Boise, Idaho

No small pota­toes: Boise isn’t what you ex­pect.

Lonely Planet Magazine (US) - - Easy Trips - By Loren Bell

As a moun­tain snob of the worst kind, I’ve blown by Boise, Idaho, on the in­ter­state for years. I judged it by the “any­where USA” com­mer­cial­ism of the exit ramps, and dis­missed the foothills be­hind town as Rocky Moun­tain wannabes. Then, my cousin be­gan drop­ping hints about the epic moun­tain bik­ing near his house. After con­firm­ing we were talk­ing about the same Boise, I gave the city a skep­ti­cal chance – and the city ca­su­ally blew me away.

It started with the cramped but so­cia­ble Goldy’s Break­fast Bistro. There I valiantly tried to sam­ple ev­ery “cre­ate your own break­fast combo” as a line of ex­ceed­ingly po­lite Boiseans snaked around the cor­ner, merg­ing with lines for other ar­ti­san cafés named things like Ba­con, Fork and Waf­fle Me Up. Boise’s foodie scene starts early and starts strong. More than 100 restau­rants tempt down­town taste buds, and the cut­ting-edge fare – sur­pris­ingly lit­tle of which is potato-based, in a state per­haps known best for its spuds – in­spires whis­pers among gourmets from coast to coast.

Around the cor­ner I lin­gered on the sunny front porch of restau­rant and dis­tillery Bar­de­nay, sam­pling a few home-brewed bloody marys as I let my glut­tony set­tle. The dis­tillery oc­cu­pies the cen­ter of Basque Block, where mem­bers of the 15,000-strong Basque di­as­pora oc­ca­sion­ally rally for fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions, tele­port­ing this cor­ner of Boise to the Span­ish high­lands. Lin­ger­ing is rec­om­mended.

Suf­fi­ciently fu­eled, I rented one of the ubiq­ui­tous GreenBikes, ped­al­ing the city’s tree-lined mul­tiuse paths that con­nect the end­less parks and ex­cel­lent mu­se­ums along the Boise River. I could have bet­ter ex­plored the wa­ter­way as the cap­tain of my own in­ner tube – tub­ing is an in­sanely pop­u­lar sum­mer ac­tiv­ity – but I ran out of time after ed­dy­ing out at The Mod­ern Ho­tel, the hip­ster ho­tel/restau­rant/bar mas­querad­ing as graf­fiti-laced 1970s mo­tor lodge.

The cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance of The Mod­ern sums up Boise per­fectly. Boise is a lively ur­ban des­ti­na­tion pre­tend­ing to be a non­de­script rest stop. It’s an out­door-lover’s city. It’s a city-dweller’s coun­try es­cape. It’s one of the best places to be, largely be­cause so many peo­ple over­look it en­tirely.

It’s also the kind of place where a moun­tain snob will be hum­bled by the lo­cals on the in­deed epic sin­gle-track cross­ing the foothills be­hind town. And there, heavy with the day’s ex­cess, gasp­ing for breath but grin­ning broadly, I thanked my cousin for open­ing my eyes, and I knew Boise’s se­cret wouldn’t stay se­cret for long.

Home to a spir­ited arts com­mu­nity, an ex­plo­sion of award-win­ning winer­ies and craft brew­eries, and a so­cially re­spon­si­ble shop­ping district, Boise is what cool looks like be­fore the rest of the world

has heard the news.

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