Month: February 2007

The Famous Westside Drive-In 

A meal from a drive-through usually consists of burgers and fries, though sometimes a shake or onion rings might factor into the dining. Diners make their choices off a large board, ordering into a speaker that more often than not crackles and fizzes, making it difficult for parties on either side to hear very well. Food is handed through a window, and the transaction is complete. Most of us have participated in this exact process, whether at places that serve billions of burgers or at a local “mom-and-pop” joint.

It is a testament to our car culture that we order our food and eat it inches away from a steering wheel. Time is speeding up. We just don’t seem to have enough time to sit down for our meals. But just because you’re going to eat behind the wheel doesn’t mean you have to succumb to a diet of burgers and fries.

I’ve seen the sign on State Street many times, advertising prime rib at the Famous Westside Drive-In. Chef Lou, proud owner of Westside, is kind of an anomaly in Boise. Drive-ins don’t normally have someone with the title of chef at the grill flipping burgers. But for as long as I’ve lived in Boise, Chef Lou has been trying to change the stereotype of car-culture dining. While I’ve picked up one of their many varieties of burgers, a cornucopia of shakes, even ice cream, I’ve never gone for the upscale items. It seemed peculiar to me to order something from the driver’s seat of my truck that would normally be brought to me by a well-groomed waiter and eaten with a knife and fork made of silver. But, what the hell, I decided to give it a go.

I pulled up on a Saturday evening into one of the two drive-up lanes for ordering. The extensive menu listed prime rib as that night’s special. I was surprised to be asked how I would like it cooked and replied “medium rare.” Because I was bringing home food for the chicks in the nest, I also ordered some fare that I thought they would enjoy, including a half-rack of Pepsi ribs (I assumed Chef Lou uses Pepsi Cola as a marinade or flavoring agent) and the fried fish dinner. Three entrees, three large lemonades and about 30 bucks later, I was cruising home, the smell of dinner wafting around the front of my truck.

At home, in front of the television, the spawn and I opened our containers. The prime rib was perfect. It melted in my mouth and was accompanied, to my surprise, by a baked potato and two sides, easily making it a meal for two. The Pepsi ribs were tender, sweet and covered with grilled onions. (We couldn’t finish them that night, but the next night, I removed the bones and used the onions and rib meat on top of a salad.) The fish dinner was two big pieces of batter-fried fish and was absolutely wonderful. I’d gotten tater tots to go with the fish for the kids–you’ve got to stick to tradition in some way when you go through a drive-through.

It is not often that I come away from a review with a newfound appreciation for a restaurant I’m already familiar with. I had already loved the Westside Drive-In but now I think I’m in love.

–Bingo Barnes dreams of a horn o’ plenty filled with cuts of meat.

43° North 

Once upon a time, the only fine dining available was in downtown Boise. But as the population center has shifted west over the past decade, the demand for great restaurants has allowed fine dining establishments to thrive in Eagle and Meridian. One such place relatively new on the scene is the 43º North Restaurant.

On a busy Saturday evening, barely managing to score a reservation for our desired time slot, my dining companion and I got gussied up for the drive to Meridian and the hope of a great meal. We weren’t disappointed.

The restaurant has high ceilings, a wine bar with tables sparingly spaced to avoid a crowded feeling. The earth tones and amber hues of the artwork adorning the walls give a rich and warm feeling to the place. I was particularly fond of the curved glass elements on the partition, in which were placed small candles. The flickering light was inviting and beautiful.

Arriving at the beginning of the dinner rush, we were seated at our table and promptly addressed by Patch, our waiter. Patch is a handsome man, well-mannered and delightfully coiffed with a well-trimmed goatee. We liked his effervescent personality as he described the specials for the evening. They sounded delicious, but we decided to go with items off the regular menu.

After the corking of a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, the appetizers we’d ordered–roast carrot soup and duck confit–arrived. The soup, drizzled with local lavender honey, filled our noses with a hearty aroma. The honey and light hints of lavender tingled our taste buds. Although the soup was delicious, I thought the boneless duck leg confit with purple potato cakes and a light dollop of a pear and port syrup was divine. It didn’t take us long to clean our plates, and it didn’t take Patch long to remove our empty dishes in preparation for our entrees.

My dinner companion’s order of jumbo sea scallops with lemon pepper fettuccine–which Patch informed us is handmade–with a wild mushroom cream sauce was delicious. The scallops (which can be so easily overcooked) were grilled to perfection with a sprig of rosemary. We had initially asked Patch if we could substitute rice for the fettuccine due to a dietary concern. He was happy to accommodate. It’s always a good sign that a waiter will accommodate the request of a customer and that the chef in the back is willing to alter a carefully planned dish. But after an impromptu, live-action dining therapy session we decided to stick with the fettuccine, and in the end, we were glad. Patch was gracious and didn’t show so much as a hint of being annoyed with us although he had every right to be. Patch was, well, down with it.

I ordered grilled filet mignon, which arrived carefully balanced on a crispy truffle polenta cake and topped with blue cheese butter. It was cooked to just the right temperature, and I couldn’t have asked for better. Both entrees were worth the journey from Boise and for those readers who live in Meridian, they sure are lucky to have a great fine dining experience right in their neighborhood.

–Bingo Barnes loves to fill his nose with hearty aromas.