Best Food in Boise

Boise Fry Company - Duck Fat Completes Me

This is a love story about a man and duck fat.

Before I explain that statement, however, let me first tell you that this is also the story of a couple local restauranteurs beating some pretty tall odds.

Their first and foremost challenge: selling people on the concept of a restaurant centered around fries. It seems silly to think so now, but before the Fry Company opened its doors, no one thought twice about the long held notion that fries are merely an accompaniment to burgers, halibut, and other supposedly superior foodstuffs. But did it have to be so? That's the question owners Blake Lingle and Riley Huddleston originally asked themselves. And when they couldn't come up with a good reason why fries should have to be perpetually relegated to side-dish status, they decided to take a stand for the fry-loving constituency of this here town. In their little corner of the world, the fries would be the feature and the burgers would be on the side.

A second potential pitfall was the location of the business. When I first discovered the Fry Company, it was quite by accident. They were having their soft opening at the original restaurant on Broadway, near St. Luke's Hospital. I happened to be riding my bike in the area and saw one of those sign-holder dudes in front of the nearby gas station. The dude was shaking around a sign that read "Free Fries" to the beat of some unheard tune. The sign probably had some other stuff written on there as well, like the name of the business or something, but the words "Free Fries" are kinda like a nice set of boobs -- there's really no way a guy is getting past it to anything else. When I inquired as to the location of such fries and if they were fit for human consumption, the dude didn't even deign to take off his headphones. He merely shook his bangs to the side and used a lazy arm to motion to the nearby dingy-looking strip mall.

My inspection didn't provide much hope. The suite was slightly hidden in the corner of the strip mall, making it easy to overlook. My first thought was that a restaurant would never survive in such a location. Lunch traffic would be okay with the hospital nearby, but evenings and weekends would kill it. Even so, I fully intended to avail myself of the free fries that day, but there was a substantial line and I didn't feel like standing around a long time. So I made a vow to come back if the place lasted three months.

Well, it did last three months, and I made good on my vow to go back. Despite what I thought to be a terrible location, the Fry Company was thriving. And when I tasted their stuff for the first time, I knew why. However, despite initially overcoming the challenges of creating a fry-focused following and getting these devotees into their out-of-the-way restaurant, a greater challenge soon presented itself, and it threatened to completely wipe out this budding hometown success story.

For those of you who make a habit of living under a rock, or if you're new to these parts, the Boise Fry Company was originally named the Idaho Fry Company. And they would have cruised along merrily with that moniker if the lawyers from the Idaho Potato Commission hadn't stopped by to talk about trademarks, protected marks, and similar legal mumbo-jumbo. What owners Blake and Riley soon found out, along with the rest of us, is that no one can legally operate a business in this country that contains the words 'Idaho' and 'Fry' in it unless you're part of the Idaho Potato Cartel, and they are very persnickety about making people aware of that fact. Yep, before the Fry Company could get more than ten feet off the ground it was in danger of being dragged down by Spuddy Buddy and his Tater Tot Minions. In the end, when bad press started to mount for the Commission, the whole imbroglio was settled in a backroom deal where the Fry Company would change its name but the Commission would kindly pick up the tab for all the signage changes and other costs involved with changing a business' name midstream. There was much rejoicing, the fryers started up again, and Boise was sure to have gourmet fries for perpetuity, or at least until there's another potato famine.

Now about those fries.

If you're opening a niche business, your product must be special. In this case, you can't take ordinary run-of-the-mill frozen Ore-Ida fries, drop them in a fryer, sprinkle some salt on them, and call it good. Nope, you have to start with an outstanding raw product and create some outstanding fries. You must know your potatoes -- your Russet, your Gold, your Okinawa. You must also know and perfect your fry styles, because the style -- shoestring, curly, regular, or homestyle -- can affect taste and perception. Most of all, you mustn't be afraid to experiment with potatoes and fries like chefs experiment with cuts of meat, fine cheeses, and dessert ingredients. And this, my friends, is where duck fat comes in.

Leave it up to my ugly wife, with her healthy appetite and fine eye for food, to spot the innocently-named "Bourgeois" at the bottom of the big menu behind the counter the first time we were there. "Do you want to try that?" she said, pointing. Loyal readers will know by now what it takes to really get my attention, and it usually involves the word "fried". After reading the description -- "Finest cut fries, flash fried in duck fat and garnished with black truffle salt." -- my reply was not yeah but hell yeah, and shame on her for asking. After eleven years of marriage, she should've known better.

Now, I've gorged myself on just about all the fry types and styles the BFC has, and I've doctored them with the fine variety of sauces, salts, and other condiments they provide. But I think it's the duck-fat fries that are the absolute tastiest. I want them with every meal. I still don't know what the heck black truffle salt is, but I do know that my life has been enriched because of it. At $8 for a large order, you might be hesitant to pull the trigger, but I suggest you live a little and give these specialty fries a try. They might not be a unanimous hit with your crew, but I'm convinced that some folks wouldn't know good taste if it started licking their kneecaps. How else can some people stomach So You Think You Can Dance? and candied yams? I'm saying right here and now that duck-fat fries are the next great food phenomenon. Remember you heard it here first.

Duck-fat goodness

The truth is, if the Boise Fry Company served nothing but great fries and soft drinks, some people still might see the place as nothing more than a snack shop or college food shack. They might even think, heaven forbid, that it's just a small step up from the fry trailer at the county fair. That's why the kind and wise folks there also offer burgers and beer to round out the meal. And not just any old burger or beer. The burgers -- beef, bison, or vegan -- aren't treated as an afterthought by any means, despite what their "burgers on the side" slogan might indicate. Just as much care goes into their preparation, and I can tell you firsthand that their bison burger is a carnivore's delight. They're fond of putting fancy stuff like "red onion gastrique" and "garlic aioli" on their burgers, and that's nice and all, but I don't think it gets any better than a bison burger with bacon (good thick-cut bacon), cheese, and mustard. It is, shall I say, a perfect compliment to any of the fries, and it easily outdoes most burgers in town, maybe all of them. And you can quote me on that.

Don't expect to find tasteless macrobrewed beer at BFC either. That just wouldn't fit with their concept, now would it? From the beginning, they've offered a fine selection of microbrews, with taps and fridge space always devoted to local favorites from places like Payette Brewing, Sockeye, and Highlands Hollow. But it doesn't stop there. They've also begun featuring their own brand of seasonal beers that are made with -- you guessed it -- potatoes. In case you're wondering, they didn't install a brewery in the back. The beers are contract brewed by Sockeye Brewing, and the results indicate those fishy people know a thing or two about making beer with taters. When I was at BFC this past summer they had a light-colored, summer-style potato ale on tap, and it was surprising tasty and refreshing. If you've never had a potato beer, and the chances are good you haven't, I highly suggest you try whatever seasonal beer they've got when you're there.

The next time you have a fry craving, my humble opinion says the Boise Fry Company is the best place to go. They've branched out to two additional locations -- one in East Boise at Bown and the other out State Street by Glenwood -- so you should be pretty close to one now unless you live in Wichita. And if you do live in Wichita, you're not completely out of luck. The BFC has a mobile fry-totin' food truck that seems to be omnipresent these days, so I suppose it's possible they could come to you. Possible as in a .00001 percent chance. For the rest of you who are a little closer, do me a favor when you finally get there. Ask them where in these parts a man can get his hands on mass quantities of duck fat. I've got a long list of things that need to be fried in it.

Local Food Joint: Boise Fry Company
Locations: 111 Broadway, Suite 111 Boise, ID 83702
3083 S. Bown Way Boise, ID 83706
6944 W. State St. Boise, ID 83714
Specialty: Fries, fries, and more fries
Prices: Reasonable for quality food and drink
Family Friendly? Yes
Website: Boise Fry Company
Fun Fact: Rendering your own duck fat can be fun! Here's a blog entry by a lovely gal who can probably do great things with possum too.
My rating: 5 potatoes out of 5