Linen District: Boise ID

By Richard White

I am a sucker for names, so when I heard Boise, Idaho had a “Linen District” I had to get there.  It is an emerging district so it isn’t wall-to-wall boutiques, cafes and restaurants; but that’s the fun - there is a sense of discovery, of being a pioneer. I love to find places in their “incubation stage.”

Yes there is a Linen Building, built in 1910, it was originally the American Laundry Building, but today the “white washed” building (just like clean hospital sheets) has been transformed into a special events centre and art gallery – it is a fun place to explore. 

The former blue-collar area from 13th to 16th Streets, with West Grove Street as its spine is rapidly becoming another key piece of playground equipment as Boise evolves into a fun, funky and quirky “urban playground.” 

The Linen Building is like a white ghost by day and has a South Beach glow at night.  

Found this second story art gallery in the Linen Building...a great surprise. 

Where to stay?

The Modern Hotel and Bar  (1314 W Grove St.) is a funked-up 1960s motel with its cool patio with stone fire pits in a treed courtyard that is perfect for sipping and savouring some regional wines (yes Idaho has a wine valley) and cool cocktails.  It is uber cool and it is across the street from the Linen Building.

The rooms are modern, many with Japanese soaking tubs (deep soaking tubs, so deep you are up to your neck in water), but the coolest spot is in the washrooms where you can be your own DJ with a stack of 45s and a portable record player. 

And, yes they do offer bikes for free…the river is only a few blocks away.

I love the way that they kept the motel character and just added the new facade and planting to give it a contemporary look. Keep it simple....

The Modern Hotel and Bar's outdoor patio would be right at home in LA or South Beach..the rock fire pits make for a great place to chill in the evening almost year round. 

The gnome and record player in the Men's washroom (I am told there is a similar one in the women's) allows you to choose what music you want while you do your business.  How cool is that? Keep Boise bad!

The gnome and record player in the Men's washroom (I am told there is a similar one in the women's) allows you to choose what music you want while you do your business.  How cool is that? Keep Boise bad!

Where to eat?

a’Tavola Gourmet Marketplace (1515 W Grove St.) is a foodie’s paradise, great soups and salads, but the desserts are to die for – giant chocolate carmel covered apples with pecans, lava cake and Red Velvet cake with gobs of icing made my hollow leg twitch.  It also has a good selection of baking and kitchen accessories and gifts.  This is the place for lunch or to stop for an afternoon tea/coffee and sweet.

A good neighbourhood is judged by its coffee shop and in the Linen District it is Big City Coffee at 1416 W Grove St.  They serve DOMA Coffee from Post Falls, Idaho and bread is from Great Harvest in Boise.  The biggest complaints seem to be the long line-ups on the weekends and that the pastries and meals are too large – so share – didn’t you go to kindergarten?

The Modern Hotel + Bar has a good food, fun drinks and great ambience, it is definitely worth it if you are looking for a “chill experience.”

a"Tavola Gourmet Marketplace would be at home in Vancouver's Yaletown, Portland's Pearl District, Chicago's Gold Coast or Calgary's Beltline district. 

Big City Coffee has a great street appeal that makes it very welcoming. 

Where to shop?

Idaho Mountain Touring (1310 W Main St.) is a must place to checkout.  It is REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) meets MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop). It offers everything you might need for outdoor gear for all seasons.  They also rent bikes, which is good, as you will probably want to cycle the Boise River at some point on your visit.

The Idaho Ranch Thrift Store (1417 Main Street) is large, clean and well stocked.  I scored a vintage Ian & Sylvia album. There is a great selection of books neatly shelved and lots of art and home accessories – perfect for treasure hunters.  Next to coffee shops, thrift stores are the biggest magnets for young hipsters.

Other shops include: Eyes of the World Imports, Echelon furniture and home accessories and the Outdoor Exchange. 

The Idaho Mountain Touring store offers gear and clothing or all seasons, as well as rentals.  Boise River is a great place to cycle along or float down! 

Urban archeologist will love Second Chance which is full of used items from old windows to home accessories. You never know what you will find here. 

This is the clock above the door to the Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift - how could you not go in. 

Window licking at Echelon an upscale furniture and home accessories store. 

What to see and do?

LD is a great place to flaneur, check out the streets off of Grove where you will find Art Deco buildings, a skate park, funky utility box art and abandon mid-century cafes.

You have to dig a bit…be an urban archeologist…trust me it is fun! Take an hour and wander aimlessly, you will be surprised what you find. 

These photos are just some of our finds.

The Linen District has some of the best utility box art I have seen.  It is edgy and fun, not just decorative and safe.

Was surprised to find this upscale salon in LD with its art gallery like sense of place.  Very cool!

 A tattoo parlour is a must for any emerging hipster community and LD has fun one with great windows. 

Sav-On Cafe is an artifact from the past that is just begging to be redeveloped as a 21st century cafe or boutique. 

Idaho Power Company's building at 1220 West Idaho Street.  The is a good example of zig-zag Art Deco style with its forms repeating the American Indian symbol for lightning – a device also exploited in the "Ready Kilowatt" character, long used to symbolize electrical companies. Designed by Wayland & Fennel in the mid-1930s, it has a later addition on the east end that mimics the original details.

Don't be surprise if you find a food truck or two hanging out in the Linen District.  

The Boise Skate Park is on the edge of the Linen District.  It has a nice edge to it being located under the highway overpass.  It as a contemporary sculpture park feel to it. 

Last Word

Boise, Idaho is quickly becoming the "NEW" urban playground west of the Mississippi! 

If you like this blog, you might like the following:

FFQing in Tri-cities

Calgary's Rail Trail Stroll

Hamilton's James Street North: A Hidden Gem

Weekend Start Thursday in South Perry

Reader Emails:

CO writes: 

This is very good. We will plan our next round the states trip to stop in Boise! Were you there recently? We only get to go to places like Langdon.  We explored Bow valley College at noon (thanks for the tip) and learned about the 1% downtown art budget program. Bumpies in Calgary was nice (on Wednesday), but there is nothing quite like the $4.99 breakfast at Mel’s in Saskatoon (this morning). This is a place where contractors and cops mix with local folks and flaneurers. There are no gabesters as we have no gabesters in Saskatoon. They all moved to Alberta in the 80’s & 90’s. Keep on Blogging and Flaneuring. Someday, I’ll have the time to read all that you write.