his tube in the river the plastic ripped and both towels soaked up as much water as possible! It was sooo funny as we were pretty wet at the end and were planning on toweling off and calling an Uber to take us back to the hotel. We ended up walking back since it would have been really rude to be dripping wet in someone's car!

Back at the hotel we decided to cool back off with a quick swim before getting cleaned up for our night on the town! 

Our big bar crawl night started at, you guessed it, another speakeasy! Thick as Thieves had pineapple daiquiris on their $10 happy hour menu and that is exactly what I wanted in the sweltering early evening heat! We found the door in a parking lot, marked only by two birds, used the old-timey telephone inside to gain entrance to the cozy den, planning on just having one and then moving on. 

As soon as we sat down at the bar though we were both instantly charmed by the bartenders, the menu, and then the drinks. We started with the happy hour menu, then started reading thru the regular menu, and then were handed flashlights which decoded secret offerings!

We had a ball! And truly, to find a bar of this caliber in Boise was just amazing! Thick as Thieves would be right at home in Seattle, LA, or New York. Highly recommend!

We exited through a back door into another ally and made our way to Bar Guernica in the Basque Block for an early dinner. We knew that Boise has the 3rd largest population of Basque people (they came to the area about 200 years ago to herd sheep), what we didn't know was that the San Inazio Festival was going on!

Because of the large crowds the menu was more casual, but we still had some delicious croquettas and fried peppers and Aaron got the lamb grinder while I got the chorizo sausage roll. And we washed it all down with a bottle of txakoli wine, just like you'd do in the mother country!

Afterwards we joined the festivities which are in honor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the patron saint of the Basques. There were musicians, and dancers, and stands selling pretty much the same things we had just eaten. It was fun!

But we had a cocktail crawl to get back to so we said agur and walked to Press & Pony. Surprisingly, not a speakeasy, but still an old-timey western vibe going on. Aaron and I grabbed a couple of stools at the bar and ordered a drink. The bar was about half full and all of a sudden some guy who was in a group of about 6 announced that he was buying everyone a shot! Now I have been in a lot of bars over the years, and I've had many free drinks, but I've never been in a bar when an average customer bought a round for everyone! 

The bartenders made some juicy shots, each with a gummy bear in it. That's the way they roll at Press & Pony! haha!

Aaron loves a tiki bar, which is what Devil's Den promoted themselves as, so that is where we headed next. They were doing Christmas in July with full on decorations and waitresses in costumes, which could be fun, but the drinks were so bad nothing could save it. I see that they are now closed permanently so I don't have to bother telling you just how bad it was.

Finally we met my friend Jeritt, who lives in Boise, at the bar at the newly re-opened Avery Hotel. Tiner’s Alley was still working out their menu when we were there but our drinks were good and the space was very fun. I'd be more than happy to go back and check it out again if I return to Boise. 

On our last day our flights did not leave until almost 7pm so we got one more full day to explore. We started by walking to Janjou Patisserie for some delicious morning treats. The cases were full of temping things but I finally decided on a gorgeous strawberry and pistachio tart. It was very good!

We made a stop at the farmer's market, which seemed to have a lot of tasty lunch options but we had lunch plans back in town so we just walked around for a bit. 

We had our Uber driver drop us off at The Wylder for pizza lunch. It's a really great space, very big so would be excellent for groups, and the pizza was soooo good. Mine was cacio e pepe! We could not finish the pies so we took the rest home and I can say mine made a great late dinner.


We walked back towards our hotel, passing thru the San Inazio Festival again, this time there were displays of the wagons the sheep herders lived in. Then to the last cocktail bar on our list, Water Bear -woman owned and operated.

What a fantastic bar this is! The interior is filled full with house plants & books, and is a very welcoming space. And the drinks were delicious! They have an Old Fashioned of the day (brilliant idea!) as well as a full menu of classics and classy riffs on classics. We ended up staying for 2 rounds and if I get back to Boise it will be my 2nd stop (right after Thick as Thieves!)

We had been chatting with the bartender about how cool Boise seemed, even though it was such a conservative state, and she told us how it is still legal to carry a concealed, loaded handgun in public without a permit as long as you are over 18!! Holy hell!! Then at the airport we saw this on the doors:

So yes, Boise was very fun and delicious, but laws like this are real head scratchers to me in this day and age.

I was upgraded to first class on the way home which is always nice. It was a very small plane and a super quick flight and I had an amazing view of Rainier, St. Helens, and Adams coming into Seattle. 

All Boise photos here

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Weekend in Boise

Trip date: July 2023 My friend Aaron has been to almost every state in the US, he's only missing a few and Idaho was one. So last July, ...

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