New “Playful Southern” Restaurant Mixes Comfort Food with Modern Dining

New “Playful Southern” Restaurant Mixes Comfort Food with Modern Dining

by Aaron McFarland

Follow This Is Boise

Tupelo Honey Café opened this week in the former location of The Piper Pub in the Main + Marketplace block, overlooking 8th and Main streets in Downtown Boise.

Tupelo Honey’s roots lie in the southern cuisine of the Carolina Mountains. The first location of the franchise was established in Asheville, North Carolina in 2000. This Is Boise was invited to a special tasting experience last weekend, and of course we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity!  

The Location

If you visited the former Piper Pub location, the transformation is nothing short of impressive. The atmosphere is a mix of rustic wood tones and modern fine dining. The lighting is warm and inviting, with a small bar area taking up roughly 1/3 of the space and a large dining room with plenty of seating.

The patio is still a work in progress but will provide an outdoor element with lots of extra seating in the warmer months.


The Food

Tupelo Honey Executive Chef and VP of Culinary, Eric Gabrynowicz, describes the food as “playful southern”, with the goal of the menu to “appease the southern grandmother and play to the foodie”.

Our meal began with the interestingly named “Cathead Biscuits” (named because they are roughly the size of a cat’s head) served with blueberry compote, whipped butter, and the restaurant namesake Tupelo Honey.

We were served a range of Tupelo southern-favorites including pickled-jalapeno deviled eggs, mac n’ cheese bites, the Famous Fried Green Tomatoes, and more. All were very good, but the standouts were the Tupelo Honey Shrimp & Grits and (no surprises) the Fried Chicken.

I’ve experienced grits a few times before, but not like this. These creamy ground goat-cheese grits, with scallions, peperonata, and grilled lemon left us wanting more than the small tasting menu serving we received.

As you’d expect from any respectable southern restaurant, the fried chicken is a star.  Our chicken was crisp on the outside and perfectly tender in the middle, with a light coating of “bee dust”, which is Tupelo’s name for the dehydrated honey crystals it uses to lightly dust the outside of the chicken for subtle honey flavor in every bite.


The Drinks

When visiting any establishment with a “Chief Mixologist” you expect something special. Tupelo offers a variety of craft cocktail options, from non-alcoholic options that can be “spiked” with gin or vodka to twists on classic offerings like the Bee’s Knees to trendy options like the Black Cherry Frose (frozen Rosé).

The most fantastical offering is the Mountain Smoke. A house blend of whiskeys, rosemary, coffee, house-made Cuban cigar bitters, served with dry ice “smoke” wafted into your cocktail. It’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s a fun spectacle to impress your friends, family, and business associates with. Tupelo Honey has worked with local brewers Payette Brewing to include a “Tupelo Honey ESB” beer offering on the menu.


Why Boise?

Boise’s Tupelo Honey is the franchise’s 15th location and the furthest western location, with Denver the next closest. Owner Stephen Frabitore scoped out Boise two years ago for a potential expansion westward. He rode to the Treasure Valley from Asheville, NC on his Harley motorcycle and loved what he saw.  

“Asheville and Boise are similar in many ways,” he said, mentioning the similar outdoor areas and love for the nearby mountains, “every city has a main walkway where people come together, and Boise’s 8th Street is it.”  Stephen is encouraged by the area’s strong growth in recent years and felt Tupelo Honey would be a great fit. “Boise is on everyone’s list right now. We’re excited to get in here.”

Tupelo Honey is open 11am – 10pm daily. View the full menu on their website here.

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