If there are two things Idahoans absolutely love, it’s the great outdoors and incredible food, served with just a touch of hometown goodness. But we know how to eat outside the box as well! Truth be told, Idaho is a huge state, but it is absolutely bursting with incredible places to eat, whether you’re looking for a romantic evening or a cozy pub to catch up with friends. From every corner of the state and in every price range, you’ll find classic cuisine made awesome – but this is the best Idaho has to offer. You gave me the challenge of narrowing Idaho’s fantastic eats down to a top 10 – and here they are: your definitive Idaho restaurant “bucket list.”
1. Fork, Boise
One of downtown Boise's star restaurants is also one of Idaho's best and most locally-sourced eateries. What sets Fork apart is a commitment to "loyal to local" ingredients and dishes, which they even list on their website. With an ambiance that mimics the casual fine dining of more urban areas, and with freshness being such a key component to their meals, it's no wonder Fork and its sister Italian restaurant Alavita are rated so highly by diners. My recommendation? No matter your entree, try the fresh butter cake, served with real vanilla ice cream and berry coulis -- it's simply divine.
2. Satay Bistro, Coeur d'Alene
As a change of pace from other fine dining restaurants that are often large and upscale, Satay Bistro is unique in its comfortable - but far from crowded - atmosphere. A contemporary "diamond in the rough" according to diners, the trendy atmosphere is a welcome option in Northern Idaho that can't be beat. And their bread? To die for.
3. Kona Grill, Meridian
Idaho may not be known for its sushi options, nor for n abundance of Asian eateries, but Kona Grill is changing the scene of the downtown Meridian Village. The eclectic Asian-American inspired menu, complete with numerous seafood and sushi options mingled among a more diverse set of creatively blended entrees, stands above typical Idahoan fare. Modern, fresh, and unique, Kona is without a doubt one of Idaho's best chain options striving to bring just a touch of class and Asian flare to the inland West.
4. Chef Shane's Perspective, Idaho Falls
When your personal name is also in the name of your restaurant, it suits to say that you have the freedom to play artist with your menu - something Chef Shane does to absolute perfection. Innovative, ever-changing, and no doubt one of Idaho's best kept secrets, this hidden gem in Eastern Idaho combines Spanish, Caribbean, and French influences to make dishes you simply won't find anywhere else. In fact, Chef Shane's "perspective" on fine dining leaves no detail behind. Give the chef's menu and pairings a chance, and you'll no doubt leave in an entranced food coma because no matter what Chef Shane's whim is, it. Is. GOOD.
5. Brick 29 Bistro, Nampa
Comfort food reinvented is an understatement for this warm and industrial-chic bistro in old downtown Nampa. Featuring a small, craft menu that emphasizes cozy but unique eats, there's no way to go wrong with a meal at that not only sources local ingredients, but stays true to local spirits options as well. Chef Bristol's attention to quality and personalized service is what earns Brick 29 Bistro a spot on every "best restaurant" list.
6. Elevation 486, Twin Falls
We've featured Elevation 486 before, but there are simply no words to describe how magical this restaurant is. With a combination of stunning scenic canyon views and expertly prepared classic Northwest fare with a European twist, put simply, Elevation continues to top lists for good reason.
7. Sangria Grille, Moscow
Sangria Grille is perhaps one of the most unique restaurants on this list simply because they not only emphasize freshness and locality, but do so with a touch of whimsy. Owner/Chefs Carly and George utilize artistic plating and unique presentation to emphasize what will no doubt be the tastiest and most creative local menu you've ever experienced.
8 Baxters on Cedar, Sandpoint
The quaint story behind this eatery is heartfelt enough, but when that heartfelt passion translates into pub-style cooking, the results are not only spectacular, but personal on a whole new level. Diners rave that Tommy and Rich's food "tastes like love," while others simply label it a masterpiece. But whatever your choice of words, one bite of their Portobello Burger, Lobster, or housemade key lime pie is enough to make you forget about the so-called "food" found everywhere else.
9. Cristina's Restaurant, Ketchum
A local and visitor classic, Cristina's has been featured in dozens of Sun Valley magazines and reviews - and rightfully so. Owned by Cristina herself and inspired by her childhood in Tuscany, Cristina describes herself as a "Tuscan troublemaker," which is clear in every handcrafted dish on the menu. Every entree and desert is served with just a touch of attitude and old-world flair for a meal that makes for the perfect end (or beginning) to a day in the mountains.
10. Barbacoa, Boise
Barbacoa simply can't be praised enough for its unique atmosphere and Latin American-inspired menu, nor for its delightful and innovative presentation and gestures of showmanship. I can rave about the Hot Rock Filet and towering ice cream sculptures all day, but this Boise art noveau masterpiece is one that must be experienced in person to truly appreciate.
As new eateries open their doors and lure me in with delicious aromas of edible perfection, I simply can’t wait to explore Idaho’s food culture in every nook and cranny of the Gem State! What restaurant in Idaho is on your personal bucket list?