Taste December 19, 2018

A Devilishly Good Time

Diablo & Sons adds local spice to downtown

As Boise booms and gets hipper by the day, it’s still a little Old West around the edges.

Sheepherders move herds across the Foothills each summer. A man with a mule named Richard serves fresh-brewed coffee to runners and mountain bikers on the trails. Politicians still wear cowboy hats.

So opening a bawdy saloon downtown called Diablo & Sons just makes sense, right? Especially when it serves tacos on tortillas made with local, organic corn. When pork for tamales is responsibly raised in Kuna. Craft beer? Check. There are 26 lager-focused taps. And outdoor bar seating warmed with geothermal heat? You bet.

Diablo & Sons, located on the corner of Eighth and Idaho streets in Boise, is the latest project by Dave Krick, a longtime local and sustainable food pioneer. He and wife Jami Adams also own next-door neighbors Bittercreek Ale House and Red Feather and took over the former Pollo Rey space about two-and-a-half years ago.

Krick and his team took their time brainstorming what the space would become. He wanted it to be unmistakably Boise. “We’ve always loved this corner, Krick said. “Ever since we opened Bittercreek we’ve had the option on it.”

Diablo & Sons beat out a corporate pizza giant and a few others with fat wallets who were competing for the prime space in the Fidelity building, which was built in 1906. But their saloon idea won out, and Krick and his band of visionaries hit on a theme of smoke, fire and heat. And Diablo & Sons became a bar that would serve craft lagers, tacos and shareable small plates.

Renovations took over a year and included expanding the basement into a 5,000 square-foot commissary kitchen to serve all three restaurants, and included space to store, cook and grind corn for tortillas and tamales, and a new home for the worm composting operation, which deals with much of the restaurants’ food waste.

“We’ve wanted to do tacos for a long time, but we didn’t want to be a Mexican restaurant,” Krick said. “But we knew we wanted to make tortillas from scratch because they’re such a great platform for local food. They’re like an edible plate, and if you make the plate out of a local product, you can see the potential for this being our most local restaurant.”

For Diablo & Sons, local also means hewing to what makes Boise, well, Boise. Like feeling okay with wearing fleece to a fine dining restaurant, said David Roberts, brand manager for Diablo, Red Feather, and Bittercreek.

“We’re uniquely interested in what’s cool about Boise and what makes it different from places like Seattle or Salt Lake,” Roberts said.

That means sourcing as much local food as possible, which can be tricky, but also featuring local flavors and techniques, he said. Diablo has been working with local organic farmers to determine which heirloom varieties of corn can produce the best masa for its tortillas and tamales. For now, until the production of local corn stabilizes, much of Diablo’s corn comes from Masienda, an organic, fair-trade cooperative in Mexico. Roberts said the menu was designed to feature items that are most sustainable and local year-round, like corn, pork, grass-fed beef, and lamb. No pale, under-ripe tomatoes.

“We’re a value-driven restaurant group, so we wanted to do something that focused on those values,” Roberts said. “And we wanted to do something that was kind of playful and had a darker edge,”

Playful and dark also describes the décor, which is decidedly saloon-y. The Lodge is a room off the bar with corseted-back chairs and walls covered with framed artwork of hares, which also pop up elsewhere. The hare theme began with an early idea to feature mezcal—later abandoned because of the local credo—and a related Aztec legend involving hare demigods.

Glossy black tile covers the walls of the open kitchen, and with the open- flame broiler, could make the devil feel right at home. A black, custom bar features a line of Lukr taps from the Czech Republic that can pull your lager either crisp or smooth. Reclaimed woods are used throughout. Sumptuous booths feature lush red velvets and hides. There are antique chandeliers, custom-made silk shades over the bar, and a vintage organ that serves as a DJ booth for spinning vinyl.

Krick credits his wife with much of the design. But emphasized how his team, with the luxury of time, collaborated through the whole process.

The menu gives a nod to the devil with its spicy foods, while paying homage to the Victorian era and Old West.

There are Angels on Horseback, a bacon-wrapped oyster taco inspired by its Victorian namesake (there was also a Devil on Horseback), a Cowboy Pork Chop, burnt wings and blistered steak.

“Those are the things that were just rich for us. Channeling that energy of Diablo & Sons, this fun thread of foods that were taboo, vilified over time,” Krick said.

Although cocktails have been a huge seller so far, beer was always intended to be the star. With IPA-focused brewpubs on almost every corner, Krick and Roberts were more interested in showcasing food-friendly lagers. But they found no such models across the country, especially ones with oyster tacos and geothermally heated bars.

Diablo & Sons’ menu will evolve to include a late-night menu with a raclette bar, brunch, lunch service, and soft-serve ice cream tacos served on a cocoa tortilla and crunchy waffle shell with salted caramel.

By spring there will be seats warmed by Boise’s geothermal heat source. “It’s both green and good, and we like to think of it as heat from hell,” Krick chuckled.

This article appears in the Winter 2018 Issue of Territory Magazine.