Friday, August 3, 2012

Westside Drive In, Boise: Stellar food, pink neon

The pink neon sucked me in like a whirlpool. I'm in Boise, Idaho, checking out the emerging wine scene, and the generally young, hip and California-savvy wine people keep recommending restaurants with grilled kale Caesar salads. Which is great, that's what I eat at home, but I want some Idaho flavor.

So, the Westside Drive In. It's on State St., a main drag leading downtown, and because I don't read Rachael Ray I hadn't heard of it. It's famous for a stunt food, a "potato" made of ice cream. It has been around since 1957, when it was converted from a grocery store, and has been pink neon since 1985. I didn't know this when its screaming pinkness called to me: I just knew we don't have hot pink drive-in restaurants in San Francisco.

The menu is surprisingly ambitious: there's a chicken-artichoke heart Caesar salad ($7.50) as a special, and prime rib ($15.95) on Fridays and Saturdays. Chef Lou Aaron cooked at fine restaurants around the country and locally before taking over the drive-in grill in 1994. At one point his menu was so huge that drivers took 15 minutes to read it, so he had to pare back, but you can still sense the ambition: "dip" sandwiches with au jus, tacos, butterscotch malt shakes.

But I want classic drive-in food. Chef Lou makes a patty melt, one of my guilty pleasures, and something I've seen on maybe two menus at home. Done.

The girl who takes my order wears braces and heart-shaped rhinestone earrings. She cheerfully points out that any sandwich can be a combo (small fries and a drink) for about $3 more. It's Idaho; I get the fries.

Good move. The patty melt and fries are both outstanding. The double-patty burger on marbled rye with grilled onions and American cheese is so juicy it's dripping. But the fries are even better. They're so crispy that I suspect they're double-fried, and sprinkled with seasoned salt. I considered getting the stunt dessert, but after finishing the burger and most of the fries, I will be stuffed for hours.

I have no regrets -- except perhaps not finishing the fries.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

The strawberry milkshake is the standard that all others should be measured by.