First, the bad news: The sixth most romantic restaurant in the nation is booked solid on Valentine’s Day.
Now, the good news: The restaurant is in Boise — where there are 364 other days in the year. (Oops, the weekend after Valentine’s Day is basically sold out, too.)
If you’ve lived in Idaho for more than a minute, you’re familiar with Chandlers Steakhouse. It’s a fine-dining icon. But over time, we sometimes forget what we have. Outsiders have to remind us. And during the past few days, the locally owned restaurant at 981 W. Grove St. has been honored by two national websites.
TripAdvisor is a biggie. It’s one of the world’s largest travel and restaurant sites. Chandlers was one spot away from making the top five in TripAdvisor’s inaugural rankings of “The 25 Most Romantic Restaurants in the U.S.” published Jan. 31. What’s cool about this list is that, essentially, it’s by the people, for the people. Millions of TripAdvisor reviews helped drive the rankings. The nation’s most romantic restaurant? Charleston Grill in Charleston, South Carolina.
Chandlers Steakhouse Bar Manager Micah Floyd explains the nuances of the Ten Minute Martini. At Chandlers, patrons can enjoy drinks, fine cuisine and live jazz nightly in Downtown Boise. – By Darin Oswald
A few days later, Chandlers got more love. Food-and-drink website The Daily Meal chose it in an article highlighting “The Best Special Occasion Restaurant in Every State.”
It’s worth noting that Chandlers was named Idaho’s top steakhouse by Food Network, too, in a recent “50 States of Steakhouses” photo gallery. (But that’s not huge news. Everybody knows Chandlers sears a killer rib eye, right?)
Back to the idea of romance. And special occasions.
Here’s what TripAdvisor diners say: “So you know the food is going to be great at Chandlers, but the best part is the atmosphere. They have a live jazz trio that plays every night, romantic lighting, and an ebullience that wafts over you. You can’t help but enjoy yourself.”
The Daily Meal highlights the menu: “The upscale and classy Chandlers is an institution in Boise, Idaho. It features a stylish martini bar, live jazz nightly, and four varieties of beef: USDA Prime from Chairman’s Reserve, natural and organic grass-fed beef from Oregon’s Painted Hills, American Kobe from Snake River Farms, and Japanese wagyu. The 8-ounce center cut American Kobe might just be the single best steak you’ll find in the state, especially when paired with house-made béarnaise and a side of crazy-good mashed potatoes. Chandler’s also happens to have one of the state’s best seafood selections — you just might forget it’s landlocked.”
The national attention must be gratifying for the Chandlers team. Opened in 2007, Chandlers closed at the start of 2017 for a few weeks to remodel, then emerged with hundreds of thousands of dollars of improvements. It’s hard to imagine any Boise restaurant challenging Chandlers for the romance or special-occasion title.
Ultimately, it boils down to atmosphere.
“Atmosphere is a huge component of our product,” general manager Dave Boyle agrees. “The atmosphere is curated from a broader perspective as we work on the jazz (and) entertainment. I think it’s everything from the luxurious leather booths that offer a feeling of your own space, to the dim lighting, to the piano keys, to the glassware. All of that.
“The dining experience is the event,” Boyle adds. “Of course, there’s people that do it on their way to a show or whatever. But when you come in, that table is yours for hours, and it’s your experience.”
Popular dishes at Chandlers are scallops, prime rib and chocolate souffle, according to TripAdvisor.
It’s revealing that reviewers’ taste for live jazz at Chandlers plays a significant role, too. You’re not going to find the same experience elsewhere in Boise.
To treat yourself to “real deal jazz,” as Boyle calls it, catch the Chuck Smith Trio (7:30-10:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays). Singer Emily Stanton adds melodic elegance to the Saturday performances.
Feel free to grab a glass of wine. Chandlers regularly wins Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards.
One more thing, Boise. Can you maybe order a little champagne, too?
That will make Boyle smile.
“I’m just trying to get people to drink champagne more,” he says. “It’s not just a celebratory New Year’s thing. It’s just a fantastic personal beverage. Some markets, Portland, they drink the heck out of champagne. Our market does not get the traction.”
We need to change that. Every day is a special occasion in Boise, right?