Perhaps a great unsung feature of the RESO conference is the selection of cool locations. Because of the size of the conference, they are able to accommodate attendees in smaller host cities. RESO Conferences have made me a fan of Kansas City and Milwaukee – who knew:?

The RESO Tech Summit in Boise starts next week, and St. Louis is in the Fall. This year I know both cities pretty well.

Boise State Connection

I’m a Boise Dad, which means our youngest attends Boise State University (Go Broncos!). Besides having a closet full of blue and orange BSU shirts, my wife and I have fallen in love with the City. We’ve been there close to a dozen times.

I wrote about Boise in Forbes: “It reminds me of Seattle, the market where I lived, 20 years ago. It’s poised for a huge boom. It’s all about tech companies there that are fed by Boise State, another tech powerhouse on the rise.”

The airport is just a 10-minute ride from downtown, which explains why most hotels offer a free shuttle. BSU is walkable from the downtown hotels, just over the river and there’s a trail.

Our son is majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Electrical Engineering. He’s also a foodie – and on a budget. So, he has turned us onto places that are not on the average tourist “to do” list. Dives and places that are known by many locals as “the” place for a specific cuisine.

JUMP 5-story slide

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

For my RESO friends getting into town early, or staying through the following weekend, or just trying to find a way to fit one of these places in, here’s are a few of my Boise go-to places:

The new 5-story JUMP slide: I’ve watched the new JUMP complex being built at the entrance of the freeway to Downtown Boise with great anticipation. JUMP, at 1000 W. Myrtle, is being dubbed as a playful community gathering spot. It features a 5-story slide that is open 6-8 pm every Thursday. After June 1, it will be open on Saturdays and Sundays. If you are not flying back until Friday morning or later from RESO, you know where you will find me. Here are the details. Oh, and if a slide isn’t your thing, try “The Climber.”

Favorite Happy Hour: Barbacoa is well-known as one of Boise’s top upscale restaurants. But for me, it has one of the best happy hours, and sometimes you can even get a view of the small lake it sits on. It’s just outside of downtown, near the Holiday Inn Express on the other side of the river: 276 West Bobwhite Court. Barbacoa has two happy hours: every day 4 pm – 6 pm all drinks are BOGO, even a nice single malt scotch. Late night Thursday – Saturday discounted drinks are 10 pm to Close. Pro tip: order the house-made guacamole, created tableside.

Best pizza: This is the closest thing to a NYC slice I have found West of the Mississippi. I know that’s high praise, but for my taste buds, Guido’s is the one. Best of all: it is downtown, walking distance from the RESO hotels and is open from 11 am – 9 pm, Sunday-Thursday and until 10 pm on Friday and Saturday. Its official name is Guido’s Original New York Style Pizza and is at 235 N. 5th Street.

Best tacos: It’s crazy, but Tin Roof Tacos has these cheap, fantastic tacos. Better than all the places local folks have sent me to in Texas. Local beer, wine, and sports on TV, it’s almost always packed, but the (mostly) picnic table seating makes it possible to find a spot every time. Not far from the BSU Football (Albertson’s) Stadium, it is in a strip shopping center at 115 Broadway Ave.

Best local standout: It used to be the Bleubird for a must lunch, but it closed because of the high rent and owners desire to do something even better. My vote now goes to the Boise Fry Company, another great Boise hot spot downtown at 204 N. Capitol Blvd. I get there just before the lunch rush, and it pays off. It is open every day from 11 am to 9 pm. As you can imagine, in the land where the potato is king, these fries are to die for – as are all their custom fry sauces. The burgers are “on the side,” but they have a big wow factor too. They have something for everyone: Vegan, Bison, Turkey or Beef. Or choose a Quinoa Salad, Grill Cheese or BLT. They even have draft beer.

Honorable mentions: Downtown we also love Bitter Creek Alehouse (always seems to be packed, no reservations, first-come, first serve; two great Happy Hours), The Matador (an upper-end Mexican food chain with a top Happy Hour, every day, early and late night), Eureka! (another chain but also early and late Happy Hours every day; less crowded, lots of sports on screens, and the staff wears hysterical sayings on their t-shirts). For breakfast, the champ is still Goldy’s, but if you’re late, you will wait as it’s first come, first served.

Bonus round – Finally, here are two more Boise places worth mentioning and are a quick drive from Downtown (and yes, Boise has Uber and Lyft):

Great Cuban food in Boise: I am not kidding, there is excellent Cuban food in Boise. I grew up in South Florida, so I hate fake Cuban food, especially stuff called “Cuban” sandwiches that are not authentic. CasaBlanca Cuban Grill at 5506 W. Overland, is the only place in the Western States that has what’s closest to the Little Havana real deal. The owners are Miami transplants, and I swear they must fly in the bread. Both the Cubano and the Medianoche are solid, but my favorite Cuban dish is the Ropa vieja (shredded beef) served with black beans, white rice and sweet plantains (maduros).

Best uniquely Boise dining experience: Petite 4 is right next to the railroad tracks located in an area called the Boise Bench at 4 N. Latah St. The folks that created Bleubird went upscale and created a highly memorable dining experience because the food will haunt you. It’s that good. The only downside is reservations are hard to get at peak time, but you can wait for space at the counter.

Feel free to share your Boise favorite in the comments – I’m game!