Breaking News
More () »

Iconic Idaho food everyone should try at least once in Boise

Learn about the history of the Ice Cream Potato and other longtime staples in the Treasure Valley.
Credit: Westside Drive In
Ice Cream Potato at the Westside Drive In

BOISE, Idaho — We compiled a list of some of Boise's local food items that everyone should try, no matter if you're a newcomer or longtime resident.

Boise offers a diverse food selection that can appeal to many, plus some unique experiences only found in Idaho. Whether you are an Idahoan native, or simply visiting the City of Trees, there are plenty of dishes to try. This list is a starting point for anyone who is looking for unique foods in Boise.

Starting off our list is the Idaho Ice Cream Potato. The Ice Cream Potato, a menu staple at Westside Drive In, has an extensive history, dating back to the 1960's and spanning state borders. The dessert originated at the defunct Boise Gamekeeper restaurant, according to Westside Drive In chef Lou Aaron. The chef at Gamekeeper created it for a governor's banquet and called it the "Gamekeeper Surprise." The Gamekeeper Surprise was made with maple ice cream and topped with toasted almonds.

Aaron was the chef's apprentice at the Gamekeeper in the late 1970's. Aaron moved to Texas in 1986 and asked the chef at the Gamekeeper if he could make the dessert at the hotel he was working at. The chef gave Aaron permission because it had been taken off the menu.

Credit: Westside Drive In
Ice Cream Potato at the Westside Drive In

Aaron changed the recipe by making the dessert with vanilla ice cream topped with cookie crumbles and diced peanuts. He named the dish the "Texas Tater."

Aaron moved back to Idaho in 1988 and made the Texas Tater at multiple restaurants he worked at. He couldn't patent the product because it had been made for many years already, but he came up with the name "Idaho Ice Cream Potato."

He now owns the name "Idaho Ice Cream Potato" and has been making it for the last 31 years at the Westside Drive InThe dessert is a large potato-shaped ball of vanilla ice cream dusted in cocoa powder, topped with Oreo cookies, whipped cream and diced peanuts. The potato is served on a bed of chocolate syrup.

The Idaho Ice Cream Potato has received a lot of attention. It was featured on Man V. Food and Taylor Hick's State Plate. The Food Network named the Ice Cream Potato as one of the 50 iconic desserts in the country. Martha Stewart and Sandra Lee made it on their TV shows. The Ice Cream Potato was recently featured on the Today's Show website.

Keep scrolling to see other iconic Boise foods that made our list.

The following dishes are sourced from KTVB staff member picks. Well-known local favorites are also included.

Fries at the Boise Fry Company

  • Boise Fry Company
  • This local chain is known for its diverse selection of fries and burgers on the side.
  • The potatoes they offer include russet, purple, gold, sweet, red and yam. 
  • It has been awarded 2019 best burger and best fries by the Boise Weekly.
  • The fries are cooked in natural GMO-free sunflower oil and are unsalted. 
  • Boise Fry Company rotates its homemade seasonings and dipping sauces. 
  • The sauces range from blueberry ketchup to roasted jalapeno ranch.
  • Seasonings include garlic rosemary, cinnamon ginger, sriracha salt and more.
Credit: Boise Fry Co.
Boise Fry Company Fries

Fry Sauce

  • Fry sauce is a popular condiment in Idaho although its origin is debatable.
  • According to the Washington Post, the name Fry Sauce was coined by Don Carlos Edwards, the proprietor of Arctic Circle restaurants in Salt Lake City. 
  • Fry Sauce is a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise flavored with everything from garlic to black pepper to horseradish.
  • A lot of local restaurants carry fry sauce, you just have to ask!
Credit: Associated Press
Fry sauce, the king of condiments in Utah, is spreading across the nation.

RELATED: Heinz debuts 'Mayochup,' but it already exists in Idaho as 'Fry Sauce'

Finger Steaks

  • You can find finger steaks in Boise at restaurants like Lindy's Steak House, The Dutch Goose and Big Bun Drive-In.
  • Finger steaks are wide strips of steak battered with a tempura-like or flour batter and deep-fried in oil.
  • Although The Stagecoach Inn doesn't sell Finger Steaks, they claim that the origins of the Finger Steaks started with their founder.
  • According to The Stagecoach Inn, the founder, Willie Schrier, used to own and operate the Torch Lounge from 1953 to 1958. It was at the Torch Lounge that Schrier created finger steaks but left his recipe with Chef Milo Bybee. Schrier decided to open his own restaurant, The Stagecoach Inn, but didn't want to compete with the Torch by serving finger steaks.
Credit: Lindy's Steak House
Finger Steaks at Lindy's Steak House

Scones at Merritt's Country Cafe

  • Merritt's Country Cafe
  • Known for their home-style cooking and homemade made-to-order scones.
  • A Merritt's scone is a lightly sweetened biscuit-like cake, often served with fruit or other toppings on the top.
  • Merritt's offers fruit toppings like apple, cherry, mixed berry, blueberry, strawberry, boysenberry raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb, and blackberry. You can also add chocolate or butterscotch pudding to your scone.
  • In 2013 Merritt's scones were named as one of the 150 icons of Boise by the Idaho Statesman.
Credit: George Merritt
Scones at Merritt's Country Cafe

Idaho Spud

  • Idaho Candy Company
  • The Idaho Spud candy bar has a cocoa-flavored marshmallow center, covered with dark chocolate and sprinkled with coconut.
  • The Idaho Candy Company has been producing unique candy staples since 1901. In addition to the Idaho Spud, they offer the Cherry Cocktail, Huckleberry Gems and more.
Credit: Idaho Candy Company
Idaho Spud from the Idaho Candy Company

Boston Shake

  • Fanci Freez
  • A Boston Shake is a shake with a sundae on top.
  • Fanci Freez offers 48 different shake flavors and endless flavor combinations.
  • Fanci Freez was voted 'Best Frozen Treat' in 2019 by Boise Weekly readers.
  • Locally owned and operated, Fanci Freez has been serving Boise since 1947.

Habanero Pizza at Flying Pie

  • Flying Pie
  • This spicy pizza has cornmeal, mozzarella, chicken, olives and habaneros on top of dough and a special red sauce.
  • Flying Pie offers single, double, triple and quad (with ghost pepper sauce) habanero pizzas.
  • This is the 26th Habanero season, it is only available in the summer.
Credit: Flying Pie Pizzaria
Habenero Pizza at Flying Pie Pizzaria

RELATED: Pizza Hut to close hundreds of dine-in stores

Huckleberry anything

  • You can find huckleberry treats at Idaho companies like Gem Berry Products, The Idaho Candy Company, Taters and more.
  • Fanci Freez even has a Huckleberry Burger.
  • Idahoans love their huckleberries, which became the state fruit in 2000.
  • Idaho products include huckleberry homemade jam, wine, flavored ice cream, taffy, syrup, honey, coffee, tea, pies, and more!  
  • The small town of Donnelly, Idaho even hosts a Huckleberry Festival each year in early August.
Credit: Associated Press
Bottles of huckleberry wine are displayed at Wino World in Sandpoint, Idaho Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003.

Paella at the Basque Market

  • The Basque Market
  • A Paella is a dish of rice, saffron, chicken, seafood, and more. It's cooked and served in a large shallow pan.
  • Boise's Basque community is around 16,000 people, and it is one of the largest Basque communities in the United States.
  • The "Basque Block" in downtown Boise has a museum, cultural center, restaurant, and a market.
  • There are several restaurants that offer authentic basque food like paellas, tapas and more.
  • The Basque Market has a community paella bake on their patio every Wednesday and Friday at noon. 
  • The market also has shopping, cooking classes, and wine tasting.
Credit: Whitney Bilbao Photography
Community paella bake at the Basque Market

Did we forget anything? Email apyper@ktvb.com to submit your favorite Boise food item.

Before You Leave, Check This Out