When I first heard rumors that Eighth Street would be home to a new upscale burger joint boasting craft beers and whisky cocktails, I thought, "Really? Do we need another place to get burgers and brews in downtown Boise?"
As it turns out, we do.
I swung by one of the recent soft opening evenings at Eureka!—a California-based chain that opened Monday on Eighth Street in the former Aspen Leaf space—and realized that it's a lot more than a burger joint.
For the soft opening of Eureka's 21st location, employees from around the country were flown in to train Boise staff. Bartenders shook up an array of craft cocktails, like the bitter, bourbon-filled Boulevardier and a blush-hued Rosemary's Ruby Red made with gin and grapefruit over crushed ice, garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary.
The low-lit space boasts a long, square bar fashioned from reclaimed wood with plenty of TV screens streaming football. You can escape the sports bar vibe at one of the side booths near the colorful wall murals or at a table on the Eighth Street-facing patio.
In addition to cocktails, Eureka also offers a sizable specialty whiskey menu with a separate page dedicated to rotating whiskies, like Orphan Barrel Gifted Horse or Black Maple Hill Rye. They also serve local wines by the glass—including Cinder, Sawtooth, Coiled, Hell's Canyon and Telaya—along with local and regional craft beers, like Boise Brewing's Syringa Pale Ale and Freemont Brewing's Wandering Wheat.
Eureka's menu is a mash-up of familiar pub fare—like chili wings and smoked chicken nachos—along with more unique dishes like fried brussels sprouts tossed with an orange chili glaze, chimichurri oil and crushed macadamia nuts or sherry braised Osso Buco pork riblets doused in firecracker aioli.
The spot also specializes in cheeky takes on American classics, like Fried Chicken Sliders with a smear of mashed potatoes, confetti slaw and reaper chili sauce or the Lollipop Corn Dogs, deep fried orbs of Polish sausage dunked in sweet corn batter and served with spicy porter mustard.
One of the more eccentric standouts was the Slow-Roasted Beet Salad. Though it appears like a standard beet salad at first look—peppered with arugula, walnuts, apples, goat cheese and fennel—there's an unusual twist. Before it's served, the salad is sprinkled with watermelon Pop Rocks, which you can hear crackling as the plate approaches the table. The candy continues to fizzle and pop in your mouth with each successive bite. Odd, but entertaining.
The main event at Eureka is the burgers, everything from the Fresno Fig Burger with bacon, fig marmalade and melted goat cheese, to the over-the-top Bone Marrow Burger, laced with bone marrow porcini butter and a tuft of charbroiled onions. Though the bone marrow burger sounded super decadent, it was actually a moderately sized, perfectly seasoned sandwich, sprinkled with flaky Maldon and cooked to a lovely medium rare. Yum.
While the oozing dark chocolate torte topped with vanilla ice cream is actually quite decadent, the elaborate Holy Smokes cocktail is the way to go if you prefer to drink your dessert. Featuring Buffalo Trace bourbon, maple syrup, cherry liqueur and aztec chocolate bitters, the drink is pumped full of hickory smoke behind the bar using a smoke gun. Though you have to wait a few minutes for the smoke to permeate the drink before unscrewing the mason jar lid, the result is a boozy, cherry-licked campfire-in-a-glass.