Anyone who’s lived in the Boise area for any length of time likely knows Pojo’s. For the longest time, they were THE video arcade in town, for a while even expanding to a second location in Nampa’s Karcher Mall. And like most large arcades, they had a café/snack counter where you could buy gummy pizza, boring hamburgers, and so on. Eventually, facing newer competitors in better areas than the little chunk of Fairview that Pojo’s calls home, they went the economy route. Nickel video games brought out loud kids and annoying teenagers, and eventually I ended up doing all my video gaming at home. Normally that would be where the story ends, but I never could have predicted what Pojo’s had up their sleeves…
|Abandon all preconceived notions, ye who enter here|
The changes at Pojo’s came to my attention through my co-workers, strangely enough. Several of them started going there on their lunch breaks and always came back raving about the food. It was easy enough to shrug off at first, after all I’m sure cheap food close by and video games while you wait would appeal to a lot of people. Still, the stories persisted and started making me curious. Then one day I was driving by and they were advertising that day’s lunch special: a turkey sandwich with a side salad. Yeah, that’s what I thought too. From a video arcade! I kept wanting to check it out for myself but was having a hard time getting around to it. Finally we ended up having a potluck at work, and it suddenly occurred to me that Pojo’s would be more or less deserted with all my co-workers eating at the office.
|Inside the Carousel Café|
I was immediately struck by how clean and orderly it was inside. The Carousel Café was finally living up to the second half of its name. And the menu? The pizza is still there, but I doubt it’s the same old gummy version. Their current specialty pies include a Mexican/Italian crossover blend, a buffalo chicken variety, and even one with grilled chicken and a white sauce. The burgers are now quarter pound sirloin affairs. A number of sides, salads and appetizers are also available, but I’d had my heart set on that turkey sandwich since seeing that sign. I opted for the lunch combo #2, which comes with a deli sandwich with potato or pasta salad and a medium drink. While I waited, I peeked my head into the next room. What had once housed a bunch of run-down, ticket-spitting games was now a sparkling clean cafeteria setup with a few games lining the walls for good measure.
|Do they use all this seating? They will as people find out how good the food is!|
Luckily, they hadn’t started my sandwich before I happened to glance up at a sign hanging behind the counter. It listed three specialty sandwiches, gourmet chicken, pulled pork, and one that grabbed me so hard that I immediately changed my order. It was a turkey, bacon and avocado on grilled parmesan focaccia. That would have peaked my curiosity at any sandwich shop, but from here? I simply had to try it. Revised order placed, I looked around a little more, and everywhere I turned there was something interesting to see. A tray of 75 cent cupcakes. A cooler full of juices, energy drinks and glass-bottle sodas. A kid’s meal menu, with a choice of pizza, Jr. burger, corn dog, hot dog, or chicken nuggets, all come with a soda and all but the pizza come with fries or tots. That’s already more selection than you’ll find at most fast food places, and while there’s no toy, the meal comes with a free carousel ride. The price for all of this? $3.20, how cool is that?! I was still looking around when my order came up, but I grabbed the bag and headed back to the office.
|Again, yes, this came from Pojo’s|
I think I must have stared at the food for a few seconds, wondering when the other shoe would drop. This not only looked edible, but damned good as well. They even surrounded the pasta salad with a little lettuce to keep it from getting all over the sandwich in transit. The pasta salad was as good as it looked, pepperoni and all, but it was the sandwich that kept shocking me. I had to keep reminding myself were it came from. The bread was grilled, not too lightly, not too browned, just enough to give it some texture. Baked-on parmesan cheese crumbled off as I ate. The turkey was great, the lettuce crisp and fresh, the bacon flavorful, and the tomato actually ripe. Even the avocado, which a lot of places go light on and prep ahead of time, was plentiful with nary a brown patch to be found. There are a number of places to get a sandwich near Boise Towne Square, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that Pojo’s, or at least this one sandwich, can stand their ground against most of the other options.
|See for yourself, nothing wrong here!|
Of course, I suppose this one menu item might be a fluke. I have every intention of going back to try some of the other options, so I guess I’ll know soon enough. Part of me thinks it might have benefited Pojo’s to change the name of their little eatery or done some real advertising to grab people’s attention, but in the end nothing helps like word of mouth, and that’s where my two cents comes in. True, I’d feel a little odd eating there by myself or even with co-workers, but I’ll definitely go back for lunch take-out, and next time I need something cheap and simple for the kids (not to mention the games and rides) but with options that can please me as well, Pojo’s will be high on the list that pops into my mind. Now, I just have to convince my girlfriend…