Boise Basque Community
Basques are people who hail from Basque Country, located in portions of Northern Spain and Southwestern France.
The Basque Block
Nestled in the heart of Downtown Boise is the Basque Block, the heart of the Basque Cultural District for the area. The Basque community in Boise is one of the largest concentrations of Basque people in the United States, with more than 16,000 people having Basque heritage living in the Treasure Valley.
The Basque Block is located on Grove Street between 6th Street and Capitol Boulevard in Boise. It is home to Basque eateries and markets, specializing in Basque-inspired cuisine, gifts, novelties, and heritage. The area also has two boarding houses, the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberruaga House and the Anduiza, which houses an indoor frontón court. Today, the court is used for handball, pelota, and other Basque games.
According to the Basque Block website, “The Basque Block is one of Idaho’s most compelling examples of conservation and documentation of a living ethnic neighborhood.”
The Basque Block connects Basque Country through celebration, dance, art, food, culture, and language. The community hosts several events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating the Basque culture, welcoming guests to experience and learn more about the Basque community. The Oinkari Basque Dancers regularly perform in the community, helping to preserve their unique heritage for future generations.
Not only does the Basque Block celebrate the Basque culture, but it was also home to both emigrants and immigrants who moved to Idaho from the 1800s through the end of the Franco regime in Spain, concluding around 1975. Relocating allowed them to find shelter and the food of their native Euskadi and preserve the Basque language (Euskera).
Today, many descendants of those who traveled here remain, helping make the Boise region one of the most concentrated areas of Basques in the nation.
Things to Do
Since the Basque Block comprises a city block of Downtown Boise, there are obviously many things to do near the area.
The Basque Museum and Cultural Center
To truly learn about the Basque culture and history, it would behoove you to visit the Basque Museum and Cultural Center located in the heart of the Basque Block at 611 W. Grove Street in Boise.
The Museum has several exhibits highlighting Basque heritage and culture with an extensive archive. It also has various educational programs to help educate, enlighten, and inspire those wanting to know more about the Basque community.
You can also take a virtual tour of the Museum and Cultural Center, including the nearby boarding houses and frontón.
Food and Drink
The Basque Market
A leader in Basque catering, the Basque Market is known for its food, classes, and selection of Basque wines. The market offers Tapas and Pintxos (peen-chos), small plates meant to be shared family-style, for patrons to enjoy. Croquetas and Basque Meatballs are a couple of local favorites. The little sandwiches are also great for lunches.
The Basque Market also has several regular specials, including Paella on the Patio, an opportunity to enjoy a delicious portion of their chicken, chorizo, and seafood paella at noon on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Bar Gernika is a Basque Pub and eatery specializing in Basque pub fare and cocktails. Patrons seem to rave about the Chorizo sandwich and the lamb grinder. The croquetas and tortilla de patatas are also frequently referenced in reviews as “must-tries.”
Founded by Jose Mari Atriach, a Basque country native who emigrated to the U.S. as a sheepherder, Leku Ona, which means “Good Place,” is both a hotel and a restaurant located in the heart of the Basque Block.
Leku Ona prides itself on serving up traditional Basque favorites while providing stellar hospitality.
The croquetas, calamari, and charcuterie board are local favorites that shouldn’t be missed in the restaurant. One insider suggested trying the clam chowder when it’s available (it’s a rotating soup of the day). Other diners recommend the lamb chops and entrecote (New York Strip Steak).
For those looking to experience Basque hospitality, Leku Ona has its hotel where guests can stay the night in the heart of Boise’s Basque District, with easy access to Downtown Boise and nearby attractions.
More Basque Traditions Beyond Boise’s Basque Block
While Boise is known for the “Basque Block,” there are other places outside Boise’s Basque Block that feature Basque food and pay homage to the Basque culture.
Epi’s Basque Restaurant
Another popular restaurant known for its Basque fare is Epi’s in Meridian. Epi’s, like other Basque restaurants, offers catering as well as dine-in and takeout service. Epi’s is renowned for its friendly atmosphere and fantastic service, something one reviewer says is “unparalleled.”
Diners recommend the ham croquets, the mushroom soup, and the calamari.
Located in Downtown Boise but away from the Basque Block is Txikiteo (pronounced chee-kee-tay-o), a Basque tapas bar specializing in Basque regional wines, tapas, and meat and cheese boards. Txikiteo means “the feeling of the pub crawl, of sharing wine and tapas with friends….”
The establishment, which is affiliated with The Modern Hotel, likes to change its menu from time to time. Still, regulars say the beet salad on arugula is delicious as well as the sardine tapas. The sardine tapas are served with crusty bread, capers, and herb cheese.
The Last Word
Boise’s Basque community is one of the largest in the nation, and its people are proud of their heritage. A visit to the Basque Block is a unique experience that is unparalleled elsewhere in the United States.
Touring the Basque Museum and dining at one of the many Basque eateries in the area will help you experience and appreciate the Basque culture without having to travel abroad. And while the cuisine and culture are influenced by their roots in Spain and nearby France, there is a difference between the Basque, Spanish, and French cultures.
It’s also important to remember that the Basque are not “Spanish” and that their heritage is unique to them. Be sure to enjoy some authentic Basque hospitality the next time you’re in Boise.
Main Photo Credit: iStock.com/ukosta