How Boise Became One of the Nation’s Great Food Cities

Immigrant-friendly policies also made for great restaurants

If you're looking for distinctive food, Boise has plenty of it.
Alden Skeie/Unsplash

When you think of the country’s greatest cities for food, a few names come to mind immediately — New York, Nashville, Chicago and New Orleans among them. But there’s another spot located a little further west that’s been making a name for itself with a range of impressive restaurants and cuisines, and it’s located in western Idaho. That would be Boise, which was praised in Eater not long ago for both the diversity of the food on offer and the ways the city’s restaurants have responded to the pandemic.

As with many cities across the country, immigrants from different parts of the world have brought their own food traditions with them. That’s one of the reasons why Boise is home to a number of impressive Basque restaurants. But that’s not the only cuisine that’s found a warm reception in Idaho’s capital city.

In 2019, Boise was formally designated as a “Welcoming City” by the nonprofit group Welcoming America. That reflects its openness to immigrants and refugees — several of whom used their experience to open restaurants in Boise once they’d gotten settled. Laura Kiniry at Atlas Obscura explored the stories behind the cuisines available throughout the city; the resulting article is enough to make you want to book the next flight to Boise, when travel is safe again.

The article includes descriptions of eateries both brick-and-mortar and mobile, with cuisines including Nigerian, Cuban, Iraqi and Peruvian. Atlas Obscura notes that the Boise metropolitan area has a population of 750,000 — or 1/25 the size of New York’s metropolitan area — and yet the diversity of cuisines is comparable to what you’d see in a much larger city. It’s a welcome effect from a far-sighted policy.


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