Potatoes are a way of life in Idaho, which grows nearly a third of all potatoes in the United States. And perhaps nowhere is this more true than the state’s capital city, Boise, which is home to a thriving culinary scene.
“Potatoes are a comfort food, and I think that makes them appealing for many people,” says Carrie Westergard, executive director of Visit Boise, the city’s tourism office. “It’s also a very versatile ingredient that can be used in a multitude of ways. They’re used locally in beer, donuts and as pizza toppings, plus all the iconic favorites like French fries, baked potatoes and more.”
To celebrate these humble, starchy root vegetables, Visit Boise has launched a new potato trail that takes visitors on a mouthwatering trek to different eateries and bars serving up potato — and potato-inspired — dishes all over town. The full Boise Potato Trail includes 19 stops, but if you’re only in town for a short while, these are a few of our favorites.
The Basque Market: Patatas Bravas
Boise is home to one of the largest Basque populations outside of Europe. Members of this ethnic group hail from northeast Spain and southwest France near the Bay of Biscay and the Pyrenees Mountains. Starting in the 1800s, Basques began emigrating to the United States, with some choosing to settle in Boise.
Food is one of the best ways to experience Boise’s Basque culture. Dive right in by ordering patatas bravas at the Basque Market, situated in a lively downtown neighborhood called the Basque Block. This savory dish is a type of pintxo, or snack, made with fried potatoes, spices and a delicious red sauce, all topped with a drizzle of roasted garlic aioli. If you can, try to plan your visit around noon on a Wednesday or Friday, which is when the Basque Market serves up its beloved meat and seafood paella. Fans start lining up around 11 a.m. because when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Westside Drive In: Ice Cream Potato
Be sure to save room for dessert and head to the Westside Drive In for one of the most beloved Idaho dishes on the Boise Potato Trail: the ice cream potato. While potatoes aren’t actually an ingredient in this dish, they do serve as the design inspiration behind it. At this 1950s-style diner, chefs form vanilla ice cream into a potato-shaped log, then dust the outside with cocoa powder. After a brief stint in the freezer to help the ice cream hold its shape, they cut a slit down the middle length-wise, just like you’d do with a baked potato hot out of the oven. Then, they finish this chilly dessert with a tower of whipped cream, crunchy peanuts and Oreo crumbs.
And if you need something more filling, Westside Drive In also has an entire section of its menu dedicated to “Super Spuds,” or one-pound baked potatoes topped with your choice of butter, broccoli and cheddar cheese, or sour cream, bacon, cheddar cheese and chives.
Trillium Restaurant: Smoked Trout Poutine
Bar food, but make it fancy. The team at Trillium Restaurant in downtown Boise levels up its poutine by adding smoked Steelhead trout and lemon cream to a generous heap of French fries and cheese curds.
If you consider yourself a bit of a poutine aficionado, you should also head to Bittercreek Alehouse. This long-standing pub, which has a variety of craft beers on tap, makes its classic poutine with fries, cheese curds, house gravy, braised pork and scallions.
Pie Hole: Potato Bacon Pizza
This isn’t your average pizza. Instead of red sauce, the team at Pie Hole smothers the crust in garlicky Alfredo sauce. And instead of more traditional toppings like onions and peppers, they layer on thin slices of roasted potatoes and finish it with crispy bacon. The potato bacon pizza is a fan favorite at Pie Hole, which has two locations in Boise. But if it just isn’t your thing, you can add roasted potatoes to a build-your-own pizza here, too.
Another great option for white pizza on the Boise Potato Trail is The Wylder, which also uses potatoes atop its Gem State of Mind pie. Made with decadent parmesan cream sauce, their version includes fingerling potatoes, caramelized onions, rosemary and sage.
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Guru Donuts: Potato Donuts
Move over, hash browns — there’s a new way to eat potatoes for breakfast. Guru Donuts incorporates potatoes into the dough of its signature hole-y base, which bakers dip or roll in tantalizing toppings like maple glaze, cinnamon sugar or pumpkin spice glaze with fall spice buttercream.
For those who need to be careful around wheat, some good news: these fluffy potato donuts are “gluten friendly,” as the team at Guru Donuts describes them. (They don’t contain any gluten, but they are made in the same kitchen — and with the same equipment — as donuts that do contain wheat, so they may not work for everyone.)
Bear Island Brewing: Idaho Potato Ale
If you’re an avid craft beer drinker, you’re probably familiar with the acronym “IPA,” which typically stands for India Pale Ale. But at Boise’s Bear Island Brewing, those three letters stand for something else: Idaho Potato Ale. Yes, Boiseans have even found a way to incorporate potatoes into beer.
Owner Beth Bechtel first dreamt up the idea while deployed with the U.S. Navy in the Middle East. Whenever she had downtime, she home brewed beer and, one day, she ran out of barley. When she went to the store to find a replacement starch, her eyes fell on russet potatoes — and her Idaho instincts simply kicked in.
Beyond its Idaho Potato Ale, the brewery fully embraces the spud spirit. They’ve won awards for their Belgian table beer named Tater Tot and, every fall, they host Spudfest, an Oktoberfest-style gathering complete with a spud-holding competition (where, instead of heavy beer steins, participants try to hold up a bag of potatoes for as long as possible) and mashed potato eating contest.
The BrickYard Steakhouse: Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes
This combination might seem strange, but make no mistake — peanut butter and mashed potatoes are made for each other. Instead of butter, the team at the BrickYard Steakhouse adds a dollop of peanut butter to its mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, which gives them an even richer, creamier texture. For brightness and just a hint of smoky heat, chefs also add roasted red bell peppers and chipotle.
If that dish doesn’t strike your fancy, you’ve got plenty of other options at the BrickYard. For an appetizer, order the potato jackets, which are crispy russet potato skins filled with whipped potatoes, smoked bacon, sharp cheddar cheese and fresh chives, all topped with chimichurri steak cuts. Also consider the smoked bacon potato soup, potatoes au gratin, truffle fries, potato cakes or roasted fingerlings, to name a few.
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