Some argue breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Three downtown destinations make a strong case for that theory. One is an old-school, sit-down, full service restaurant. One is impossibly, deliciously hip. The other provides a leisurely escape to an idyllic European-inspired market and café. Which one are you in the mood for today?
A’Tavola Gourmet Marketplace
The translation of a’Tavola is “the table,” and if that conjures up the idea of pulling up a chair and staying a while, then Lisa Peterson’s charming market and café has achieved its mission. After owning a deli in McCall, and subsequently serving as deli manager at the Boise Co-op for a number of years, Peterson opened her dream place in the Linen District in 2012. Bright and airy, a’Tavola is a Willy Wonka factory for gourmet-bent foodies.
Pop in for coffee at the dedicated coffee bar to the right of the entrance, past the display of larger-than-life cookies, croissants and muffins, or turn left at the entrance and enter the culinary library space. Pluck a cookbook from the wall of bookshelves and settle in at the long, community table, perhaps Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” or an obscure book on the regional dishes of Umbria. Front-and-center in the wide-open space are tables and shelves stockpiled with gourmet goodies: jams, olive oils, chocolate, as well as gifts for the culinary-obsessed—tea towels, pottery, food-scented candles.
The market is only half the story. The other half is the food. Pick up a menu at the deli counter and step aside to study, or just ogle the offerings in the case. Try not to drool over gooey brioche sticky buns studded with no small number of pecans, drowning in a sea of salted caramel, or thick slabs of custard-y baked blueberry French toast, or cheesy layers of eggy breakfast enchiladas. The offerings change frequently, but regardless of what’s on display any given day, count on ample portions. After placing your order, take your number to your table and wait, or wander around, lost in the trés chic gourmet wonderland.
Big City Coffee
One block east of the spacious, gentrified A’Tavola, is the hipster counter-serve breakfast joint, Big City Coffee. Lines often spill from the counter to the street, with young professionals jostling for tables or waiting for to-go orders. Tables are nestled close enough to hear your neighbor’s conversation, even over the din of clanging plates and genuine, jolly chatter.
Big City Coffee is brimming with country-kitsch signs covering every square-inch of walls, and hanging from the exposed ceiling. The interior décor is almost an oxymoron to its industrial urban setting in the historic Linen District.
The coffee game is strong, but the food shares equal billing. Breakfast, served all day, ranges from a heap of steamed egg dishes—in the form of wraps, sandwiches and plates with a myriad of sides—to proper biscuits and gravy, quiche, waffles and house-made granola and oatmeal.
The rodeo wrap is for serious eaters only: eggs, potatoes, cheese, four meats—bacon, ham, turkey and sausage—wrapped in a flour tortilla and smothered in country cream gravy. The side of salsa provides a smidgen of vegetables in the form of tomato, onions and chile peppers. If sweet is more to your liking, the nutty buddy might hit the spot. There are plenty of deep pockets in the Belgian waffle to capture the Nutella spread, chocolate sauce, and pecans. Whipped cream and powdered sugar are mere window dressing to the decadent chocolate and hazelnut wonderland.
Healthy eaters shouldn’t fret. There are plenty of lighter options, including a low-carb scramble and a “tree hugger” plate of eggs with tofu and vegetables, but first you have to get past the pastry case at the register, with tempting iced scones, oversized muffins, decadent brownies and other naughty sweets. Good luck with that.
Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro
As Goldy’s is popular with locals and tourists alike, count on a wait during peak breakfast times at this sit-down, full-service downtown staple. Goldy’s opened in 1999 but landed on the national stage in 2002, when Bon Appétit magazine proclaimed it one of “10 Favorite Places for Breakfast.” Since then, the red-brick diner has been featured in the New York Times and Men’s Journal, not to mention picking up local awards here and there like loose pebbles on the banks of the Boise River.
The 90-seat, two-story dining room features an open kitchen tucked in the back-right corner. If you can snag a seat upstairs along the balcony, it’s fun to watch the kitchen flip pancakes and hustle-and-bustle to churn out old-fashioned, nothing-too-fancy breakfast plates. If you do encounter a wait, don’t fret: It won’t be too long, and you can pass the time in the adjoining Goldy’s Corner, which is part coffee shop, part gift shop.
Once settled at a table, be forewarned: The menu is long, but that means there is something for everyone. Create your own breakfast combo with a choice of egg preparation, meat, potatoes (hey, this is Idaho!) and bread or pastries, to omelets and frittatas, to pancakes and French toast. Goldy’s prides itself on its house-made hollandaise sauce, which it offers on a variety of benedicts, as well as over asparagus (when in season) or broccoli. True story: You can order just a side of hollandaise.