5 iconic Boise eats


Hello my friends. Hope you're hungry because today's story is all about food. Iconic Boise foods to be specific. This fun story was written by Julie Sarasqueta. You can listen to me read it on the podcast. Enjoy!

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Brought to you by The Morrison Center, Lost Grove Brewing, and St. Luke's Health Plan, Neighborhood Concert Series 2024 kicks off tomorrow, June 12!

5 Iconic Boise Eats

By Julie Sarasqueta

In the pantheon of iconic Boise foods, you have your deep-fried finger steaks, your ice cream potatoes, your crispy fries. Delicious, every one. But here in the City of Trees we are blessed with long-term establishments that boast their own legends — the stalwarts that have fed generation after generation of hungry folks. These five don’t constitute an exhaustive list by any means, but if you’re in search of Boise menu icons, these are a fine place to start.

The Stagecoach Inn’s Bar Prawns

Concept bars pop up and fold. Trendy restaurants dive into precious ingredients and serious presentations. But the Stagecoach Inn, to the great relief of its staunchly loyal customers, is unyielding in its resistance to change. This Garden City institution has been serving up dishes like massive ribeyes and liver and onions and broasted chicken and homemade salad dressings since 1959. When the place shuttered in 2014 after the original owners retired, the outpouring of grief was real — tributes were written, tears were shed, substitutions were sought but never quite found. Luckily, Wanda Martinat, the owner of Goldy’s, stepped in with other investors and bought the place. After a very conservative upgrade of the original dark-red upholstery and a fresh carpet installation, the Stagecoach rode again in 2015. Even Bruna, one of the most legendary servers the Boise area has ever seen, came back to work.

And man, has it taken off since. On any given night, you’ll have to stake out one of the coveted bar-side booths or tables or put your name in for a table in the main dining room. There are no reservations, and the people at the next table over might include the governor or a family celebrating a matriarch’s 80th birthday. When Mike Baker, chairman of Portman Square Group, went on Fox News and proclaimed it “the finest bar/restaurant establishment in the country,” he was preaching to the local choir.

Part of what keeps folks coming in is the restaurant’s signature bar prawns, a dish so legendary that it is permanently advertised on the restaurant’s low-slung exterior. They’ve been on the menu since the 1950s because they are practically perfect: huge jumbo prawns, hand deveined and butterflied by the Stagecoach kitchen staff, then breaded and fried until the exterior is a crunchy golden brown and the inside is plump and juicy. Each one is served with a lemon, a little plastic dish of cocktail sauce and another of tartar sauce. At about $6 each they’re not exactly cheap, but hey. Someone has to make each one of those little suckers.

Dorothy’s Tongue at Ansot’s

In the early 1990s, when Dan Ansotegui opened Bar Gernika, his mom, Dorothy, would take over the kitchen to prepare a traditional Basque dish: beef tongue. It became a cult hit, and its status was further enhanced by its scarcity — it was available on Saturdays and only until supplies ran out.

I had never seen tongue on a menu before, but it was something my dad’s Basque-American family absolutely loved — it was a dish a grandma would make. That was part of the appeal, Ansotegui says. It was popular with people across cultures: “In their family they had it, and so those people were like, ‘Oh, man, this is so good!’,” he remembers. “ ‘It’s a little different than the way we do it, but it’s delicious.’ It’s really fun to reintroduce people to something they may have grown up with.”

Ansotegui sold Bar Gernika to Jeff May, the current owner, years ago, and Dorothy’s recipe stayed on the menu. But when Ansotegui discovered Bar Gernika was no longer offering the dish, he added it onto the menu of his current eatery, Ansot’s Basque Chorizos and Catering.

Dorothy passed away several years ago, but the tongue recipe hews closely to her recipe, which she learned from Ansotegui’s grandparents. “My dad’s dad was a really good cook, and my mom’s mom was a really good cook, and so my mom kind of learned from both of them,” Ansotegui says.

It’s not a quick dish. The meat is cooked over three to three and a half hours, then pan fried, then simmered in a savory sauce of blended tomatoes and a classically Basque pepper. “The main ingredient is a part of so many different dishes — choricero pepper sauce,” he says. “The fact that we make that sauce from the dried choricero peppers is such a vital part of it. That’s the surprise thing. If you don’t use that, you’re never going to get it quite right.”

Ansot’s serves the tongue with Acme bread to soak up all that precious sauce. All that time and labor comes down to a $14 dish that will convert even squeamish friends into converts.

Gil’s K-9’s Mountain of Crab

Gil’s K-9 is one of those IYKYK places. If you don’t, you’ll vaguely recall it as that ’70s looking bar on Main Street in West Downtown, the one with the marquee sign out front that proclaims the day’s special. On Fridays, the sign usually reads: “Crab. 6ish. Yep.”

But if you do know it — well, you’re probably at the bar by 4 p.m. on Friday to secure one of the coveted tables or spots along the long bar so you can put in your crab order early. After one of the K-9’s dangerously large martinis (seriously, you need to be a professional drinker to attempt two), you’ll be ready to tuck into the most obscene seafood dish you’ve ever laid eyes on.

The “crab” at the K-9 is actually a tower. A mountain. A glut. Shortly after 6 p.m., your server will deliver a clear glass goblet lined with lettuce leaves. This is the bed upon which a vertiginous pile of fresh Dungeness crab cocktail perches, the sweet meat dotted with crunchy celery. The entire thing is ringed with jumbo prawns and a splash of tangy cocktail sauce.

I have never successfully finished the crab cocktail, but I have tried and tried again. I’ve also paid anywhere from a reasonable amount to a small fortune — the entire dish is market price. Here’s another IYKYK things about the K-9: Weekend brunch. I live just a couple of blocks from the K-9 and it is my go-to brunch spot on Saturdays and Sundays. My standard order is the seafood benedict, made with Friday’s crab and shrimp piled onto a buttered English muffin, topped with perfectly poached eggs and absolutely slathered in hollandaise. *chef’s kiss*

SPONSORED BY ROLLING HILLS VINEYARD

Need a plan for the weekend?

Head over to Rolling Hills urban tasting room in Garden City!

Rolling Hills Vineyard’s bright & beautiful tasting room offers award-winning wines and a menu full of snacks that are perfect for sharing. Get a charcuterie board to pair with the extensive wine list. They have NA picks as well! Plus they have a gorgeous patio for these sunny summer days.

Lock Stock & Barrel’s Barrel Steak

Lock Stock & Barrel has been serving up steaks for 47 years — and among the traditional favorites is a steak that is the Energizer Bunny of menu items: the Barrel Steak. It’s the most consistent menu item and it’s downright addictive, a dish so good that owner Scott Singelyn and his family never tire of it.

“It’s my favorite,” he says. “And it’s my family’s favorite steak. I take one home all the time, and I’ve tried every steak on the menu — obviously — 1,000 times.”

And obviously, Singelyn’s customers agree. The Barrel Steak has been on the restaurant’s menu since the beginning. Singelyn is only the second owner of Lock Stock & Barrel, and the dish predates him. The previous owner worked for a restaurant in Washington state that featured the dish that would become known as the Barrel Steak, and when he bought Lock Stock & Barrel he brought the recipe with him (with permission, Singelyn says).

It’s a simple recipe but one that’s tough to get right at home, Singelyn says; he’s never been able to properly replicate it in small batches. The restaurant wet ages the USDA Prime top sirloin for at least 30 days, then marinates the steak in a light beer (like a lager or pilsner), ginger, soy sauce, and garlic.

“The beer balances the soy, which can be very salty,” he says. “So you’ve got to watch out for that, and the beer kind of helps with that. And ginger is just a great item for proteins.”

The steak is sold in sizes ranging from 8 ounces to a gut-busting 24 ounces and served with a salad or soup, plus a choice of potato, rice or seasonal veggies. Singelyn will never take it off the menu.

“Changing things with the public is a dangerous game,” he says. “You know, it’s not like much here is my creation. I’m just the steward, the caretaker of this place.”

He hopes to eventually pass the restaurant on to someone who will appreciate its history and traditions, including the Barrel Steak.

“I expect this place to go on into perpetuity,” he says.

Fanci Freez’s Boston Shake

I remember the first time I had the Boston Shake from Fanci Freez. It felt so over-the-top and indulgent, which (of course), meant it would become one of my favorite things to eat in Boise. Ever. And I am not alone.

“The Boston Shake is kind of the crowning glory of all ice cream,” says Fanci Freez owner Bill Hawes.

Crowning glory is an apt way of putting it. The Boston Shake starts with a milkshake and is then topped with a soft-serve ice cream sundae. Its origins are highly debatable: Type “Boston shake” into Google and you’ll find plenty of establishments that claim they were the first to create it. One would assume it originated in Massachusetts, but who knows?

As Fanci Freez, the Boston Shake probably became a menu item in the ’60s or ’70s, “but it could be even still earlier,” he says.

The genius of the Boston Shake — aside from its decadence — is the endless flavor combinations. Fanci Freez recommends one of 35 flavors for the sundae, like cherry chip or toasted coconut or huckleberry or s’mores.

“We’ve found some interesting flavor combinations,” Hawes says, recalling a customer who ordered a pistachio watermelon shake. “I think it had a caramel sundae on top,” he says. “And I should probably try it before I knock it, but I figure, whatever floats your boat.”

The birthday cake flavor, a recent addition, has proven to be a big hit. What was less of a hit was the extra-large Boston Shake, which weighed in at a coma-inducing 44 ounces and which Hawes describes as “nearly impossible to eat.” That size has been retired.

After several decades, the Boston Shake is still evolving. Hawes says the ever-popular eatery is experimenting with a Red Bull Boston Shake.

“We haven’t figured it out just yet,” he says. “But we’re working on it.”

Thanks for reading & happy eating!

With love from Boise,

Marissa

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