It’s an undeniable truth that food brings people together. It’s also the way to many a (wo)man’s heart, including this gal’s. But what’s fabulous food without an incredible dining experience to match?
Outside of Idaho, there is one particular oblong tuber that the Gem State has come to be known for, but few people know that Idaho has also experienced a recent awakening of big city food culture. From romantic fine dining to international cuisine, here are 14 of Idaho’s top restaurants that have the perfect blend of delicious eats and distinct, award-winning atmospheres.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Bacon, Boise: For the Love of, you know, Bacon
John Berryhill Restaurants
In addition to eight different flavors of house-cured bacon, daily offerings include an out of this world bacon lasagna, bacon-centric sandwiches, and of course, bacon Bloody Marys. Housed under the same roof as its Boise-original sister restaurant, Berryhill & Co., Bacon is a food experience that will have bacon-lover and connoisseurs' mouths watering.
From sweet-savory chile and sugar strips, to the flavor explosion of Kurobuta laced with lavender, alone or in a dish, Bacon's bacon is sure to please, while the vibrant bistro-like setting is an added treat that gives bacon the spotlight it so richly deserves. You can't spell happiness without Bacon. Figuratively. Now go forth, fellow carnivores, and eat the meat of the gods!
2. Beverly's, Coeur d'Alene: The Elegant Resort Destination
When it comes to fine dining, stunning decor, and breathtaking lake views, Beverly's is hard to beat. Perched on the 7th floor of the Coeur d'Alene resort, the 5-star experience is flawlesss from start to finish with perfected customer service, panoramic views, fine linens, and one of the largest wine cellars in the entire Northwest.
Beverly's elegant and well-rounded menu features perfectly plated dishes with a Northwest flair. From artisan appetizers to brown sugar glazed New Zealand lamb to the elegant seafood tower, no detail is spared. Add in the soft lighting and romantic ambiance and you have a special occasion fit for
3. Bella Aquila, Eagle: The Magical Garden Experience
Bella Aquila Ristorante/Facebook
For a truly exquisite outdoor dining experience, Bella Aquila sets the bar. Urban, chic, and tucked away in its own resort-like private oasis (waterfalls included), this incredible restaurant is sure to impress on your next date night.
Bella Aquila Ristorante/Facebook
From pesto-crusted ribeye to pork osso bucco, to vibrant salads so fresh you'll actually enjoy your vegetables, Bella Aquila has their presentation and atmosphere down to perfection.
4. The Haven, Ketchum: A Fresh and Modern Mobile Refuge
A food truck on a top-restaurants list? While Boise explores the possibility of opening a food truck district, up north, Kellee Havens has already brought mobile foodie culture to local residents of Ketchum. Featuring a rotating, seasonal selection of thoughtful and fresh-made eats, carefully prepared under the culinary expertise of Havens, Ketchum's one and only neon green food truck is a vibrant staple that has been bringing locals together since 2013.
From classic mac and cheese to vegan tostadas, The Haven offers an inspired array of options for every taste, which are best enjoyed in the company of fellow lunch-breakers over ping pong and coffee at neighboring Play Hard Give Back while enjoying the scenic mountains in the distance. It's a casual, authentically and quintessentially "Idaho" gem that is worth every side trip.
5. State & Lemp, Boise: Tasteful, Elegant, and Unexpectedly Social
Rightfully hailed as "Modern Eclectic. Dining," State & Lemp plays host to what is undoubtedly Idaho's most innovative social dynamic: a communal and minimalist -- yet highly personalized -- eating experience like no other. Here, in a cozy corner of downtown Boise, strangers come together, seated by similar occasion, and share in the same five-course meal in an intimate and modern atmosphere that caters equally to couples and singles.
Established in 2014 after their success as pop-up restaurateurs, State & Lemp owners Remi Mcmanus and Jay Henry pride themselves on creating an unforgettable dining experience from start to finish by incorporating exquisitely prepared five-star fare with delectable dishes that push boundaries and challenge comfort zones. With a fresh, local menu that changes every few weeks, and under the creative vision of chef Kris Komori, every dish at State & Lemp is plated to artistic perfection and is almost too lovely to eat. But you will.
6. Warbirds Cafe, Driggs: The Unforgettable Dining Adventure
While not widely known outside of Teton Valley circles, tucked away in the quaint town of Driggs, right on the Idaho-Wyoming border, sits a picturesque gem that has been quietly serving up delicious meals and delightful experiences for years: the Warbirds Cafe at the Driggs-Reed Memoriable Airport. Here, incredible views of the blue-tinged Tetons are always in season, whether dining inside in the polished dining room or on the quaint patio. But what truly sets Warbirds apart is the full-length airstrip running alongside the diner, making for a spectacular view of small planes taking off and landing while you dine.
If that isn't enough, an expansive wine list is offered in addition to a delicious menu of Northwest classics. Bonus: if you plan to jet off to a distant land, Warbirds can can turn your meal into an adventure with a scenic airplane or glider ride while you dine in-air! Either way, you can finish up with a grand tour of vintage war planes.
7. Trinity at City Beach, Sandpoint: A One of a Kind Waterfront Experience
Spectacular panoramic mountain views, a private piece of Lake Pend Oreille's sandy City Beach, and a refreshing bevy of seafood selections that include Lobster Ravioli and Mahi Mahi all make for an unforgettable dining experience in Sandpoint.
Fortunately for Sandpoint visitors and residents alike, this slice of Idaho heaven is open all day, so you can take your choice of catching one of Northern Idaho's breathtaking sunrises, vivid sunsets, or simply soak up the afternoon rays over your meal.
8. Pioneer Saloon, Ketchum: Idaho's Premier Old West Experience
A throwback to Idaho's Native American, rustic, and sportsman past, Pioneer Saloon does kitsch right from start to finish with its cozy western decor and down-home grub.
Once a casino, a meeting hall, and even an antique store, the Pioneer doesn't stray far from its western roots with its retro mini-curio displays of Idaho history, its regional meat and potato classics, and unique old-Idaho ambiance. But the real delight is in the 1800's congenial saloon vibe: authentic fare, renowned prime rib, and fresh margaritas, as well as some of the biggest Idaho baked potatoes you've ever seen. This is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience old-school Idaho done right.
9. Chandler's, Boise: The King of Ambiance
Quite possibly Idaho's most infamous fine dining restaurant, and rightfully so, Chandler's soft, jazz club atmosphere, oil lamp ambiance, and flawless service have all added up to years of being ranked as one of America's best steakhouses.
The live, nightly entertainment -- often from upscale Boise locals -- swanky decor, and palette perfection entrees all add up to an unforgettable and romantic experience that is simply divine. Eat there once, and you'll daydream about it every day for weeks afterwards.
10. BJ's Bayou, Roberts: The Everyday Mardi Gras Party
Tucked away in an eye-catching brick building in small-town Idaho, you certainly wouldn't expect to find authentic Nawlins cooking, let alone a hopping jazz scene, Mardi Gras celebrations, and an affinity for (live) alligators. But this is one super-secret gem that you definitely won't want to miss! Especially when you catch a dinner theater reenactment of the historic hauntings of the old Roberts Hotel that houses this unique Louisiana eatery.
Red beans and rice? Check. Jambalaya? Check. Crawfish, shrimp, and hand-cut sausage? Y'all know this is the best place to find it! But add in fresh muffaletta sandwiches, homemade pies, and diverse beer selections, this unique southern delight will wake you up if you weren't already.
11. Baxters on Cedar, Sandpoint: A Personalized, Modern Getaway
A warm, exposed brick interior lends a swanky niche vibe to one of Sandpoint's top-rated eateries, which consistently lands the #1 spot on TripAdvisor's "Best" list. Diners rave about the service, the cozy atmosphere, and the unique fare that can't be found anywhere else -- coffee-rubbed pork chops, you say?
But no matter which tasty main course dish you choose, one consensus is clear: Baxters' house Key Lime Pie game is on point and unrivaled. Fresh, perfectly tart, and featuring a candied lime zest and Instagram-worthy presentation, this meal finale alone makes this suave getaway a must-visit.
12. Forty-One South, Sagle: The Innovative Lakeside Experience
Nestled in snowy Sagle on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, Forty-One South brings together all of the romance and charm of a rustic mountain lodge setting with picture-perfect waterfront views and unique cuisine that captures Idaho's character to a tee.
Enjoy your Carmelized Goat Cheese, Duck Confit, or Peanut Butter Mousse Cake while gazing across the crystal clear lake to the muted lights of neighboring Sandpoint. Whether enjoying the ambiance of the wood dining space or relishing the fresh air on the lakeside deck, Forty-One South's incredible setting just outside the city makes this cozy eatery all the more romantic without the bustle of downtown resort life.
13. Cedars Floating Restaurant, Coeur d'Alene: Because Dining Lakeside is Too Mainstream
Speaking of beaches, when it comes to fine dining experiences, waterfront views are a rare but elegant bonus. Enter Cedars: the down-to-earth eatery that doesn't just let you look at the water from afar, but experience Idaho's great outdoors and wildlife up close and personal.
A 360-degree dining space and massive heated deck makes for an incredible yacht-like experience, where you can not only enjoy the freshest seafood -- visitors love the Cedar Plank Salmon! -- but mayhaps even watch the ducks float right by your table. While Cedars isn't Idaho's only floating restaurant, it's an Idaho original that lives up to its long-standing reputation in the best way.
14. Barbacoa, Boise: A Latin American-Art Noveau Masterpiece
There are no words to describe the sheer artful awesomeness that is Barbacoa Grill. With a Latin American-inspired menu that combines south of the border heat with a robust menu that features dry-aged beef and upscale, creative dishes, this artistic gem seated on the banks of Boise's Parkcenter Pond boasts an unrivaled dining experience that will leave you enchanted in all the right ways.
From the table-side guacamole prepared fresh before your eyes, to the "Hot Rock" fillet mignon which comes to your table sizzling on a 700-degree rock slab, to the massive back-lighted liquor wall, Barbacoa's food and drink game is clearly on point. But what sets this fusion restaurant apart from the competition, and what truly makes the experience so spectacular, is the funky south desert-Euro-artsy vibe and overall presentation. Local artwork, handcrafted authentic decor, sculptures, and glass work are all tastefully combined with wood, fire, and water features in every nook and cranny of Barbacoa's dining space.
Already sophisticated and impressive down to the last detail in terms of food and decor, the added showmanship of openly-prepared side dishes, bar seating to watch the chefs craft their show-stopping masterpieces, and elegant table options, including the rooftop patio, every detail is carefully crafted to add to the fine dining ambiance. A seat under the tumultuous tresses of Medusa, anyone?
Our big-little panhandled oasis has an incredible selection of restaurants to choose from.This is just the first list of many, so stay turned as we explore more of Idaho’s mouth-watering dining gems!
Which Idaho restaurant keeps you coming back because of the food and atmosphere? Comment below!