The animated cheers of sports spectators at Simplot Stadium rumble in the distance, but the atmosphere at Bent Fork Bar & Grill is peaceful. Diners lounge within its sun-filled dining halls or on its back patio, where the Indian Creek rushes past guests lingering over their final bites of burgers, steaks, and pastas. Beneath the restaurant's high ceilings and wooden pillars, you can spot the owners—members of the Buhler family—tending to their respective posts: Amanda supervises the floor, Bo captains the kitchen, and Ryan doles out draft beers and specialty cocktails at the bar. Throughout the month, they also host community events ranging from live music to town meetings to vote on the mayor's new haircut.
Though the family-owned eatery traces its roots back nearly 60 years, its signature attraction spans a comparatively brief 30 minutes. The 18 Wheeler Challenge pits customers against the shop’s 2-pound bacon cheeseburger, half a pound of fries, and a large milkshake—they get half an hour to make it vanish. So far, only two have emerged from the challenge victorious—and one was a T-Rex—but either way participants walk away with a t-shirt. Though the pantheon of victors in the challenge is limited, countless patrons have successfully enjoyed the 18 Wheeler's menu siblings.
Since the Mudd family purchased Wheeler’s Handout, not much has changed. Their signature housemade burgers cost a bit more than $0.30 now, but the recipes and family’s commitment to service has been carried on with the work of Kathi, a member of the third generation who leads the staff. She and her team cook the family recipes for gourmet burgers and hot dogs, handmaking corn dogs, chili cheese fries, and milkshakes, malts, and floats.
To keep the peace, families gathered at dinner usually avoid divisive topics, such politics, religion, and which toppings to order on a pizza. Primos Pizza prides itself on removing this last difficulty with its all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, from which each individual can select his or her preferred slices. This commitment to accommodating families is rivaled only by its decade-long culinary quest to serve the highest-quality pies. Since the original Primos Pizza opened in Boise, its chefs have made strides to focus not just on the quantity of its pizza, but on its quality. A collaboration with Pendleton Flour Mills in Oregon has helped them create a unique dough recipe, which they then dust with a special blend of spices and fresh 100% mozzarella cheese.
At the Blue Sky Cafe, guests chow down on hearty American diner fare, surrounded by memorabilia of the early age of flight. Propellers, parts, and photos of classic planes decorate the walls, creating a handsome backdrop for feasts of pancake stacks, nachos, fried-fish sandwiches, and icy-cold beers.
Though James and Laura Heiberg count chef Ryan Lancaster among their good friends, that wasn't why they hired him to man the griddles at John Doe’s Grill. Instead, the brother-sister team of restaurateurs recognized that Chef Ryan's experience as head chef at The Dish and Square would help him infuse plates of casual pub fare with surprising twists. Ingredients such as rosemary au jus, sun-dried tomatoes, and homemade red hot sauce bedeck John Doe's traditional sandwiches and burgers, which nestle into diner-style red plastic baskets lined with checkered paper. Three large-screen high-definition TVs broadcast sports games in keeping with the laid-back vibe, and a game room invites patrons to shoot darts and billiards between sips of beer or rounds of hot potato with sizzling-hot quesadillas.
Chef/owner Ronald LeBaron whips up classic down-home breakfasts in a family friendly atmosphere at LeBaron's Honker Cafe. Omelets, chicken-fried steak and eggs, and other homestyle breakfasts are served all day, but in the mornings, it's the jumbo homemade cinnamon rolls that entice early risers first. Sweet smells of swirled dough and glassy icing mingle through the air while Ron stacks plates with fluffy pancakes, Texas-size French toast, and three-egg omelets stuffed with choice ingredients. Later in the day, chef Natasha steps in the kitchen where she creates mouth-watering dinner specials, such as her slow-roasted root-beer barbecue tri-tip served with twice-baked mashed potatoes, corn, and scallion fritters. Guests may top off any meal with a wedge of homemade-baked pie.