Archie's Place

Okie dokie kids, I'm going to do one more quick write-up before taking off to spend the weekend in Portland.  I haven't hopped on the smart phone bandwagon yet so I'm going to be largely incommunicado, except perhaps for random, stream of consciousness text posts to my Facebook page.  Before I go foraging for exotic foodstuffs not indigenous to the greater Boise area (like good doughnuts and dim sum), I had to throw in my two cents on an up-and-comer to the local food scene which has already been generating a fair amount of attention: Archie's Place.

Hmm.  I wonder what they sell...

Taste of Chicago

There are two great culinary battlefields where New York and Chicago have been duking it out for decades, with still no end in sight:  who makes the best pizza, and who makes the best hot dogs.  In the spirit of full disclosure, let me just say that I'm firmly on the NY side of the fence on both of these issues.  I've never had the opportunity to try Chicago-style pizza IN Chicago, but what I've had around here hasn't impressed me much (this puts me squarely at odds with my sister, her boyfriend and my roommate).  The hot dog issue isn't as clear cut.

You see, though I do consider the hot dog to be a kind of watered-down version of a sausage, it doesn't stop me from loving them.  Give me a pile of pulverized meat and spices in a casing, and I'm a pretty happy guy, especially if I didn't have to watch it being made.  I'm also pretty equal opportunity when it comes to my hot dogs; boiled, sliced down the middle and fried, grilled, held over a campfire at the end of a stick, wrapped in dough and baked in the's all fine with me.  Now for nostalgic reasons, when I've got a hot dog craving and I don't want to do the work myself, I usually hit up Stan's on Vista Avenue in Boise.  I lived in Buffalo for a couple of years, so the hot dogs he imports from there and the way he chars the hell out of them really hit home for me (not to mention the amazing frozen custard and the delicious onion rings...can't wait to try the beef on weck!), but we're not here to talk about Stan's right now, or even NY-style hot dogs in general.  Let's spend some time on the other side of the fence, shall we?

Tacos Aguililla

I have mentioned in previous entries that the torta is my favorite Mexican food item.  I've said that the best tortas I know of come from a taco truck in Nampa.  However, those of you who have read my Wheelers review may remember that I have also said I almost never make it out to Nampa to eat.  Well kiddies, I've been doing this blogging thing for nearly a year now, and it's about time I shared this hunk of Heaven on Earth with you.

Zen Bento (Eagle)

This may be one of my most comprehensive review to date.  The two adults in this household have become very fond of Zen Bento lately.  Over the course of six days we visited them three times, and I've had the opportunity to try five different items.  No hilarious anecdotes or anything to relate though, so this should be fairly concise...and away we go...

Smoky Mountain Pizza & Pasta (Eagle)

If there's one thing that I know about food, it's that pretty much everybody loves Italian.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that everyone loves food with Italian roots.  Even the pickiest of kids I've known still adore pizza and spaghetti, but those dishes have come a long way from where they started, and some would say they're not exactly better because of it.

As for myself, I love pizza and pasta, traditional or not, as long as they bring something to the table (hopefully that something is quality ingredients and good flavor).    However, and the roommate and I have discussed this at length, at what point is an eatery considered "Italian" and not just a pizza joint?  Olive Garden, though it pains me to say it, could probably be considered an Italian restaurant...or at least an Italian theme restaurant.  I would even go so far as to call Casanova an Italian eatery, though all they really serve is pizza and sandwiches, because the pizza is the closest you'll find to authentic Italian style around here, at least so far as I understand it.  But I doubt anyone would argue that Pizza Hut is an Italian restaurant.  I certainly wouldn't.  But why not?  They're serving pizza and pasta, aren't they?  Where is the line drawn?  Does it really boil down to one of those "I know it when I see it" things?  In the end, does it matter either way as long as the food is good?  And how does all of this apply to Smoky Mountain?

Smoky Mountain's Eagle location, on State Street

T.G.I. Friday the 13th (sorry, couldn't resist)

If you've been reading this blog for a while, my unabashed love of Anthony Bourdain should be obvious.  However, just because I think he's super-cool and I envy the hell out of his job, it doesn't mean I agree with everything he says.  One of the things we don't see eye to eye on is chain restaurants.  "But wait", you might be saying (or might not, doesn't really matter), "you both hate chain restaurants!"  And you may even use my reviews of Red Robin, Nick-N-Willy's, Jimmy John's, Olive Garden, Ling and Louie's, and most fast food franchises as an example.  And you would have a point, but every once in a while you find a chain that still prides itself as much or more on food than they do on theme.  Despite their sometimes oppressive atmospheres, I really do consider the food at places like The Cheesecake Factory, Five Guys, and The Melting Pot to be downright excellent, and I could name a few other chains (Tucano's, The Ram, P.F Chang's) where the food is damn good.  Hell, I'll even grab take-out now and then from some places that I can't stand to spend any length of time inside of!

One of the places Bourdain lambasts most often is T.G.I Friday's (which he lumps into a kind of imaginary hybrid worst-case scenario chain that he calls T.G.I. McFunster's).  I've been listening to him work that schtick for years now, and it occurred to me finally that I can't even say if Friday's food is any good.  I'd only eaten there once, in Buffalo, something like nine years ago, and what I had isn't even on the menu any longer!  I'd been toying with the idea of giving them another shot for a while due to a buy one lunch item/get one free lunch coupon in this year's Entertainment Book (I'll throw them a link even though they have repeatedly refused to advertise on this blog).  Today I figured hey, what better day than the most notorious of Fridays!

New York Richie's (grand opening)

I've been pimping New York Richie's pretty hard lately, and there's a reason for it.  I love the place, or at least I loved their La Grande location.  You see, almost five years ago at the ripe old age of 30 (oh, it was all in front of me then!) I had a kind of an interesting summer.  My family used to go camping at Wallowa Lake every year when I was growing up, and while they more or less continued the tradition, for one reason after another I didn't go along for about a decade.  Then one of my loved ones had a successful battle with cancer and a bunch of us decided to go celebrate.  As a bonus, my mother and I decided to quit smoking on the trip.  Since the family comes from two separate directions for the camping trips, we tend to meet in La Grande to hit up Walmart for last minute supplies and groceries, then stop at a restaurant to grab a bite before the last leg of the journey.  That was the year we discovered New York Richie's.  We liked it enough that we stopped again on the way back home, partly so everyone could have one last meal together before going their separate ways home, partly for a couple of us to celebrate making it through the first few difficult days without a cigarette, but mostly because we just loved the food. 

Of course, La Grande is a long way to go for pizza, so I haven't gotten to New York Richie's very often.  I'm sure you can imagine how pleased I was a few weeks ago when I spotted the "New York Richie's Coming Soon" signs on the old Atza Pizza location on Glenwood Street in Garden City.  I drive up and down Glenwood pretty much daily, and I watched intently for any change.  Just over a week ago, there were colored flags strung all over outside the restaurant, and a phone call to them revealed that were open for business.  By the time they finally did the official grand opening on Friday, I decided I'd waited long enough.

Ram Restaurant & Brewery (Meridian)

I honestly cannot think of a single adult I know who hasn't visited one of the two Treasure Valley Ram locations.  Personally, I've never been to the one in Boise, but I have made it to the Meridian branch at Pine and Eagle Roads on several occasions.  In fact, it's where I met the woman who would go on to become my ex-girlfriend and current roommate.  Yeah, my life is kind of interesting sometimes.  The point is that she is one of my closest friends and kind of a foodie in her own right, which is why she accompanies me so often when I go out to eat.  Regardless, we hadn't been to the Ram together in quite some time before she suggested it for lunch yesterday.  It wasn't quite what I had been thinking, but when she sets her mind on a place it's nigh-impossible to dissuade her.  Besides, it would provide me with another chance to satisfy the ridiculously picky burger craving I've been having for the last couple of months...

A spoiler?  Perhaps...