So, I’ve been sitting on this one for several months now, in hopes that I would have a chance to return and try some more things (and honestly, get some better pictures). It’s almost happened a couple of times but just didn’t pan out. Maybe writing about the place will galvanize me into dragging my ass down there again…
So, Fork. I’m guessing if you’ve lived in the Boise area for any length of time that you’ve probably heard of them. They hit the big “local” and “sustainable” buzzwords, as well as focusing on Northwest food and feeling. That’s great and all, but I’ve eaten at some terrible restaurants that meet those standards. One evening, the roommate and I decided to drop by and see if the actual FOOD was any good.
Points for atmosphere right off the bat, lots of dark wood and muted lighting, great for vibe but terrible for photographs. They brought us a big glass bottle of water (and a couple of glasses made from cut-down wine bottles to drink it from) and a couple of beers to enjoy as we perused the menu.
The roommate was feeling sandwichy (as is often her wont), and decided to have the BAM Sammy. I was feeling pretty pulled towards the Idaho Philly, but I’d been eating so many freaking beef sandwiches at that point in time because I was on something of a French Dip kick. The only other thing that was really grabbing my attention was the Local Ale-Braised Short Ribs, which was eight bucks more than the sandwich. The roommate rightly said that I wouldn’t forgive myself if I got a sandwich I only half wanted and in doing so passed up something that actually interested me just to save a few bucks. The point being conceded, we placed our order.
But first an appetizer, because you can’t get the two of us into a place that has fried asparagus on the menu without us ordering it. The actually call these things Asparagus “Fries” (love the quote marks), panko-style breading judiciously applied so you actually see the asparagus but still get a nice crunch out of it. Ranch dipping sauce, naturally, though I don’t know why they sprinkled black sesame seeds on it other than for a little aesthetic value. Anyway. Hot, tasty, crispy, really thick but cooked perfectly. Not too floppy but none of that tree branch feel that thick stalks will sometimes get. When I finally make it back to Fork, it’s going to be a toss-up whether I order this again or if I can be swayed by the Grilled Artichoke, or perhaps the Shrimp & Grits (kinda depends on who I’m eating with, the roommate hates seafood even more than she hates tomatoes).
Moving onto the entrees, I can’t describe the roommates’ sandwich any better than their menu does, so why bother: double-cut house braised maple-spiced bacon, avocado, fresh mozzarella, tomato & basil pesto. Of course she had them hold the tomatoes as always, when she remembers (if not, I get them!). The ingredients were all quality, and were treated as such. The most important thing with a sandwich like this is the bacon. Lots of places can’t cook normal bacon correctly, so give them a cut this thick and they’ll just as likely burn it to a crisp or leave it limp and stringy. Happily, neither of those were the case. Additional bonus points for bringing the side salad (which was all gorgeous dark mixed greens) in its own container so you don’t have dressing getting on your sandwich or vice versa.
The menu falters a little bit on its description of the Local Ale-Braised Short Ribs (fork tender Northwest beef, garlic honey mustard sauce & creamy horseradish dollop over smashed potatoes and potato hay), primarily by not disclosing the type of ale or who produces it. Also, dollop? Hay? Honestly, I just saw short rib, horseradish, and smashed potatoes. I didn’t really think much past that. I was a little surprised when they set this down in front of me. The smashed potatoes were actually used as a bed for a very generous portion of beef. The garlic honey mustard sauce, which I can only assume was made from/with the braising liquid, was poured all over. The horseradish was actually a thin horseradish sauce, and the hay was super crispy shoestring-style potatoes.
They definitely weren’t exaggerating the fork tender part, I didn’t have to reach for a knife once the entire meal. As far as flavors go? Wow. I’ve rarely come across a dish with such bold flavors. Of course the concern becomes are those flavors balanced, do they work together, etc. I’m not gonna lie, the sauce was a little strange to me at first, but as I kept eating it trying to decide exactly what I thought of it, it grew on me. I’m a big fan of dishes with a lot of different components like this, where no two bites really taste the same.
For some reason, we can’t ever go downtown to eat without getting dessert. I’m not sure when this rule started, it doesn’t apply universally to anyplace else. Downtown? Always. The roommate decided she wanted the Fork’s Signature Warm Butter Cake. I would have voted for the bread pudding, but dessert is more her thing and I was kind of stuffed anyway.
The dessert may have an unwieldy name, but it’s damn good so who cares? True to advertising, it’s butter cake, and it’s warm. It’s also topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with Oregon berry coulis. If you like buttery cake, berries and ice cream, it’s definitely a safe bet. I still want to try the bread pudding though…
Food: Every single thing we got was good. I couldn’t find one real flaw in anything. Comfort food but still sophisticated enough for a discerning palate.
Value: Pretty good, all things considered. I certainly didn’t find the prices unreasonable.
Service: Fork impressed on this account as well. Friendly and helpful without being pushy or annoying.
Atmosphere: Real relaxed and adult-appropriate vibe, but also family friendly and even has a limited (four items) kid’s menu. Kind of all things to all people I suppose, or as close as you can expect.
Final grade: A