Whether you’re visiting a place for the first time or are ready to settle down permanently, it takes time to understand the ins and outs of the local food culture (and where the
real food is at). The best surefire way to find a delicious meal? Follow the locals! Idaho is a hidden gem when it comes to mouthwatering eats for every taste, and there are hundreds of ways to do it right in the Gem State – you just have to know where to look.
1. Go local. (Forage Bistro, Driggs)
It seems like a no-brainer, but the best way to eat like a local is to eat food that
is local. Started by a couple with a dream and a passion for fresh European-inspired food that is as beautiful as it is incredible, Forage is a special gem that is a novelty in Idaho food culture -- but oh so delicious! Everything is locally-sourced and perfectly prepared to vibrant perfection.
2. Never skip breakfast (or brunch). (Garnet Cafe, Coeur d'Alene)
3. Steaks should be big enough to feed an army. (Wolf Lodge, Coeur d'Alene)
Idahoans are carnivores to their core -- something to do with our thriving beef industry and our passion for food that sticks to your ribs. The Wolf Lodge has come to be nationally recognized for its steaks over the years -- and not just as a standout place to grab a steak made just the way nature intended. Robust, tender, and filled with natural flavor, the portions here are gut-bustingly huge. Just the way they should be.
4. But finger steaks are the things that bite-sized dreams are made of. (Westside Drive-In, Boise)
Tiny, poppable, and totally Idaho, these bite-sized steaks are an iconic side dish that Gem Staters go nuts over. You can read our post about the best finger steaks in the state
5. Always expect to dine with a view. (The Roundhouse, Sun Valley)
Idaho's picturesque views are nearly endless, so why not dine at a restaurant that knows how to showcase it? The Sun Valley Resort is already a year-round hideaway for adventure junkies, but this mountaintop bar and grill takes it a step further and offers bird's-eye views of the valley and surrounding mountains.
6. A little history to go with your meal is never a bad thing. (The Snake Pit, Enaville)
Idaho has a number of historic restaurants that are worth a visit, but the Gem State's oldest restaurant is an absolute delight for both the food and experience. Still standing proudly on the outskirts of CDA in northern Idaho, you can try something tame -- like the sweet potato and pulled pork nachos -- or something a little more adventurous... like Rocky Mountain Oysters. You can read more about the Enaville Resort
7. Breweries are hidden gems when it comes to amazing eats. (Bardenay, Boise)
If there is one thing that Idaho gets overlooked for most often, it's our incredible hometown breweries and distilleries, which crank out microbrews and more for every taste. But if drinks aren't your thing, don't overlook these establishments as wonderful places to dine! Bardenay is a Boise classic that is not only flawlessly modern and pub-like on the inside, but serves up dishes that are impressive, to say the least. From chicken alfredo and burgers to creative dishes like the mango-habanero chicken wings, pork tacos, and salmon sandwiches, it's impossible to leave disappointed.
8. Potatoes are king. (Bittercreek Alehouse, Boise)
When it comes to poutine, Bittercreek Alehouse in Boise takes Quebec's signature dish (and Idaho's most renowned tuber) to new levels of deliciousness. Often called "Canadian Nachos" by some, this combination of hand-cut fries smothered in meat, cheese, and gravy is sheer perfection for potato lovers. Bittercreek offers several meats to choose from, but diners particularly rave about the Duck Confit Poutine.
9. Romance starts with ambiance. (Forty-One South, Sagle)
The Gem State isn't all cowboys and potatoes; we're romantics at heart. This cozy cabin-like setting in northern Idaho is made all the more divine with the addition of a crackling fireplace to set the mood. The stunning waterfront views only serve to add magic and natural beauty to what will already no doubt be a memorable evening of flawless cuisine.
10. A sweet tooth should never be ignored. (Stanley Baking Co., Stanley)
Pastries and desserts aren't just for after dinner, and the Stanley Baking Co. is a phenomenal place to grab mind-bogglingly good treats that will make your heart sing. For a cozy, rustic atmosphere served up alongside scones, muffins, and more, there's no comparison! Here, you can enjoy your coffee and confections while also drinking in the beautiful mountains and countryside.
11. Waterfront dining is where it's at. (Trinity at City Beach, Sandpoint)
With more waterway miles than any other state in the country, Idaho has plenty of gorgeous river and lakefront views -- so why not enjoy a delicious meal while you bask in the beauty? Spectacular panoramic views from a private piece of Lake Pend Oreille's sandy City Beach make for an unforgettable waterfront dining experience at Trinity in Sandpoint, complete with vibrant umbrellas and fabulous food and drinks.
12. But dining
on the water is even better. (Hope Floating Restaurant, Hope)
Few things could be better than the vibrant sunsets you'll catch here, or the meals you'll enjoy right on the water. You can reach this gem by boat or by land.
13. Never underestimate the magic of small town restaurants and hidden gems. (Spoons Bistro, Victor)
This cozy, unexpected restaurant has been labeled a "diamond in the rough" for good reason. You might not even realize it's a restaurant upon first glance, but the fare served here has gained quite the reputation -- no matter whether you're getting the perfectly-cooked risotto, the fried grits, or the stellar key lime pie. And it's all hidden away in the quaint town of Victor.
14. Always go for the mom & pop option. (Penny's Pit, Rathdrum)
If there's anything Idahoans have come to love, it's our local mom and pop shops, which crank out delicious eats with a homemade touch and a creative flair. Penny's Pit is basically burger heaven, owned by a wonderful couple who strive to serve top-notch eats to their customers, just the way a local gem should. Pictured is the Bacon Special, but you can bet that one bite of a Sriracha Burger, Seattle Burger, or any of their other gourmet masterpieces will make you forget that vegetables exist.
15. Keep it simple. (The Fork, Boise)
Boise has undergone a foodie revolution in the last decade, welcoming new restaurants to downtown like Bacon, the Dish, and Bleubird. The Fork is a local and visitor favorite that sits like the cozy masterpiece it is on Boise's famous dining district. Featuring fresh, local eats that are elegantly prepared. But no matter where you go, you'll never go hungry, that's for sure!
It’s easy to dine like an Idahoan when you think like an Idahoan! For more local gems, check out these
8 Mom and Pop Restaurants.