Boise Fry Company
111 Broadway Ave., Suite 111, Boise, ID 83702 (map); 208-495-3958; boisefrycompany.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: The combinations of potato, cut, seasoning, and dipping sauce are too numerous to count; the burger is nothing to sniff at, either
Want Fries with That? If you don't order fries here, you've missed the point entirely
Prices: 4-ounce beef burger, $5.29; bison burger, $7.49
I don't get out to Boise much. It's an eight-hour drive from Seattle, I don't know anyone who lives there, and, like the entire state of Idaho, it too often flies so far below the radar that it's practically skimming the ground. But a recent meal at the Boise Fry Company made me realize I haven't been giving the Gem State a fair shake.
How popular is this place? At 2 p.m. on a weekday, well after the lunch hour ended, the tiny space was jammed with people and the line to order was nearly 20 customers deep. By sheer luck I was able to snag a table, which was important, given the massive amount of food I was about to order.
BFC advertises their fries first and foremost, as evidenced by their motto: "Burgers on the side." The menu boldly reflects this devotion to the deep-fried potato by allotting half of it to their fries with many options available. BFC gives you a minimum of six choices of potato—recent options included the classic russet, gold, red lady, sweet potato, yam, and purple. All were organic; all were delicious. Yes, I ordered every one of them.
Not only do you get to pick the potato, you also get to choose the cut. The regular and homestyle fries are the pinky-sized versions that may usually come to mind when you think of fries, and both had a nice balance between firm exterior and creamy interior. Curly and shoestring are both about four millimeters thick and wonderfully crisp. Then there's a fifth cut known as Po' Balls. These are BFC's version of the tator tot, essentially fried mashed potatoes. Since these are labor-intensive to make, they often run out early in the day, as was the case on my visit.
Most restaurants royally botch hand-cut fries, leaving them flaccid and often overcooked. Not at Boise Fry Company. They're twice-cooked in peanut oil in fryers reserved solely for the potatoes, and the texture is spot-on, particularly on the curly and shoestring cuts. All you taste is pure, delicious potato. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say the curly-cut red lady fries offered the perfect balance of crispness and potato flavor.
The fries come to you unsalted, but fear not, BFC has you covered. Boy do they ever. They currently offer eight different types of salt to sprinkle at your leisure, including cinnamon ginger, vanilla, jalapeno, Cajun, horseradish, hickory-smoked, plain sea salt, and best of all, rosemary garlic.
But why stop at salt? You also have eight different dipping sauces to play around with, sending the possible number of potato/salt/sauce combinations into the stratosphere. The most unusual had to be the blueberry ketchup, which tasted very much like a blueberry muffin. Try it with the yam and sweet potato fries. My favorite by a mile was the spicy fry sauce: smoky with a nice kick of heat. Other options included sour Thai, chipotle, roasted garlic, sweet mustard, and even plain ketchup for the unadventurous; there's something for everyone's palate here.
With so much care and attention paid to their fries, you might suspect that the burgers here are a mere afterthought. Not so. These are fast food-style burgers to remember. You get to choose between beef and bison, and while the bison was certainly leaner than the beef, you would be hard-pressed to differentiate between the two. Either way, the four-ounce patty is just the right size. I'm glad it's not any larger; how else are you going to pack in all those fries? The meat develops a lovely crust on the griddle and is seasoned with a secret recipe of ground herbs that co-founder Blake Lingle refuses to divulge.
Whatever magic Lingle's crew is sprinkling back there, it gives the meat a very distinctive flavor that cuts right through every other component of the sandwich, which includes baby lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli, and a terrific red onion gastrique that's so sweet, you don't need ketchup. Indulge and spend the extra buck to get cheese and bacon; the cheddar isn't sharp enough to taste, unfortunately, but the bacon is smoky and cooked perfectly. Everything is carefully arranged on the sturdy yet squishy bun, a BFC creation that's made and delivered every day by Le Café de Paris in downtown Boise.
Idaho's really got something special with the Boise Fry Company. They're doing something different yet familiar, and they're doing it very well. As busy as I saw them get, I'd be very surprised if they remain nestled in that tiny corner space for long; expect a move to a larger location as soon as it's feasible for the owners. In the meantime, I'll suffer the lines here whenever I'm passing through town, because I don't expect them to disappear anytime soon.
About the author: Adam Lindsley is a Seattle-based novelist and the author of the pizza blog, This Is Pizza. As a contributor for both Slice and A Hamburger Today, he is contractually obligated to say he loves pizza and burgers in equal amounts. Which is to say he is a polygamist.