Boise is a surprising town for those of us from the East, as most of our impressions of Idaho come from Napoleon Dynamite. The Boise historic districts have a nice mix of housing types, with stately and modest homes cheek by jowl, and lots of trees. There are hipsters and cowboys, and much good craft beer for both. There seemed to be a lot of people with hair colors not found in nature who don’t necessarily look like the people who usually have hair colors not found in nature. Boise is quirky that way.
And what could be more quirky that a barbecue and vegan restaurant? That’s BBQ4Life. They offer both vegan dishes and barbecue. And both are good.
The restaurant’s goal is to bring everyone to the table together regardless of their food preferences. One person can have ribs and the other can have a smoked spaghetti squash or smoked tempeh sandwich on gluten-free bread; and they accommodate other food allergies. Nice. It had a mix of customers, some clearly there for the meat and some pretty clearly vegan. (I’m thinking of the young woman wearing a big wool hat in 97 degree heat.)
I, of course, selected from the barbecue side of the menu and chose a sandwich that was half pork and half trip-tip. (Tri-tip, the lower sirloin, is a Southern California specialty with which I have had little experience. I’m always eager to learn.)
The pork was quite good — tender and juicy, and with a very subdued smoke flavor. It had been pulled and then chopped roughly, and had the bark you get with an offset smoker. The trip-tip also was tasty. At BBQ4Life, it was cut into small chunks and served medium rare — very pleasing. Both meats clearly had been freshly cut — none of that letting chopped meat sit around and drying out that you run into so often her in DC. Their sauce is sweet, which is not to my liking, but they don’t put so much on that it overwhelms the meat flavor. Good bread.
The cole slaw was very good. It had an unusual taste, and I think there may have been a touch of ground pecan in the dressing, but I’m not at all sure.
Nancy went to the vegan side of the menu an ordered a salad and some vegan chili.
The salad had very fresh ingredients and was tasty, and she liked the chili. It was well seasoned. Good food. And the service was excellent, with everyone eager to accommodate.
I went out back to see their custom-built cooker.
At first glance, it looks like other offset cookers, but when you look inside, you see that they have a walled-off area for the tempeh and other vegan dishes
and a separate area for the meat.
Those closed pans contained the pork. (I don’t know why they closed it up like that, but it explains why there was so little smoke flavor. Suggestion: lose the pans and let that pecan wood flavor marry the meat.)
I had a good chat with the manager. He stressed that BBQ4Life is very, very serious about keeping the vegan and non-vegan food preparation areas completely separate: they have separate kitchens and the physically separated areas of the grill. The idea of bringing together people with different food interests and needs, and fully accommodating those needs with good fresh food, seems to be a calling with him. He’s a good guy, and committed to his ideal.
He also is very proud of his ribs, and made sure I tried one, which, frankly, did not present much of a challenge.
It was very good — meaty, moist, and tender, but al dente with the decent cling to the bone that a rib should have.
If you get to Boise, and really, you should get to Boise, definitely stop at BBQ4Life. The food is good and it’s a noble concept. I wish they had one here in DC. The nation’s capital is desperately low both on good barbecue and on people with different tastes breaking bread together.
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