It is always nice when reality exceeds your expectations. When we planned this trip, Boise wasn’t on our radar. We planned to travel from Salt Lake City to Craters of the Moon (which we’ll do tomorrow) but a friend mentioned that they spent a weekend in Boise and really enjoyed it and that Boise has a large population of people of Basque descent and several good Basque restaurants. That got Leo’s attention because he happens to be of Basque descent on his mothers side. So we headed to Boise and we were happy to find a very charming city indeed.
On our first full day, we visited the Basque museum and cultural center in the morning. The museum although small, was interesting explaining not only who the Basque people are but how they settled in this part of the US. The Basque immigrants came to the area (and all over the west really) during the late 1800s and primarily worked as sheep herders, a skill they knew well and brought from their homeland. They were very successful at it. Their early beginnings were rough, they lived in wagons and endured many hardships. They also built an unique infrastructure via boarding houses all along many western states which served to support existing Basque and newcomers as well. These boarding houses became more than just shelter, they also served as information centers, cultural centers, plus offered all sorts of assistance providing a means for the Basque people to settle the area efficiently.
After the museum we stretched our legs downtown and visited the capital building. The downtown area is charming with a lot of nice restaurants and shops. Many restaurants provided outdoor seating which we really enjoy. We had a light lunch and then headed to Julia Davis Park for a bike ride. This is a beautiful urban park with a long bike trail that connects with the Boise River Greenbelt bike path and several other greenways and trails. You can get a nice long ride along the river, and bike through beautiful subdivisions with majestic homes along golf courses and the river.
We always enjoy trying new and local restaurants so naturally we took to Yelp to find a Basque restaurant, there are several in the area but one that was highly rated was Epi’s Basque Restaurant in Meridian which is a suburb of Boise. We decided to make a reservation and thank God we did because the place was packed when we arrived. This restaurant is family owned and operated and they are very proud of their Basque heritage. The owner was happy to talk to us and explain their menu and their Basque family history.
Here is a description from the menu:
The portions are very generous, family/home cooking style so we decided to order two appetizers, the chorizo and croquetas and share one entre. We ordered the lamb chops which were delicious and served with soup and salad. It was a lot of food! But we saved room for a delicious chocolate mouse cake desert.
Overall Boise was a pleasant surprise and a perfect civilized stop before we head for Craters of the Moon tomorrow, which I am imagining as a volcanic wasteland, but I may be surprised one more time. There are also natural hot springs in the area which we want to try, plus the towns of Ketchum and Pocatello to explore…I’ll let you know.