Monday, May 30, 2022

Our Basque Restaurants Visited and Impressions of Each

To go along with our recent Basque-themed posts of our travel in northern Nevada and Idaho, we thought we'd reminisce about the Basque eateries we've visited over the years. Sadly, this is kind of a dying breed as the list of Basque restaurants in America seems to get smaller each year but when you really want a friendly feast, there's not too much better.

The first Basque restaurant my wife and I visited is the now defunct Overland Hotel in Gardnerville, Nevada. There's another restaurant there, now, but it's not the Basque restaurant that was there before.

I remember this one in particular because, after we'd been seated, without asking anything the waiter poured us red wine and left the carafe on the table. Soup was served, then salad, then bread and pasta. Finally, after all that, he asked us what we wanted. Steak for me, lamb for my wife. It was delicious and we left very satisfied and looking forward to our next Basque experience.

Next, we tried Le Chalet Basque in La Puente. We were the only diners in the restaurant, which may explain why it also went out of business, but is was another very good one. 

A bit dusty around the edges but the food was good. Being a "French" Basque restauant, the salad came last but the many other courses were in the usual order and on point, starting with the split pea soup, pickled tongue appetizer (delicious!), cheese, bread, pasta, and the entre with fries followed by dessert.

The Continental in Glendora is more like a leather-boothed steakhouse but serves in the Basque tradition. Unfortunately, we've never had a great experience there...hopefully, yours will go better if you try it.

For a Basque breakfast, we head to Taylor's, a sort of dive bar and truck scale in Chino, where you can get delicious and inexpensive ribeye to go with your eggs.

It's nothing fancy but the food is hearty and delicious.

The last Southern California Basque restaurant is the outstanding Centro Basco in Chino which offers not only regular restaurant seating but also the Basque "boarding house" style dining where you sit at long tables with strangers passing the food and making new friends.

This is the one we've eaten at the most and rate it as one of the top Basque restaurants we've every been too. Try the tongue, ribeye in wine sauce, lamb...all great go along with soup that can be a meal in itself, the stunningly good local Galleano house wine, pasta, salad, bread, pasta, dessert and more.

We like this one so much we had Tim's college graduation dinner here.

Going north over the mountains is the hotspot of California Basque culture, Bakersfield. Noriega's was the most famous here but, unfortunately, we never got a chance to dine there. We did hit a trio of restaurants there, however, including my favorite.

Starting with the one that's no longer there, my wife still rapsodizes about the Basque Cafe that used to be on Coffee Road. It was our first Bakersfield version of one of our favorite cuisines.

Tim just loved the garlic fried chicken there.

Not to worry too much because down the road on Rosedale Highway is my all-time favorite, Benji's. Here, you start off with the best salad I've had anywhere...a fresh selection from the garden with their delicious creamy vinegarette...vegetable soup, pickled tongue and jack cheese, pasta, bread and salsa, the vegetable dish, your choice of potatoes, the entree, then dessert.

Some Basque restaurants are more of a diner atmosphere, which describes Woolgrowers in Old Bakersfield very well. The food is still top notch but maybe just a little more inexpensive.

Back over in Nevada, there's another restaurant in Gardnerville, JT Basque, just up the street from the old Overland Hotel. 

While we've really enjoyed some pretty unique entrees (my stew of beef offal selections was not visually enticing but it was delicious), we have notice a little slippage in quality in the wake of the Pandemic.

Up the road in Reno, we lament the loss of the Santa Fe Hotel that sat hard in the shadow of the giant Harrah's hotel near the train station.

Again, it was a great parade of salads, soups, pasta, vegetables and more before your delicious entree. It was also strictly boarding house style where you'd sit with strangers who became friends by the end of the meal.

Moving east is my wife's new favorite (I'll give it a close second), the Martin Hotel in Winnemucca over in a quiet part of town by the train tracks. Instead of the pickled tongue appetizer, she had the tongue entree. 

She loved it but I like my ribeye covered in cloves of garlic and mushrooms better.

In Elko, we wanted to try the Star Hotel on the edge of the red light district but it was closed for renovations. Instead, we went to the Toki Ona, a diner type restaurant on the main drag.

Again, my wife had the tongue and I had the ribeye. It was good but not as good as the Martin, above.

Finally, we went to the Leku Ona in Boise, Idaho. This is not the typical Basque feast that the others on the list above are. It's more of a nice dinner house, where you choose an entree which will come with some vegetables on the side and maybe a side salad. No one will be sharing your table with you (we were told at the Basque Cultural Center down the street that "they don't do that kind of Basque dining in Idaho").

The food, like the others, is pretty outstanding. I had a nice Basque steak sandwich. My wife had the salmon with garlic. It was all very good and very filling.

While we've been to quite a few Basque restaurants, there are still many to go and we're looking forward to every one of them.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 29, 2022


When Boise was decided as a destination, it was because I asked Tim "I have three college towns we can visit, you choose. Eugene (OR), Provo (UT), or Boise." He immediately chose Boise.

We're in the heart of downtown and Boise is a big college town. It comes as no surprise that there is a plethora of watering holes in the area to serve that student population (Boise State has an enrollment of about 25,000).

Our problem is to pick just a few to try on our limited time for crawling but we'll give it a shot.

Just a block from our hotel, we start with 10 Barrel Brewing. A big, noisy place we settle in and have an amber ale called Great Tip for Tim and I. Letty goes with a strawberry flavored sour ale.

The beer's good but it's more of a restaurant kind of atmosphere than bar so we settle up and continue on.

Over at the Basque Block, we make our way to the far end to the Leku Ona where we find an elevator on their outdoor patio to take us up to the bar level. Being a Basque bar, we order picon punches to wet our thirst.

The young bartender had to consult a recipe book to make them but they were good.

At the other end of the block, we squeeze into the tiny Bar Gernika

It's only beer and wine here, so no picon punches. Tim and I go for their tripel and split a bowl of tomato soup.

Finally, as we're walking back to our hotel, we stop by the Edge brewpub where...again...Tim and I have the red ale.

Letty has a strawberry champagne cocktail while we share a few cheap tapas.

It's only a scratch in the surface of the Boise bar and pub scene but we'll leave the rest of it for our next trip.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 27, 2022

Boise Blues

The weather is nice today in downtown Boise, a little breezy but sunny and just on the cool side of warm. We head off south on 9th Street for the mile or so to the Boise River.

We scoot a couple of blocks over to Julia Davis Park and follow the paved path that is perfect for wheelchairs over to the river's edge.

The paved path may be perfect for Tim's wheelchair but the Canada geese hanging out here make it a bit of a minefield to navigate but he does so successfully.

On it's way to the Snake River, west of town, the Boise River cuts a cool, rushing ribbon through the heart of the city. In the summertime, it's common to see hundreds of tubes, rafts, and any other floating device that can be had carrying revelers to the west of town where a bus can carry them back to the starting point six miles back.

It's too early in the year for that, though, so it's just sightseers, ducks, and geese enjoying the river today.

Soon, we reach the Friendship Bridge, an accessible pedestrian bridge, that allows us to cross the river from the park across to the campus of Boise State University on the other side.

As students in backpacks rush to class, groups of prospective freshmen and their parents are in groups taking tours during their spring break trying to decide if this school is for them. We continue on the river path to the eastern end of the campus.

We come across a big stadium. This is Albersons Stadium, the football home of the Boise State of the nation's top NCAA Division 1 teams.

The unique claim to fame for this stadium is its blue turf. No green grass for these football players, they get the blues.

It might be the blues for us too as we see a sign saying it's a $500 fine to enter the stadium. Another sign nearby says we can have access to the field via the Boise State Hall of Fame. I see two men inside the stadium and call out to them.

It turns out that one of them is Daryn Colledge, a former Boise State standout who went on to play guard on the Green Bay Packers. After retiring from the NFL, Colledge joined the National Guard and now works in the Athletic Department at his alma mater.

Mr. Colledge is nice enough to answer my question and point us to the Allen Noble Hall of Fame, which is on the opposite side of this massive stadium from where we are.

We get over there and it's a nice museum of Boise State athletic history. It's free and you even get a few goodies like the poster of Boise's football schedule that Tim takes with him.

A woman at the reception asks us to sign in, then escorts us to the inside of the stadium where we can take our time viewing this end of the famous blue turf.

She explains how the school put in the turf in 1986. In 2002, the school trademarked a field "other than green" and now any other sports facility that wants to use a color other than green has to get the school's permission before doing so.

We get some selfies and a family portrait before going back inside and spending some time exploring the hall.

After our time at the university, we retrace our way back down the river to the Ann Frank Memorial, a small area dedicated to the diarist whose family hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic only to end up perishing in a concentration camp a year before D-Day.

It's also an exhibit dedicated to promoting human rights around the world.

Back in downtown, we decide we're in Idaho...we should try the states most famous food product. At the Boise Fry Company, you can have your fried Idaho spuds in over a half dozen preparations. Regular french fries, battered, curly, russet, red, gold, and so on.

It's good but I have to give the nod to the Belgian waffle place at the other end of the dining room that shares the space. A good Liege waffle is a thing of beauty and, for less than five bucks, you can get one here.

We wind our way up the street to take a quick look at the Capitol. Then it's back to our hotel to rest up. We have a very long and lonely drive back to Winnemucca and then over the mountains to our home in California.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 23, 2022

Basquing in Boise

Back in October, I received an email from Hyatt. Luckily, I didn't delete it and read was informing me that I had over 15,000 reward points that would expire by the end of the year if I didn't do anything. I guess we'd signed up with Hyatt on our travels over the years and forgot about it.

Glancing around their website, I found a few hotels that we would be able to book for 5,000 points per night, giving us a three-night getaway. The properties were in Eugene, Oregon, Salt Lake City, and Boise, Idaho.

Tim's a sometimes fan of college football so I put it to him this way...we could visit the home of the Oregon Ducks, BYU, or the blue fields of Boise State. Tim chose Boise so I made the reservation before the end of the year so the points wouldn't expire and we could go in April.

Now, the time is here between a few nights in northern Nevada...we're popping up to Boise. The room at the Hyatt is great with two queen size beds and a conversation pit-style couch that also folds out for a bed.

I'll take that so we can all have our own bed and get a good night's sleep.

The bathroom does not have a roll-in shower but an accessible tub with a shower bench provided on request from the management.

It's on the top floor so it's nice and quiet with no footsteps from the room above.

We will have two full days to explore this city. We've decided it will be on foot or, in Tim's case, on wheel. The weather for the first day calls for spotty showers while the second day will be sunny and mild. This first day, we'll stay within ten minutes of the hotel in case the weather turns too bad. Out we go...

We're on our way to the Basque Block but along the way, we come upon a plaza with a number of antique tractors encased in large glass cubes.

A number of inflatable animals dot the lawn, a large video screen is above it all, showing pictures of pets. Intrigued, we wander in to explore a little deeper.

There's a stage and a small amphitheater next to someting of a scultpure made of cables like a big spider web. Perfect for climbing and I couldn't help myself. Luckily, 911 was not needed to get me out...but it was close!

Nearby, there is a five story parking structure with a metal tube spiraling down from the top. We think maybe it's an emergency chute. Closer inspection says "temporarily closed-JUMP" so now we're thinking it's a slide coming down from the top.

There's a building with a large lobby filled with colorful artwork adjacent with the same "JUMP" logo on it so I go in to see what's going on.

I find myself standing on a black circle and a lady nearby telling me to "jump!" What? "That's our jump camera...jump!"

Okay, I do a little hop and she says to turn around and there I am...on a large screen everyone in the lobby can see...doing my little jump on a loop.

"Okay, what is this place?" I ask her.

She explains that this is JUMP, short for Jack's Urban Meeting Place, a kind of playground/museum/amusement park for people of all ages. It comes from Jack Simplot, of the Simplot Corporation, who funded it. Jack made a fortune in agriculture selling potatoes to McDonald's for fries.

The Simplot corporate headquarters loom over this plaza that was built with Jack's money. Anyone can come in a play around...for free...on the slides (there's another giant 8-person slide on the roof of the parking structure), climbing aparatus, and see the 52 antique tractors on display. Many of them in the parking lot.

We find a little nest to hide in and take a couple of pictures before heading back on our way after visiting Mr. Simplot's fun contribution to the city. We will also come to find out that the Simplot name is everywhere here as the family's philanthropic efforts are well in evidence here.

A few more blocks takes us to the section of West Grove Street on the other side of the Idaho Central Arena known as the Basque Block. This neighborhood preserves and celebrates the area's Basque population.

The Basque come from the area between Spain and France and are culturally and linguistically seperate from both countries. Many came to America looking for prosperity. A lot of the younger men ending up being shepherds, living lonely lives in the plains of the west...mostly California, Nevada, and Idaho...and would come to neighborhoods like this to congregate with their countrymen and women.

The Basque Cultural Center and Museum gives an overview of the culture and history. Five dollars gets you inside. It's completely wheelchair accessible (even has an accessible family restroom) and is very interesting.

One room is dedicated to the shepherds on the plains. A sheepwagon...a trailer that the shepherd lived in while out on the restored and on display as part of a recreated campsite. 

Interactive displays let you see, hear, feel, and smell the life of the shepherd.

A 3D gallery (glasses provided with admission) shows old stereoscopic pictures of the Basque culture in Europe. 

A third gallery explores the Basque in America with a listing of all Basque clubs, restaurants, and even handball courts in the new world.

We are fans of the Basque culture and this is a very interesting stop for us.

There is a Basque market that looks interesting but is only open on Mondays (due to Covid) and that is not today. Leku Ona, a large restaurant at the end of the block, allows us to stop and have a picon punch in the bar...wheelchairs go around the corner on 6th Street where you'll find an elevator for access in their patio.

We'll come back here for dinner to have salmon, a Basque steak sandwich, and a burger for Tim.

Back to the beginning of the block is tiny Bar Gernika where we have a hot bowl of soup and croquettes.

We have to travel a couple of blocks further to visit Ansots to get some Basque chorizo to take home and to eat a Kouign Amann, a flaky, butter, croissant-type puff pastry that is an extremely delicious bargain at five bucks.

The rain comes as we have dinner but eases up just enough for us to get back to the hotel and rest up for our next walk tomorrow.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved