Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lunch in Boise: Sweetwater's Tropic Zone

I know...I don't usually review restaurants, but it's my blog and I figured, what the heck.

I probably wouldn't have eaten here, but my friend @ryancoates said he'd heard it was good. Actually, I was the one who invited him out, which is probably a surprise to most of you who know me. I don't "get out" much for lunch, but I had something specific I wanted to talk with Ryan about (which is another story...nothing bad, though).

I looked up the address online and according to Google Maps, it's an 18 minute walk from where I work. Beats looking for parking downtown, which I detest, so at about 11:40 a.m., I set out to hoof it to Sweetwater's. I have to say that the smell of barbecue as I walked past The Cottonwood Grille on 9th was just intoxicating, but I pressed on (I love the carbon monoxide smell of charcoal briquettes).

I encountered a few of those new "timed" electric crosswalk signals. Instead of just holding up a blinking red hand to indicate the traffic light is about to change against you, it presents a countdown from about 18 seconds (I think) down to zero, letting you know if you should walk or run or not attempt to cross the street. A minor distraction, but like I said, I don't get out much.

I love downtown Boise. Whenever I have a reason to, I really enjoy the area on foot. At least during a weekday and during daylight, it's kind of peaceful, old fashioned in a brickwork sort of way, and the way every city's downtown should be. If I had the whole afternoon to kill, I'd slow up my pace and just explore, but not today. I was on a mission.

I arrived at the restaurant just a minute or two before twelve and could see Ryan approaching. Our timing was right in synch so neither of us had to wait. The air had a bit of a snap to it when I was walking, but by the time I got to 205 N. 10th, I was warm enough. Ryan and I said our hellos and then followed the directions to enter via the lobby of the entrance next door.

Sweetwater's was very lightly attended, which is good for service but not necessarily good for business. We were seated right away and attended to in every little detail. We were given the lunch menu, plus a beverage and some other menu (I didn't look at it) to review. I'd already selected the Curried Avocado & Jasmine Rice salad from the online menu, and Ryan had some sort of blackened chicken (sorry, I didn't listen very well when he was ordering).

Service was swift, but I probably wouldn't have noticed that much, since Ryan and I were already deep in conversation (64-bit hardware at this point, but moving into Artificial Intelligence). My salad was excellent and a big plus, the portion was just right. I usually either come away from lunch stuffed or starving, but this sat with me just right. Our wait staff (and probably the manager) provided us with a bottle of hot sauce euphemistically called "The Inferno" and I tried a bit on my salad. I guess either the hot sensing part of my tongue died with age, or a lifetime of eating hot foods has made me immune, but I thought it rather tasty.

I only had water to drink, so can't testify to any of the beers they serve. I didn't have to wait, once I put out my credit card, to have it run and have the receipt for signature returned to me (waiting to settle the bill is a pet peeve of mine). Lunch customer activity had only marginally picked up by the time I was ready to pay the bill, and service was still lightning quick. It would have been interesting to have eaten there during a rush to see if this would have been affected at all.

I have to give Sweetwater's Tropic Zone top marks. Food was exotic without being overpowering and service was swift and straightforward. Exactly how I want it when I lunching with a friend and conversation turns to politics (both American and UK), religion, and driving on ice.

Sweetwater's Tropic Zone is located in downtown Boise at 205 N. 10th Street, between Bannock and Idaho. They're open Monday through Saturday, starting at 11:30 a.m. I couldn't find their closing time online. You can get to their website at and follow them on twitter at @SweetwatersBOI.


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