Downtown Boise experiences restaurant revival

Downtown Boise experiences restaurant revival

Credit: Matt Standal / KTVB

Bar-goers tip back a few drinks at Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery on Grove Street in downtown Boise.


by Matt Standal

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBMatt


Posted on November 2, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 4 at 11:36 PM

BOISE -- For the past 13 years, local restaurateur Kevin Settles has owned and operated Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery in the heart of Boise's Basque block.

While Bardenay is one of the busiest eateries around, Settles says fall months are often one of the slowest times for overall sales.

Not this October.

Bardenay just logged its best performing October on record, and Settles expects the trend to continue for his restaurant's sister operations in Eagle and Coeur d'Alene. "We had the highest sales -- all three locations," Settles said.

When asked if Boise is experiencing a restaurant revival, Settles also says his numbers show a definite increase. "It's been a slow, steady, trend for quite sometime now," Settles said.

Brook Blakeslee agrees.

Blakeslee has spent the last 17 years working as a retail leasing specialist in downtown, most recently for Colliers International. He currently works with the owners and lessees of several restaurants in six downtown properties.

Despite the recession years of 2008 and 2009, Blakeslee says restaurant rental space in high traffic areas -- such as 8th and Idaho streets -- has always been in high demand.

What's more, Blakeslee says 2012 has brought a "very strong" demand for commercial restaurant space throughout all parts of downtown Boise -- not just its high profile areas.

Blakeslee says that demand is driven by independent restaurateurs versus chain eateries.

"In a nutshell you have the entrepreneurs that are downtown," Blakeslee said. "You have people that have an idea, and come downtown."

Are those ideas transforming into successful restaurants?

Karen Sander is the Executive Director of the Downtown Boise Association. Her organization conducts promotions and marketing for participating business. The DBA also keeps records of when businesses open, close, or relocate in downtown Boise.

Sander says 2012 marks a record year for the sheer number of food-oriented businesses open in downtown. "We've definitely have more restaurants downtown than we ever have before," Sander said.

The DBA's records show that more than 109 eateries are currently open within the boundaries of Boise's downtown. Those include traditional restaurants, coffee houses, delis, and others.

What's more, DBA records also show a definite trend of increased restaurant openings since 2008.

Only six restaurants opened that year -- notably including Bonefish Grill and Liquid -- while 12 restaurants closed.

However, 15 new restaurants opened in downtown Boise in 2009, while only five closed.  Newcomers that year included Taj Mahal and Shige Japanese Steakhouse. Departures included Chef Lou's and Cool Hand Luke's.

in 2010, 10 restaurants opened while four closed. Eleven restaurants opened in 2011, while 6 closed.

Sander expects the updward trend to continue. She cites a number of restaurants that have opened in 2012, including The Taphouse, The Crux, Bluebird Cafe, and Casa Vida.

Sander also expects business to increase for those eateries -- partly due to the DBA's latest promotion -- "Dine Out Downtown Boise."

Dine out Downtown Boise

Frying pans hiss and kitchen knives chop in unison as Matthew Choux steps into the small, but busy kitchen of Le Cafe de Paris on Capitol Boulevard in downtown Boise.

Choux is original from Bourdeaux, France. Ten years ago, his restaurant was the first in Boise to specialize in traditional French dishes. He also operates a French bakery that markets fresh baked goods to other area restaurants.

According to Choux, business at Le Cafe de Paris is good -- but it can always be better.

That's why he's experimenting with a new marketing tool to give his cafe more exposure.

Choux's restaurant is among fifteen others in downtown Boise offering prix fixe (price fixed) menus from Nov. 2 through Nov. 11.

Known as "Dine Out Downtown Boise," the second annual event is meant to fill more seats at restaurants by providing dinner specials and unique food diners might not otherwise try.

Under the special, Choux will offer two $30, three course prix fixe menus, including a "hanger" steak served with cherry sauce, and monkfish sauteed in butter. Other items on Choux' menu include a bisque made with butternut squash, apple, and pumpkin, along  with a "salad paysan" that includes butter lettuce and chicken liver.

As for how much business the Dine Out Downtown promotion will generate for Le Cafe de Paris, Choux says despite the outcome, it will help diners experience something new on their plates.

"On the customers end, it gives them a chance to try restaurants they wouldn't try otherwise," Choux said.


The Dine Out Downtown Boise event includes three pricing categories, at $10, $15, and $30 per person.

Restaurants offering $10, two course prix fixe lunches include:

    Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery
    Proto's Pizzeria Napoletana
    Solid Grill and Bar
    The Melting Pot
    The Piper Pub & Grill

Restaurants offering $15, two course prix fixe dinners include:

    Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery
    Flatbread Community Oven
    Solid Grill and Bar
    The Matador
    The Piper Pub & Grill

Restaurants offering $30, three course prix fixe dinners include:

    Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery
    Berryhill & Co
    Brickyard Steakhouse
    Le Cafe de Paris
    Lock Stock & Barrel
    Mai Thai Restaurant & Bar
    Red Feather Lounge
    Solid Grill and Bar
    Taj Mahal
    The Melting Pot

Reservations are recommended at all restaurants during the week of Nov. 2 through Nov. 11. For more information, check out the Downtown Boise Association website.