Some things I'll soon be missing...

Thanks to Brian, it's been confirmed that the Yen Ching Bakery (not the restaurant itself) will be ceasing operations in February, likely toward the end of the month.  That leaves at the very most four weeks (and most importantly only four Sundays, the day they make the fresh steamed buns) to enjoy their stuff.  Though I suppose if more people had been enjoying it all along, this wouldn't be happening.  In the meantime, here's what I brought home from my last trip there...

Green Onion Bread

Bacon Bread

Peach Danish

Strawberry Sweet Bread

Steamed BBQ Pork Bun

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Wheelers Handout

I've talked before about how rarely I make it to downtown Boise for food, but I make it out to Nampa even less despite the fact that one of my favorite Treasure Valley Chinese restaurants and my all-time favorite taco truck are located there.  When I was just a wee lad though, we used to head out to Nampa fairly often because, well, Karcher was the only mall back then.  That's how I discovered and fell in love with the chocolate malts at Wheelers.  So far as I've found to this very day, they still have the maltiest malts in the Valley.  And their burgers?  I used to describe them as "greaseburgers".  They were ridiculously juicy, the kind of thing you wrapped deli paper, napkins or anything else around while you ate it so as not to make a total mess of yourself.  As I got older and Boise and Meridian really came into their own, I made the trek to Nampa less and less.  Recently, Wheelers was the daily deal on, so I snapped one up and made the journey one afternoon after work.  You know how they say you can't go home again?  Sometimes you just shouldn't even try.

MickeyRay's Roadhouse BBQ

A Wednesday Night in January, just after 6 PM.  It's already pitch black out, but a fat, full moon is rising over the mountains.  I'm sitting in the back seat of my mother's SUV.  Sis is riding shotgun, and to my right a sleeping toddler is strapped into a booster seat.  We're in Eagle and looking for MickeyRay's Roadhouse BBQ, a place my mother has heard really good things about and has been wanting to try for some time now.  We're lost.

A co-worker had instructed my mother to take State Street in Eagle and go towards Star, and assured her that we couldn't miss it, but as we found ourselves nearly in Star we knew that wasn't the case.  Mom tries unsuccessfully to reach a couple of people on the phone who might have a computer handy and therefore be able to feed us directions, and I'm trying to remember the phone number that was given so prominently on the website when I was perusing the menu earlier.  I punch 939-RIBS into my phone, and after several rings I end up at a nondescript voicemail prompt.  Surprised, I disconnect the call.  Just as I'm thinking how certain I had been about the number, my phone rings.  The caller ID shows the call coming from the same number I had just tried.  I answer the phone, and the man on the other end goes immediately into his spiel, something about it being "a great day at MickeyRay's" and inviting me to "come gitcha a little sumpin' sumpin'" if I recall correctly.  He says all of this as if he had answered the phone when I called rather than having called me back.  I ask him where the restaurant is located, and he says it's on Old State Street.  We backtrack to where State Street splits off from the highway and take it back toward Star, and sure enough we find it almost immediately.  I'm already a little disconcerted because I've forgotten my camera and have to use the crappy one on my phone, and in the process of trying to get the now awake but still groggy toddler safely from the car to the restaurant, I forget to snap a picture of the front of the restaurant and have to use a copy of their logo here...

I think people shoot the messenger because they can't shoot the message...

It is with much, MUCH regret that I pass along the following tidbit: the Yen Ching Bakery will close again at the end of February.  I think this may be just about the most depressing thing I've had the displeasure of reporting here.  What is this now, the third time they've closed?  This time, they say it's for good.

This all started on, of all places.  I don't even remember now how I came to be looking at the Yen Ching Bakery's listing on, but in the comments section someone said that the bakery was to close once and for all at the end of next month.  I was aghast, but skeptical.  I called the bakery and the man who answered the phone didn't know what I was talking about, but said if I wanted to be sure I should call back in a few hours and speak to the owner.  One thing led to another, and I didn't get a chance to call back that evening.  Much later that night I went to Yen Ching's website, got the e-mail address for the bakery, and sent an inquiry.  After a couple of days without a response, I posted a message on their Facebook page asking for information about the situation.  Then today, I called back and the man who answered the phone confirmed it.  This sucks so hard, especially considering how happy I was when the place opened.  It was one of those moments where I thought you know, maybe Boise is more advanced than I thought.  Every new idea that succeeds gives birth to other ideas, which was evidenced by the recent addition of dim sum to Yen Ching's menu.  The dim sum itself was a fringe benefit brought in with the new baker, replacing the previous one whose departure had caused the previous closure of the bakery.  So is the dim sum going away too?  I don't know at this point.  I'll post more as I know it, but in the meantime you'd better get down there Sunday mornings for the fresh steamed buns while you still can.

Native Taters (CLOSED)

Like a lot of Americans, I could stand to lose a little weight.  At least part of this probably has to do with the fact that I consider food to be very sensual, whether I'm cooking it, eating it, or even just watching it prepared on Top Chef (how awesome was last night's Restaurant Wars?!).  I'm not one of those joyless people shovelling flavorless slop into their faces just to keep the machine going.  You know that moment where you pop a morsel of something truly delightful into your mouth and time seems to stop?  Your chewing slows, you close your eyes and tilt your head back slightly, maybe a smile spreads over your face...when I manage to make something that provokes that reaction in my girlfriend, it completely makes my day.  Ask your average person what dish their mother cooked that they liked the most, and check out the transcendent look that washes over their face.  My mother just kills soups.  I don't think I've ever had a better soup than Mom's homemade Zuppa Toscana.  Mothers just seem to corner the market on comfort food, and it's for that reason that I'm almost certain that the proprietor of Native Taters has to be a mother.


This is a new one for me, but since I hit both locations of this chain in a relatively short time frame, I'm just going to do one write-up for both.  Towards the end of last year, Smashburger took out a full-page ad on the back of the main section of the Idaho Statesman.  It was big and unwieldy, but a buy one get one free coupon is worth a little hassle.  It sat in a drawer for a long time, but with the expiration date looming we decided to dust it off and get grown-up food after a recent trip to McDonald's for half-priced Happy Meals (Tuesdays from 5 PM to 7 PM at most if not all of the Treasure Valley locations, just in case you care).  I'm not promoting McDonald's by any stretch, but when you've got kids to deal with sometimes it's an easy way to take care of them cheaply and then cook something or get take-out somewhere for yourself and not have to worry about whether they'll eat it.  Moving on...

Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine (CLOSED)

It's been a while, but if memory serves I first heard about Donnie Mac's Trailer Park Cuisine through an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives".

I don't care much for the show or the host, but I'm amused by the whole theme restaurant thing, and a couple of years down the road when I met my girlfriend she spoke positively about the place.  So, when an opportunity to pick up a $45 voucher to Donnie Mac's for $20 through LivingSocial, I could hardly pass it up.

Some slightly better pictures of crepes...

De Poulet


Strawberry & Nutella

Deliciousness from The Creperie.  The pics are still not as good as I would like, and I still didn't get a picture of the store front.  Guess I'll just have to go back, and I'll keep going back until I get it right!  Oh, how I suffer...

The Gyro Shack (Overland)

As I mentioned in my review of their sister location, the Overland location of The Gyro Shack is not exactly more of the same.  Yes, the menus are very similar, right down to the prices.  And while I love both locations, for me the Ustick branch has a slight edge.  I'm going to lay out the reasons why, but please keep in mind that this is not a negative review, just a slightly less favorable comparison.  Moving on...