My mantra for my travel writing in Idaho is (with regard to the food): “Remember: it’s Idaho, not Italy. Manage your expectations.” (Except in Sun Valley — lots of good food there, but it’s a bubble.) Frankly, we are slightly food-challenged in Idaho. It’s not that there’s no good food here, it’s just that there’s not a depth of good food. It’s few and far between. I say this with love. And hope for a better tomorrow.
In the past month, we have stayed slope-side at the Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, Idaho (population 139), as well as at The Shore Lodge, fifteen miles north in McCall (population hovering around 3000). In the course of our stays, we found two stellar restaurants that I just had to tell you about — since I do so much complaining, I figure that I also have to give props when they are deserved.
Buffalo Gal — is an unassuming restaurant on the side of the road in Donnelly. You might never go there unless someone first told you about it. There are only eight tables and the place is decorate from thrift shops and… it’s charming. (Make a reservation — seriously.) The servers are delightful and the menu is astounding — it’s billed as “Global Comfort Food.” Very apt.
We tried the Cassoulet, the Vietnamese Green Bean Salad, Polenta Fries, Fish & Chips and a Shrimp Stuffed Artichoke, a daily special. I know this sounds like a crazy list: but everything was really good — shocking for any restaurant, but even more so in Idaho. Next time, we’ll try the dim sum — I have high expectations. There is even a kid’s menu! Tom Steinberg is the chef and he keeps current on Facebook with the daily specials. The person who recommended Buffalo Gal says he always orders the specials — they never disappoint. So why can’t we have this place in Boise?
The other great meal we had in the middle of Idaho was at Pueblo Lindo, just a mile up from the Shore Lodge. I will admit I’ve only been there once, I only ordered one thing — but it was so nuanced and delicious, I felt I had to write. The carne asada, as recommended by our server, came to our table sizzling, with spicy refried beans (best I’ve ever had) and the chips and salsa were also fresh and delicious. Yes, there’s a kid’s menu. There was such attention to detail and the service was terrific that we will definitely be back on our return to McCall and order from more of the menu.
In Idaho, you need to be adventuresome, both outside and with regard to food. It’s starting to pay off!