Playing tourist in Boise helps one see city in whole new light

May 23, 2012 02:27 pm

Although travel is wonderful, one can’t always pack up and go to distant exotic places. Yet sometimes we long to get away to see and experience new things. That is just what we did a couple of weeks ago.

We went to Boise for five days and four nights. Boise you say, what is so different about that? I know, most of our visits to Boise end up being for a medical appointment or a shopping trip to the mall. We eat at the same favorite restaurants and come home. Well, this time we were determined that we were going to act like tourists and not do the same old same old. And that is just what we did.

We stayed in the home of some friends who had gone on vacation. It was a wonderful place to relax during the short times we were there and we could cook in if we wished. A perfect setup since the nearby  Boise Co-op on Fort Street served as a great source of wine, cheese, ethnic foods, and interesting deli offerings.

Although Boise has a lot to offer in quaint shops and restaurants, just a little over a mile from the busy downtown we discovered a wonderful little neighborhood shopping and eating area — Hyde Park. There were several antique stores, a fair trade marketplace, a bicycle shop and our newest favorite restaurant the 13th Street Pub and Grill. It is a lot more upscale than Donny Mack’s Trailer Park Cuisine, which I shared with you some time ago. I do hope you were able to experience that one because after being there for more than ten years, it is gone and replaced by a so-so deli that didn’t look nearly as much fun.

We traveled out to Meridian to see what was worthwhile there. Found a great new bakery and sandwich shop called Kneeders. They have fantastic sandwiches that have just a bit of a new twist on them — like Dale’s turkey, cheese and artichoke heart Panini. Their desserts are pretty tasty also. I really enjoyed our stop in an interior decorating shop called Vintage Home located in a section of the old feed store on Main Street. The owners have an appreciation for the past combined with great sense of fun. Items for sale are a combination of old and new.

We managed to eat in downtown Boise at a long time favorite restaurant — Bardenay at 610 W. Grove, a distillery that is very much alive with all ages of customers. The focus of their food is on Basque cuisine and they have some great choices.

Just down the street is the movie theater called The Flicks. There are four theaters with seating ranging from 40 to 120. Their films are mostly art or foreign and we saw two extremely thought provoking offerings. The first was “The Separation,” an Iranian film of a couple who suffered problems ranging from a parent with Alzheimer’s to an accusation of murder. The second, “Forgiveness of Blood,” was filmed in Albania and dealt also with a murder accusation and a family caught up in the ancient customs while seeking to live a modern life. Both of these were emotional, riveting, and educational. I highly recommend both of these.

In Boise, as in most large cities, there are quite a number of things to do and places to see, but we chose to visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary established in 1870, and now a State Historic Site. Although Dale grew up in Idaho he had never gone through the grounds. After our visit we realized why. The prison housed inmates until 1973. Dale left Idaho for Oregon prior to that time and it just didn’t turn up on his bucket list until this trip. Although it sounds like a rather odd place to spend four hours, we found it fascinating. There is an option of taking the self guided tour or having a guide. If you decide to visit I would recommend the latter. The guides, most of whom are students, are full of stories and are able to answer nearly any question you might have regarding the facility or its history. The old laundry houses the J. Curtis Earl Arms Exhibit, one of the nation’s largest collections of historic arms and military memorabilia.

For anyone interested in guns this is a must! I’m not for coddling prisoners but I was appalled when I learned that even in 1973 there was no electricity in the building used as the kitchen and dining hall and there were some of the cell blocks that had no heat at all. If you have a chance this is a part of history that I feel you need to witness. This would not be appropriate for very young children but could be a great conversation starter for you and your teens or preteens.

On the way home I made another startling discovery about a restaurant that I wrote about several years ago. (I’m sure you were planning to give it a try.) The Hungry Redneck Café is no longer located in Durkee, but has moved on west and is now at Black Canyon Junction at Exit 13 Caldwell. We weren’t able to check out this new location but it looks to be quite a bit larger and more inviting.

So you cannot get away just now? Well, a good mini substitute would be to have one of the hot sandwiches from Joe Beans on Adams across from City Hall, rent a foreign movie from the Peanut Gallery at 1406 Jefferson, go home and relax. Enjoy!


Ginny Mammen is a La Grande resident. Reach the author at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it