Tucanos Brazilian Grill

Tucanos is another one of those places I've wanted to visit for a while now but have never gotten around to (I know, it's the story of my life).  When it comes to meat, I have a girlfriend who basically only eats poultry and a sister who only eats poultry and seafood, so whether at home or spending time with the family, my meat options are kind of limited.  I make due, though, hitting interesting places on my lunch breaks and luckily my girl is something of a cheeseburger freak, but every once in a while I just want to sit down and devour a serious amount of animal protein that didn't used to have feathers or live under water and hasn't been ground up, so the idea of an all-you-can-eat barbecue and grill joint very much appealed to me.  Tucanos has gotten somewhat mixed reviews, but a lot of them are from when the place first opened, and the more recent ones as often as not can be explained away by the fact that the food is somewhat out of the reviewer's comfort zone or that the ethnic theme made them forget they're at an AYCE buffet.  Make no mistake: we ARE discussing a buffet here, but it's one of the most interesting examples of that dining experience that I've seen in this area.

Bad Boy Burgers (Fairview)

A breakfast burrito, if done well, is a beautiful thing.  I love breakfast food anyway, and if you can pack it into a portable form where I get a little of everything in each bite, I'm a happy guy.  I work in a somewhat large office, and there seems to be a little debate over who does the best breakfast burritos in the area, Los Beto's or Bad Boy Burgers.  To be honest, I like them both quite a bit, but for different reasons.

The end of an era (or two)

For the two or three locals who haven't heard, Boise's Vietnamese Restaurant was completely gutted by a fire last week.  For those of you who aren't local, Boise does have more than one Vietnamese restaurant, that was just the name of the place; they opened decades ago and were the only one in town back then, hence the simple name.  I feel sorry for the owners and staff, sorry for their neighbors in the strip mall (since the fire did start at the restaurant), sorry for the restaurant's patrons, and of course sorry for myself since I'd never even tried the place.  I know, it's been sitting there at Franklin and Curtis forever, but I'm only recently getting into Vietnamese and Thai food.  I guess I simply have to move faster.

In other news, though I haven't confirmed this yet, I suspect that the Portuguese Barbecue Lunch Wagon has closed or is in the process of doing so.  Those of you who have been around since the beginning of this blog all the way back in June, or who have read back through my past entries, might recall that it was the subject of my first post.  Like I said, I haven't verified this, but there is a "for sale" sign in the window of the truck, and it certainly doesn't look open for business when I drive past...

Golden Star

Just over a month ago, I wrote a blog on my thoughts regarding the Idaho Statesman's "Best of Treasure Valley" poll.  Mostly it was me ranting and griping, and the first thing I discussed (indeed, the thing that made me want to write the blog entry in the first place) was the "Best Asian Restaurant" category.  Long story short, I copped a little attitude about all the people in the comments section of the page bitching about the fact that there's no decent Chinese food to be found in the Treasure Valley.  I mostly agree with that sentiment, but in the name of playing devil's advocate I took the stance that regardless of the lack of authentic Chinese cuisine, the Statesman's readers still had to choose what they felt was the best of what's available.  The restaurant that won the poll this year (as well as the previous two) was Golden Star, and while I still feel my point is valid overall, I sincerely regret that my comments could be construed as a defense of the restaurant itself or their food.

Pojo's Carousel Café (yes, Pojo's!)

Anyone who's lived in the Boise area for any length of time likely knows Pojo's.  For the longest time, they were THE video arcade in town, for a while even expanding to a second location in Nampa's Karcher Mall.  And like most large arcades, they had a café/snack counter where you could buy gummy pizza, boring hamburgers, and so on.  Eventually, facing newer competitors in better areas than the little chunk of Fairview that Pojo's calls home, they went the economy route.  Nickel video games brought out loud kids and annoying teenagers, and eventually I ended up doing all my video gaming at home.  Normally that would be where the story ends, but I never could have predicted what Pojo's had up their sleeves...

Abandon all preconceived notions, ye who enter here

Red Robin (Meridian)

I actually visited Red Robin several weeks ago, and while it's true that I've been somewhat remiss in my posting lately, in this case there's a little more to the delay.  Red Robin is one of those restaurants that gives incentives for signing up for their e-mail list, and a few weeks before my most recent birthday, I received a coupon for a free "gourmet burger" with no further obligation.  Since their burgers automatically come with bottomless steak fries, all I had to do was add a drink and poof, instant meal.  I was watching the kids one evening and didn't feel like cooking, so it seemed like a perfect excuse to trade in that birthday certificate.

Western Idaho Fair 2010

Well, I hate to say it, but due to a somewhat ill-advised (albeit in retrospect and entirely contextual) stop at The Egg Factory for breakfast, not as much munching took place at the Western Idaho Fair as I was expecting.  The heat and Sun didn't help either. 

I didn't eat this

The Melting Pot, I hardly knew ye...

Just in case you weren't aware, The Melting Pot is open again as of November 2010!

This is another long one, so I hope you've set aside some time.  I apologize for the quality of the pictures, but trying to get pics on a camera phone in far from ideal lighting conditions is not easy.

My girlfriend and I are both foodies, albeit of amateur standing, so during the early courting process there was much discussion of favorite foods and restaurants.  She was quick to share that The Melting Pot was one of her absolute favorites.  I'd heard about the place for years, driven by it dozens of times and never knew it was there, and I even knew quite a few people who have been there, but I had never gone myself.  It was one of those places that I always told myself I'd save for a special date night or something, but there have been few truly special dates in recent years, and when I wanted to treat myself to a really extravagant meal, I always ended up going for sushi.  Still, this new girl was really impressing me, so I snagged a few Restaurant.com gift certificates (interestingly enough, they are still available for purchase on the site) and filed them away, waiting for the right moment.  As the relationship progressed, it just became accepted that we would go for her birthday.  What we couldn't know was that, after her birthday, they were going to close the restaurant for good.

Eddie's Wood-Fired Dogs - CLOSED

- Nothing stops the march of time.  All rational people know this to be true.  The best we can do is to learn and experience as much as we can in the short time we have.  I like to think that not a year passes that I don't learn a valuable life lesson.  This year's lesson?  Don't waste your birthday at work.

I may be to the point in my life where I don't care about hats and singing or even presents (to some extent), but it still sucked to spend that day at work, and it wasn't worth doing just to save a vacation day for later in the year.  It made the entire day seem like a non-event.  So, when my mother asked if I wanted to do a birthday dinner, I didn't know what to say.  I was watching the kids that night so my beloved could toil away at her own grindstone, so sushi was out, and that's my usual go-to meal when I'm feeling indulgent.  Mom, wonderful woman that she is, suggested a relatively new place in town, Eddie's Wood-Fired Dogs.

Taco Veloz

The only place on the truck where the name & logo are easily visible

To be honest, my loved ones don't understand my fixation with truck food.  Especially my girlfriend.  I guess that's fair, since I don't really understand their desire to eat at places like Taco Bell.  So, I usually hit up trucks alone or with my sister who, while not particularly fond of restaurants on wheels herself, loves getting out of the office at lunch time.  I'll usually get her a chicken taco for her troubles.  I've been to most of the trucks in what I think of as the "upper Boise area", meaning downtown and the Garden City fringe areas are excluded.  Taco Veloz, in front of A-1 Pawn on Fairview in Boise, is kind of in a class of their own.

Idaho Pizza Company

When it comes to Idaho Pizza Company, there are a few strange things about my relationship with it.  First of all, aside from one time where I got a personal-sized one for lunch, I've never eaten their pizza.  The second odd thing would be that I've only ever gone there for lunch.  And third would be the fact that despite having an Idaho Pizza Company restaurant about two miles from my home in Meridian, I've only ever eaten at the Boise locations, primarily the one on Fairview just east of Cole.

A dork's manifesto...

This is going to be another post without even a sideways review in it, but I just had to share.  This blog gets a pretty decent amount of views, but not a lot of comments.  Last night, there was one waiting back on my first Boise Fry Company review:

sourgarlic said...

You are a DORK. Stay away from downtown if you hate it. Go back and eat at the Target or Walmart snack bar. Seriously, stay in your trailer.
When I make comments about people who have their noses stuck up their own butts, who think that just because something is downtown and locally owned, it simply must be good, this is more or less what I'm talking about.  Except for the fact that they're usually a bit more eloquent.  I really wish that if this person was that bothered by what I said, they would have tried to open up an intelligent discussion, rather than just implying that anything that's not downtown is on par with department store lunch counters.  And besides, I like the popcorn at Target.  Not only does it taste great, but leftovers can be strung together with a needle and thread to make Christmas tree decorations that are the envy of the whole trailer park!

I'd like an order of food critcism, light on the criticism please...

This is another of my boring rants.  Proceed at your own risk...

In the game of food roulette, I finally pulled the trigger one too many times and came up with a loaded chamber.  I've been feeling a little blah for a couple of days now due to a meal purchased from a mobile eatery.  Before anyone thinks to ask, NO, it was not a taco truck.  This was good, old-fashioned, all-American fare.  I'm not going to name names here because what was wrong with it was that it was just too damn greasy.  I just simply have a grease threshold, and if it's crossed I pay the price for a bit.  I should have followed my instincts this time around and not ate the stuff, and that's why the vendor shall remain anonymous, but it has gotten me thinking for about the third time since I started this blog: when is it worth it to write a negative review?

Yokozuna Teriyaki

Yokozuna is the highest rank in professional Japanese sumo wrestling.  Did you know that?  I sure as hell didn't.  To me, Yokozuna is first and foremost the Polynesian WWF wrestler from back in the 90's.  But increasingly when I hear the term, my mind turns to one of my favorite beverages, bubble tea, and the place that serves the best in town: Yokozuna Teriyaki, located in the Vista Village just up the hill from downtown Boise.

The poster that every place selling bubble tea seems to have hanging somewhere

Any port in a storm...

Southern Tsunami dragon roll from Fred Meyer

Had to run an errand at lunch time today, which left no time for a separate lunch stop.  Luckily, Fred Meyer has some fairly decent sushi available.  Granted, it's kind of a fast food (or in this case grocery store deli) version, but tasty nonetheless and better than the stuff at Albertson's and WinCo.  And hey, it beats the usual fried chicken with a side of potato wedges most people come away from the grocery store deli section with, yes?  Well nine times out of ten.  Maybe eight.  Sometimes, you just have to get the potato wedges.

A winning combination: unagi, cucumber, nori, sushi rice, avocado and kabayaki sauce

Boise Soul Food Extravaganza

This is a long one, kids.  I hope you've set aside some time...

If I remember the promotional info correctly, this is the 18th year for the Boise Soul Food Extravaganza, said to be the biggest in the Northwest and the second oldest of its kind in in the country.  All I knew is that if I wasn't going to be at the Warlock Pinchers reunion shows in Denver or camping with my family this weekend, I at least wanted some decent food.  My weakness for street food is well-documented, and fairs and festivals are a prime (if overpriced) place to get it.

Brother Brown's BBQ, I'm hoping their restaurant in Caldwell is still open

Pho Tam

I've mentioned it once or twice over the past few weeks, but a Vietnamese eatery called Pho Tam has recently taken over the spot vacated by Chef Express just south of Golden Star on Orchard in Boise.  I have almost no experience with Vietnamese food other than the sandwiches and spring rolls at Baguette Deli (previous write-ups here), the only other Vietnamese restaurant I've ever eaten at being the now defunct Saigon Grill.  So, I was excited about the prospect of a pho joint opening so close to my office and have driven by about three times a week hoping to see an "open" sign.  This week, it finally happened.

Taco Bell street food now? Sheesh...

Yeah, I know.  It's like shooting fish in a barrel.  Taco Bell is arguably the biggest force behind the rampant Americanization...hell, let's just call it what it is...the dumbing down of Mexican food.  Now they, like Taco Time, have their version of street tacos, except they're calling them "cantina tacos".  Bull muffins.  If you wrap two corn tortillas around a little pile of meat, onion and cilantro, you're trying to emulate street tacos.  At least Taco Time had the cojones to use the name.

Believe it or not I actually dig Taco Time to an extent, but I don't trick myself into believing it's Mexican food.  The crisp "burritos" are a particular weakness of mine.  That having been said, their "street tacos" are absolutely horrible (you can read more of my thoughts here).  And now, a potentially similar abomination threatens from their bigger, meaner cousin.  And though I should know better, once again I fell victim to my own morbid curiosity...

Easy come, easy go...

Yesterday, this blog received it's 1,000th view in under three weeks.  I'm still floored by that, but at the same time very pleased that people seem so interested in the local food scene.  Of course up to this point I've mostly written about street food and that, by necessity, is going to have to change.  First of all, I'm simply running out of cheap, quick places to go.  Secondly, I've been unable to convince my girlfriend that eating on a patio set in a parking lot in front of a taco truck qualifies as dining al fresco.  I've been running to inexpensive places within a fifteen minute drive of my office, and she wants to go to places where you sit down indoors or on a permanent patio with a nice view, take your time, and enjoy your meal.  Can't say I blame her, but those kinds of write-ups will require more time and money, so the posts will probably start coming less frequently as we hit up more of those.

I'm also learning things about my...audience?  The three most accessed posts have been my original Boise Fry Company write-up (in first place by a wide margin), my rant about Taco Time's "street tacos" (apparently Taco Bell is doing this now too, so there is a strong possibility of another diatribe soon), and my review of Chau's Burgers and Sandwiches.  The first one doesn't surprise me as the place is good and is getting a lot of attention, even on a national scale soon.  The second, I don't know whether to be horrified or amused.  Perhaps people were as flabbergasted by the idea of Taco Time trying to serve up something resembling authentic Mexican street food that they searched for reviews and found mine.  Then again, it could be people thinking it's a wonderful idea and looking for more information.  For all the recent traffic, I get relatively few comments or e-mails, but I'm hoping it's the former.  The last one just plain makes me happy.  When I stumbled across Chau's, I was immediately curious and as soon as I could get to a computer I was searching for information, menu, reviews...all without success.  I decided to go, write up the experience, add them to the Urbanspoon database, and I don't think there's a day that goes by where I don't get at least a handful of hits on that particular write-up.  The place has definite potential and I hope they have the chance to do well, though I can't help but wonder what will happen once the school year starts back up.

Okay, enough about me and my silly ramblings.  There's some things to be aware of in local food news...

The Melting Pot in downtown Boise will be closing its doors for the foreseeable future on August 15th.  In their own words:
The Melting Pot of Boise will no longer be open for business as of Monday, Aug. 16. We welcome you to experience fondue at this Melting Pot location one last time. We sincerely appreciate the patronage from our guests over the past six years.
 Boise will become an open market, and we hope to re-open either at this existing location or in another site in this market at some point in the future.

You can reach the Salt Lake City location, our closest Melting Pot, at 340 South Main St., Salt Lake City, UT 84101, 801-521-6358.

Please visit meltingpot.com/locations for location information.
So another of the higher-end restaurants is going away.  I've never been there, but it's the girlfriend's favorite so we already have reservations for the last hurrah weekend.  On a more positive note, the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant's new branch in Meridian opened for business on Sunday.  It's located on Eagle Road just south of Fairview in Meridian.  So far it's been packed, and it looks like it's going to be a while before I get to try it so if anyone reading this gets the chance to sample their wares, let me know how it is eh?  Pho Tam, which is on Orchard just north of Emerald in Boise is also open for business now, and since they're a little Asian noodle shop within a quick drive of my office, you can probably expect a write-up on them in fairly short order.

Other than that, you can expect the plethora of posts about street food to dry up a little in the next few weeks as I'm reserving funds for this weekend's Boise Soul Food Extravaganza (check the menu here), the aforementioned Melting Pot excursion next weekend, the Western Idaho Fair the weekend after that (who doesn't love fair food?), and likely the last weekend of the month will be a belated birthday dinner for yours truly at Tucano's Brazilian Grill to enjoy many courses of meat on a stick.  I will, of course, try to get pictures of all of this to accompany forthcoming write-ups, once some of the blood returns from aiding my digestive system and starts fuelling my brain again.

Great Harvest Bread Co. (Boise)

(I doubt I could find many people who would say the smell of bread baking isn't one of their favorite scents.  Well maybe I could, but I wouldn't want to know those people.  There's just something fundamentally alluring about that aroma, and at Great Harvest Bread Co., they bake about ten different kinds every day.  That doesn't take into account the cookies, muffins, rolls...you see where I'm going with this.  There are actually two locations on Fairview, one in Meridian that has a large indoor area and good furniture for dining in, and another one in Boise that has basically a counter and a bread rack and shares a couple of outdoor patio chairs and tables with Deli George.

Assorted recent yumminess...

Delicious coconut almond mocha from The Human Bean

Asiago bagel with light bacon scallion cream cheese from Blue Sky Bagels

Pesto turkey sandwich from Baguette Deli

Mounds (chocolate coconut) bubble tea from Yokozuna Teriyaki

Coconut bubble tea from Yokozuna Teriyaki