We’re back, and we’re in Boise! We figured it was time to show some love to our readers in the Potato State. Don’t consider Boise much of a food city? We’re here to convince you otherwise. Boise restaurants feature a Michelin-starred chef, several James Beard nominees, and some under-the-radar gems that serve up incredible eats without the accolades.
The Boise area is growing fast, and the food scene is keeping pace. Read on for the very best restaurants in Boise and the surrounding Treasure Valley area!
14. ITALIAN: ALAVITA
Alavita is the newest restaurant from the people behind the well-loved Boise establishment, Fork. The menu varies according to what’s available seasonally but always maintains a focus on fresh, local ingredients, honoring their motto “loyal to local.” Start with a build-your-own battilardo (AKA charcuterie) board, and pick from a variety of meats and cheeses to pair with warm, crunchy crostini bread. For your main, go for the pasta; all of their noodles are hand-made fresh daily. If you’re there during the summer months, we love the pappardelle served with a light and fresh cherry tomato sauce, broccolini, spicy pork sausage, and topped with freshly grated Grana Padano cheese. Or, go for the decadent squid ink ravioli with poached shrimp in a rich, creamy lemon sauce.
13. TACOS: ANTONIO’S KITCHEN
One of the best Boise restaurants isn’t an actual restaurant, but a food truck located in West Boise. With a nice shaded seating area and fast service, Antonio’s is a killer spot for a quick lunch. Our favorite item on the menu is the carne asada taco, simple and succulent with tender, well-seasoned steak. Another sure-to-please item is the beef quesa birria tacos, crispy and gooey with cheese, and served with a side of consomme for dipping to maximize the flavor. Note: their salsa is fiery hot, so pour with caution.
12. SEAFOOD: LITTLE PEARL OYSTER BAR
Boise is not a place where it is easy to serve fresh seafood, but Little Pearl has figured it out. This small, hip downtown restaurant has a limited menu with fresh fish flown in daily. The oyster selection varies by the day with both East and West Coast options. Ask your server for the rundown on what is briney, buttery, salty, or sweet, and order to your taste! For your main course, we love the cioppino to sample a bit of everything. It features the catch of the day, mussels, scallops, shrimp, and chorizo swimming in a rich lobster broth with a side of warm bread.
11. BURGER: WYLD CHILD
For a smart, speedy lunch, head to Wyld Child on the Boise bench, a trendy, fast-casual spot that offers burgers, chicken sandwiches, and salads at a wallet-friendly price. We love the Wyld Style burger with savory and slightly-sweet bacon jam, black garlic dijonnaise, and thick, melted gruyere cheese on a soft buttery bun, and the (very) crispy chicken sandwich with house-made pickles, sweet onions, and swiss cheese with a tart malt vinegar aioli. Grab a side of sweet potato waffle fries and ridiculously good housemade ranch dip (we like to get extra ranch for our chicken sandwich). Expect to get your food quickly, but if you want a snack while you wait, order some creamy pimento cheese dip and chips.
10. AMERICAN: BRICK 29 BISTRO
On the third floor of an old brick building in downtown Nampa sits one of the best restaurants in Boise. Brick 29 offers self-described “elevated comfort food” from a James Beard-nominated chef. Choose from classic entrees like steak and mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and pork chops, and be prepared to drift away—each item is rich, hearty, and will put you in the mood for a satisfying nap. We especially love the enormous, juicy pork chop topped with a sweet blueberry compote and served with crispy Brussels sprouts roasted with bacon – yum!
9. BASQUE: ANSOTS BASQUE CHORIZOS
Did you know Boise has one of the largest Basque communities in the US? (Quick geography note—the Basque Country is a region in northern Spain.) The Basque population in Boise is large enough that there’s an area in Boise known as the Basque Block with, you guessed it, excellent food. Basque food is most similar to Spanish food, so you can get authentic and delicious tapas, croquettes, and paella in downtown Boise! Try Ansots, a tiny cafe hidden in plain sight on Main Street. Ansots is not just on our guide because it is a novelty—we are 100% sure you will love the food! Start with a few tapas to share—we love the jamon croquettes (crispy, deep-fried bites of bechamel sauce and bits of Jamon), and the potatoes bravas (crispy potatoes drizzled with a spicy tomato sauce and paired with creamy aioli). Follow that with a Bocadillo (Spanish sandwich) featuring house-cured meats. We love the chistorra featuring a housemade smoky sausage, grilled onions, and pimento peppers served on a chewy baguette.
Located in the heart of downtown, Fork is a local hot spot that offers farm-to-table American food. We love the Boise Chopped Salad with smoked salmon, arugula, dried corn, tomatoes, and cous cous topped with a housemade basil buttermilk dressing. For something a little heartier, go for the urban burger with a side of signature rosemary-parmesan Idaho fries. Make sure you save room for dessert—the warm butter cake is moist and melts on your tongue, and is served with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries. It’s a heavenly combination.
7. EMPANADAS: TANGO’S EMPANADAS
This little hole-in-the-wall type restaurant is a longtime favorite of locals and offers a huge bang for your buck with big, flavorful, perfectly-flaky empanadas at an affordable price. Tango’s has two locations, one on the Boise Bench, and one in Meridian. The owner is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and ran a thriving empanada restaurant with her husband in Mexico City before moving to Boise, where their empanadas have been celebrated ever since. The menu might be overwhelming (with over 50 possible combinations, including vegetarian options), but we love the El Puerco with pulled pork, mild green salsa, and potatoes, the Chimicarne with juicy steak and chimichurri sauce, and two Argentinian classics: the Gaucho with ground beef and potatoes, and the Salenta, which takes the Gaucho up a level adding onion and eggs. Finish off your meal with a dessert empanada for a sweet ending!
6. SANDWICHES AND SALADS: LEMON TREE CO.
With three locations in the Treasure Valley, Lemon Tree is known for its creative sandwiches and salads. Expect to be surprised by the ingredients on their sandwiches; these sandwiches are bold and risky, validating their motto, “sandwiches with a twist.” The most popular sandwich is the turkey Boursin with thick-cut turkey, house Boursin cheese, and cherry preserves; it’s reminiscent of Thanksgiving leftovers, but even better. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try a less traditional sandwich like the vegan massaman curry bahn mi or the gold medal-worthy sausage and pear sandwich with fresh sausage crumbles, thinly sliced pears, light, whipped goat cheese, and a bittersweet fennel jam. All sandwiches come with chips, tomato soup, or a side salad—we’re partial to the beet and goat cheese salad—and most entrees can be customized to be vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free.
5. BAKERY: JANJOU PÂTISSERIE
Dreaming of Paris? You can get a taste right here in Boise! Home to two-time semi-finalist for the James Beard award for best baker, Janjou is as good as you can get outside of the streets of France. You’ll have a hard decision to make when ordering at the tantalizing display case, but you simply can’t go wrong with any of the tarts or pastries here. We are especially found of the Laurel—a crumbly tart with a shortbread crust, almond cake, and sweet raspberry confit. Although the focus is on sweets, do not miss out on a slice of melt-in-your-mouth quiche or the savory Croque Monsieur croissant, both of which are served warm. Pro tip: go early or order ahead of time (pre-orders must be placed at least two days in advance) to be sure you get one of their most popular pastries because they sell out regularly!
4. BRUNCH: CERTIFIED KITCHEN + BAKERY
Certified Kitchen + Bakery in the North End is an ideal spot to grab a quick meal, offering all-day breakfast, salads, sandwiches, and a wide variety of baked goods. Get a sandwich to go and explore one of the cutest areas in Boise! You’ll want one of everything, but our go-to is the simple but impeccable Certified Egg Sandwich, made up of fluffy eggs, arugula, and a creme fraiche spread on a delicate homemade English muffin. We recommend upgrading to add bacon, avocado, and tomato to really take it over the top. Be sure to add a pastry or one of their famous starchip cookies—a chocolate chip pecan cookie—to round out your meal.
3. PIZZA: THE WYLDER
Although a relative newcomer, The Wylder is already a local favorite and one of the best restaurants in Boise. Known for their 52-year-old sourdough crust starter, The Wylder serves the best pizza in the area as well as some delectable light appetizers. Start with their housemade ricotta paired with seasonal preserves and levain toast. If you can’t get enough of their ricotta (it’s amazing), it’s also served on their best pizza, the honey badger, with Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and a drizzle of spicy honey on sourdough crust. For something on the lighter side, the Wylder offers excellent salads; we love the market vegetable salad with crisp, seasonal produce and a spot-on creamy buttermilk ranch.
2. UPSCALE MEXICAN: AMANO
We have good and bad news for all the Mexican food lovers in Boise. The good news is that the Treasure Valley is home to an elite upscale Mexican restaurant. The bad news is that it’s a bit of a drive if you’re coming from Boise, but we promise it’s well worth it! Built into an old bank in up-and-coming downtown Caldwell, Amano offers a fine dining experience with a great ambiance and absolutely incredible Mexican food. Everything here is delicious, but if you are a fan of mole, the mole negro with short rib is a must-order. The short rib is fork-tender, the mole is perfectly smooth with just the right balance of sweet and savory, and it is paired with a yucca mash and purple corn tortillas. Or try the L.A. birria tacos with slow braised beef and oaxaca cheese, crispy on the outside and bursting with melted cheese and savory slow-braised beef. We also recommend the beachy baja cali fish tacos and the savory vegetarian enchiladas verde.
1. FINE DINING: THE LIVELY
The Lively is the best restaurant in Boise, and it will make anyone a true believer in the Boise food scene. Expect great service, a beautiful interior, and, most importantly, unbelievable food in a stately building in Downtown Boise. The menu showcases the Michelin-starred chef’s breadth of skill, inspired by his Italian heritage, his time in Japan, and his new home in Idaho. While the Lively offers a small menu that varies seasonally, we recommend looking out for some of these consistent dishes that encapsulate the restaurant. From Japan, look for a dish featuring fish flown in every morning from the chef’s favorite fish market in Tokyo, often in the form of sashimi. From Italy, try the lasagna, which, among other clever tricks, features bechamel sauce in place of ricotta, making the lasagna creamy and refined. And from the Potato State, order the chicken and mashed potatoes with moist, luscious chicken, shitake mushrooms, and pristine mashed potatoes. For the perfect ending, finish off your meal with the blueberry Basque cheesecake topped with caramelized rice krispies. The whole meal is *chef’s kiss*.