Voting for our 2023 Business Awards Opens Tomorrow!

Voting for our 2023 Business Awards Opens Tomorrow!

Hello Idaho! We’re back for another year of recognizing the best businesses and places in our wonderful state.

Who Selected Our Nominees?

Ultimately our nominees were selected by Idaho residents. The determining factors were the nominations received in January and the candidates’ Google reviews throughout the previous year.

We were overwhelmed with the number of nominations we received this year, over 2,500 MORE nominations than we received in 2022!

Now, Idaho residents can show their support again by voting for their favorite candidates online. Voting is open from February 20 – March 8, 2023.

Hump Day Giveaway!

Back by popular demand is our Hump Day Giveaway where we hold a weekly voting contest and announce a new winner each Wednesday. For every new voter you refer after registering your own ballot, you’ll be entered into a weekly drawing for a nice prize.

The first prize up for grabs is from Code Red Towing. They’re giving away $250 to TopGolf and a $50 Uber gift card. We’ll have new prize every week, so keep the referrals coming!

And the Winner Is…

After voting closes on March 8, we’ll announce the finalists as soon as we have confirmed the results and checked each candidates BBB grade. (No grade is okay, but a bad one is not!) But that’s not where it ends.

In addition to votes, the winner of each category is also determined by their Google reviews from the previous 12 months. Combining the vote total with the review score will give us our winners. We’ll first announce the winners at the Idaho’s Best Awards Ceremony in Boise, currently scheduled for the evenings of April 18 + 19, 2023. Then, we’ll publish the results online and in our Idaho’s Best of 2023 Magazine.

For more details, the latest information can be found on our How It Works and FAQ pages.

Thanks for your support and participation!

Are You a 2023 Nominee?

Congrats on being nominated!
Congrats on being nominated!

If you’re on the ballot for Idaho’s Best of 2023, congratulations! As a nominee, you earned your spot by having a good mix of nominations and reviews. Out of tens of thousands of Idaho businesses that were nominated, we narrowed it down to 2,678 nominees that will move on to voting.

So what should you do now? You should claim your nomination.

You may ask, “Why do I need to claim my nomination if I’m already on the ballot?” That’s a fair question and it’s what brings us to the point of this blog.

Claiming Your Nomination Helps Idaho’s Best Verify Your Business Information

You would be shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, if you knew how much effort our team spends checking information to make sure we are as fair and accurate as possible. Besides having the business name and category right, we’re comparing information and addresses across Google, Facebook, Yelp, the BBB, and your websites for all locations in Idaho to make sure that all of your votes and reviews are credited correctly.

But we’re not asking for your pity (we did this to ourselves!), just for your help.

When you claim your nomination, you have the opportunity to help us get it right. You’re able to verify that your business name, location(s), and contact information are correct.

Claiming Your Nomination Establishes a Point of Contact

Some of our nominees are sole proprietors, forging their own path with the unique skills they possess. Others have an empire across Idaho, with dozens or even hundreds of employees in our state. Either way, all of you are important to our community and it would be great if Idaho’s Best knew who to give this award to on behalf of your business.

Idaho’s Best might be the most popular “Best of” awards in Idaho business (OK, it definitely is), and we think we’re pretty awesome, but we aren’t going to assume that you’re automatically going to know the pertinent info for our awards. Claiming your nomination helps us notify the right person when your business is nominated or becomes a finalist.

Claiming Your Nomination Helps Us…and You!

It’s true! Claiming your nomination for Idaho’s Best can make it better. High levels of engagement drive the adjustments we make year-to-year. We do the best we can to compare like with like to achieve a level playing field.

Categories with few nominations and even fewer claimed nominations get less attention. They may be absorbed by another category or disappear altogether.

Categories with a lot of competitors and claimed nominations are likely to get more attention. This doesn’t mean they’re scored differently, but that it’s more likely we’ll add categories that are more narrowly defined, giving every business in that group better odds and a fairer shake.

Claiming your nomination can even give you an edge when you need it. Ties in scoring aren’t frequent, but when they occur the nod goes to a company who claimed their nomination if their opponent did not. Claimed Nomination > Unclaimed Nomination

We Care About Your Privacy

You can see the complete Idaho’s Best privacy policy here. We want you to know that we won’t share any information you provide when you claim your nomination (or make nominations, or vote) with any other party or organization unless you request it. Our email notifications are strictly opt-in and are only used for communications regarding Idaho’s Best so we can let you know about important dates or events.

Nominations Now Open for 2023 Idaho’s Best Awards

“What makes Idaho’s Best the BEST?”

Good question! The Idaho’s Best Awards aim to recognize the best businesses in each region of Idaho and the Gem State as a whole. Using a combination of 5-star reviews, online ratings, and votes, we recognize Idaho’s best businesses across nearly 300 categories. You can read more about how the awards work right here.

No one cares about getting it right more than Idaho’s Best does, period. We are relentless in our pursuit to find and recognize the best places, companies, and organizations in Idaho. We’re able to find the best (with your help) because we do it differently:

•          No pay to play — participation is free. While we couldn’t do it without our sponsors, they are still held to the same scoring standards as any business in Idaho’s Best.

•          You choose the nominees and do the voting, not us.

•          Online reviews help determine the winners.

The Idaho’s Best Awards take place in three stages — nominations, voting, and reputation scoring. We don’t only recognize the best overall, but also the best for each of four regions of Idaho.

Idaho Map

Central Idaho – Twin Falls, Mountain Home, McCall, Ketchum, Jerome, Burley
Eastern Idaho – Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Driggs, American Falls
Panhandle – Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Moscow, Lewiston, Sandpoint
Treasure Valley – Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Emmett, Payette

Phase 1: Nominations

Anyone who lives in Idaho can nominate a business or organization for Idaho’s Best; you can even nominate yourself! Nominations take place online from January 2 – 13, 2023. Remember; the more nominations you get, the better. The top nominees in each region will progress to the voting round.

Phase 2: Voting

After the nominees have been determined and notified, it’s time to get out the vote. The voting period is February 20 – March 8, 2023. Any Idaho resident with a mobile phone can cast their vote for as many categories as they like, but only one vote for each category. Voting is done through our website and ballots are secured through SMS verification.

Every Wednesday during the voting period we’ll be giving away great prizes via our “Hump Day Giveaway”. Those who referred other voters via our voting application will be automatically entered to win; every referred voter is an additional entry.

Phase 3: Reputation

The top vote-getters for each category in their region will move on as finalists. We’ll announce this as soon as we can after tallying and confirming votes. Finalists are then scored for their online reputation. Specifically, we’ll capture the previous 12 calendar months of reviews leading up to March 8, 2023.

Announcing the Winners

Once all the data is in, we’ll announce the winners at our Idaho’s Best Awards Ceremony, which will occur over two nights on April 18 – 19, 2023 in the Boise area.

Now let’s kick this party off with some nominations!

Building a Successful Business on Integrity

Best HVAC Company | Best Contractor | Statewide Winner and Best of Treasure Valley

Diamond Heating & Cooling One cold and stormy night years ago in the Treasure Valley, things had gotten dire. The phone lines stayed busy as calls kept coming in for emergency repairs, but technicians at Diamond Heating and Cooling were entirely booked.

As the storm progressed and the cold deepened, they were unable to keep up with the demand and were forced to schedule some repairs for the next day.

One customer in particular was entirely without heat. Diamond couldn’t get to her that night. The soonest they could help her would be in the morning.

She set the appointment for the morning, but called back a little bit later because another company could get to her sooner.

Diamond canceled the appointment but told the client, “Hey, if the other company tells you that you need expensive repairs or a new system—anything like that—please at least call us to get a second opinion.”
The next day, she called for the second opinion. The other company said she needed an entirely new system. The Diamond technician went in to give that second opinion.

The problem? Her thermostat needed new batteries.

Turning the Tide, Changing Minds

Back in 2009, Rick and Sue Ellen turned the focus of Diamond Heating and Cooling to servicing residential clients.
Prior to that, the business had been focused on new construction. With the new angle, their immediate goal was to change the way contractors in their industry were regarded—they wanted to build trust back into the expectations and experiences of their clients.

They knew it was an uphill battle, but they didn’t balk at the challenge. From the outset Rick and Sue Ellen have striven to hold their brand to strong standards.

Sue Ellen says, “It’s been tough building that trust, but we’re so dedicated that, sadly, we’ve had to let people go in the past for not sticking to our standards.”

One of the ways Diamond demonstrates their commitment to being a trustworthy company is to offer free second opinions on all major repairs.

If another company says a compressor is bad or a unit needs to be entirely replaced, a Diamond technician will go out and check to make sure the part or unit truly is bad. They do this free of charge, provided a competitor’s bid has been presented to a client.


Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training

Diamond Heating & Cooling

As a trade industry, HVAC technicians are well paid and enjoy a constant demand for their work.
However, it’s not always easy for up-and-coming job seekers to even know where to begin to get into the trade. Never to be deterred, Diamond has built a full training facility so that they can bring in new technicians.
They also offer one-month paid apprenticeships so that prospective technicians can discover for certain that they want to enter the full apprenticeship program.

There’s a lot of on-the-job training, riding out to jobs with technicians to see what it’ll be like. By the time a technician is a journeyman—about four years into it—the techs at a place like Diamond make anywhere from $70K to $90K a year.

If there’s one thing that the past three years have taught us, it’s that we always need to be ready to change course and adapt. Diamond has made a point of implementing new ways of doing things to keep up with the desires of their clientele.

That’s why Diamond recently added electrical to services they offer their clients. Through constant dialogue with their customers, they knew this was something their clientele wanted.

The evidence is there when you look for it. The folks at Diamond Heating and Cooling pay attention and listen, and they’ve established a brand with unexpectedly strong trust through a values- and people-driven approach in an industry that has often been seen as dishonest, complicated, and baffling.

A Seafood Gem in the Gem State

Best Seafood Restaurant | Statewide Winner and Best of Treasure Valley

Fresh Off the Hook Though the gem of Boise’s seafood joints, Fresh Off the Hook, has been around since 1996, Gary Andrew bought it in 2021.

Was that crazy? Everyone told him it was.

After talking to him, I have to say they were wrong. “I’ve owned a lot of businesses, and I don’t say that to brag. Some have been successful and some have not,” Gary said as he talked with me about his restaurant. “The number one thing I’ve learned in all of them is that all businesses are people businesses. Our main objective is to make sure [guests] have a really pleasant experience—that when they sit down, they’re treated kindly and get a meal. When they leave the restaurant, they should just be feeling good. And food is only part of that.”

From Laundromats to Real Estate to Restaurants

Gary has been in the Treasure Valley his whole life. He’s passionate and animated in conversation, and right away I can see why he’s so successful—though according to him, not all his businesses have been.
He has owned a lot of them, from wholesale lumber to real estate development and laundromats.
In 2021, in an attempt to reduce stress, he sold everything and retired. He was going to slow down, he said.
I’d known him for about ten minutes, but I could tell that slowing down and not having a business wasn’t going to look good on him.

It wasn’t! His retirement lasted six weeks.

He’d heard about Fresh Off the Hook because his mother-in-law eats there all the time. So, he met with the founder of the restaurant and bought it on the spot. His friends said he was nuts. Remember this was in 2021 and the restaurant industry was suffering. But Gary had never owned a restaurant. It was going to be an adventure, a chance to learn something new.

Fresh Off the Hook

Not a Franchise and Seriously Fresh 

There’s so much to love about this restaurant, and Gary sees it. More than anything, he’s incredibly proud of and impressed with his team.

“The first time I went to the kitchen, it happened to be a busy night and I watched a cook as he worked,” he explained. “I’ve never seen multitasking like I’ve seen in a cook on a busy night. It was amazing to watch Sean. When the night was done, I told him he had a real talent.”

Gary is quick to let me know that the restaurant was already amazing when he bought it, and so he only made a few changes. His desire is to continue to emphasize the communal, familial feel of the restaurant and extend that ambiance and warmth to their guests.

And the name really says it all: their food really is fresh.

There have been a lot of transplants to the Treasure Valley from the coast. It’s always flooring to Gary and the rest of the staff when someone tells them their seafood is better than anything they ever ate in Seattle. But that happens regularly.

“Our menu has always been excellent,” he explains. “It’s a little gem.”

And Gary loves that it doesn’t have a franchise vibe, that it’s one of a kind, and that the only overlords they answer to are the health department. You really can’t beat that.

I’ve been landlocked my entire life. Have never really been into seafood, honestly. But Gary’s enthusiasm about his restaurant and the class of it all makes me ready to try out whatever their best dish is, personally.

For me it’s easy to say that with an establishment like this, I’m rooting for their continued prosperity and growth.
“My people know that success to me is not just about the bottom line. And as a result, we are seeing numbers at this restaurant that haven’t been seen since it opened in 1996.”

Totally deserved!

The Leading Edge of Express Car Washes

Best Car Wash | Best of Panhandle

Metro Car Wash Bill Martin and I connected over the phone, chatting for a while about his lifelong love affair with car washes. As the founder and owner of Metro Express car washes, Bill is proud to share with me insights into the family business. Each of Bill’s grown kids runs a Metro Express car wash, located in Missoula and Boise, but the company footprint stretches from Missoula to Coeur D’Alene and Spokane.

Bill has been in the car wash business since his days in Kansas City, MO, when he first began working at a car wash in 1969. It wasn’t till 1974 that he opened his own car wash. But Bill wasn’t fated to live forever in Kansas City, and he sold that business and moved to Boise in 1981.

Once Bill landed in Boise he opened Nu-Look car wash. The name was very fitting for the time period, with that German krautrock flare. It remained Nu-Look until he launched the Metro Brand in 2004.

Family Values and Customer-Focused

Metro Express Car Wash is the dream of what an express car wash can be—their website is sleek and user-friendly. They make it easy to manage your subscription if you opt for that. Their family story is right there on the page, and like so many of the best businesses around, Metro Express puts the customer first.
Metro Car Wash
In our conversation, Bill’s values — which have established Metro Express as one of the best car washes around — are unmistakable. He and his family value grit and service, and they are very customer-centric.

There’s something about the car wash industry. I noticed in talking to Bill that it’s all about sharing knowledge and mentorship.

Any car wash I mentioned up and down the cities along the Rocky Mountains, Bill knew. He knew the owners, he knew their stories, and usually he knew about their successes or if they’d gone out of business.

He talked of his mentors, but he also talked of people he’d mentored—not only his kids, but others to whom he owed nothing. When he spoke of other car wash owners in the industry, he did it with grace and class that I found very refreshing.

Environmentally Aware — Even Friendly — Car Washes

But what about washing a car during a drought? This is a hard question, but we can’t avoid it considering where we live.

Metro Express recycles 80 percent of the water used. This means their facilities are built from the bottom up with water filtration systems in mind, and it also means that there has always been conscientious thought about the environmental impact driving their design from the beginning.

Today, car washes are many times more efficient than they were twenty years ago. Bill explains that a car wash used to need a lot of help to make sure it could get a car clean, often using manual labor. But with applied chemistry and better equipment and facilities, car washes today require less to do more.

What about do-it-yourself? Or in your driveway with a garden hose?

“All the runoff water with the dirt and stuff that comes from your car in our carwashes?” Bill answered. “That gets treated in the city sewer before it goes back into the aquifers. But water washed away in your driveway goes straight into the river without treatment.”

It’s clear from our conversation that there’s still room for growth. Right now Metro Express is building a new facility that will be outfitted with solar panels. The up-front cost is massive, but Metro Express hopes to be a leader in applying forward-thinking tech to the industry.

“They’re very expensive, but we just think it’s the future. If it’s beneficial, it’ll be something we always do for our car washes,” Bill said.
Metro Car Wash
Metro Express currently has 11 locations. By the end of 2022, they’ll have 15. With values like theirs, I don’t see why they shouldn’t have at least 20more car washes.

Not Just Another Upscale Restaurant

Idaho’s Best New Mexican Restaurant

Coa De Jima There aren’t enough Mexican restaurants actively elevating one of the finest cuisines in the world to 11. You know, on the dial (to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap). Taking anything to 11 is a prerequisite for achieving greatness. Before breaking through whatever leveling up system you have, you must first go to 11.

Mexican food touches all the buttons in a person that food can possibly touch: it is comfort, spice, familiarity, family, love, hope, and excitement distilled into cuisine. One might even argue that so much of what we discover in it that tastes heavenly is the flavor of the desert, the sea, the mountains, the fields, the sky, and the rain.
Is it possible to overstate how loved and admired Mexican food is in the western United States? Probably not. It is interlaced through all that we do, and we like it that way. In fact, we want more of it.

What’s great about Tuesday? Tacos. What’s the best way to eat cheese? Nachos. Which cocktail personifies summer? Margaritas. What can I do with a cactus? Eat it in a molcajete.

And last … is there a way to blow your mind by re-envisioning something that we might have taken for granted? Yes.

Let’s start by saying the word Barbacoa, Idaho’s Best Restaurant. Then let’s up the ante with three new words: Coa De Jima.

Mexican Food Is Family

Coa De Jima

Coa De Jima is the result of two passionate visionaries when it comes to Mexican food: Nikolai Castoro and Chef Enrique Martinez.

Elegant, beautiful, and influenced by the phenomenal Barbacoa—where Nikolai learned the restaurant business as the son of Robert and Martine Castoro—this restaurant is the peak of upscale Mexican food in Boise. Together, Nikolai and Enrique built something that is furthering the landscape of what we can expect in the realm of Mexican cuisine. They’ve forged a unique menu that’s both delicious and jaw-dropping, complementing dishes with equally delectable one-of-a-kind hand-crafted cocktails.

Martine herself has overseen the design and development of this oasis in downtown Boise, tucked into the charming historic district. What is done here stems from the desire to educate others while also exploring the frontiers of Mexican cuisine, bringing the past into the future and fusing it with modern tastes for a mouth-watering menu.
Don’t expect a Barbacoa knock-off, though. Approach Jima with the understanding that the experience will be unique as well as delicious.

When You Know, You Know

The past two or three years have been fraught with risk and fears about the survival of businesses. But there have also been brave souls who stepped into the unknown and took risks. Many of these new businesses have not just flown — they’ve soared.

Jima is an example of passionate restaurant owners taking the chance on developing something new and not balking at the risks. But one of the restaurant’s advantages is the legacy of its founders.

As a family that knows the restaurant business very well, Nikolai, the Castoros, and Chef Enrique Martinez know just what to do to get this bird off the ground, where she can soar.

Just Another Inspiring Origin Story for a Local Business

Best IT Services | Statewide Winner and Best of Panhandle

There’s nothing better than that moment you realize your passion can not only pay the bills but also flourish, grow, and possibly even provide a little extra.

When Dr. Scott Henry joined Anthony Nichols at Nichols Computer in 2019, that’s the sort of synergy that exploded and grew their business from 15 to 20 appointments a month to 15 to 20 a week. Let’s frame this as the classic rags-to-riches story, because that’s familiar to us and therefore both inspiring and comforting.

Nichols Computer began in Anthony’s garage in 2001 (computer business in a garage, sound familiar?). It lasted there for many years as Anthony’s passion project.

Finally in 2016 he took the leap, banking on the potential for quicker, more sustained growth as he increased visibility for his business and had more space in which to work. That was the year Anthony moved Nichols Computer into the Silver Lake Mall.

Anthony’s clientele grew over the next few years, which was pleasant and inspiring. In 2019, however, Scott and Anthony teamed up and something amazing happened. Here was the magic moment, the money note, the alchemy in the figurative laboratory as these two came together to combine their passions and purposes into one business.

Before merging business and their clientele, Scott had managed tech support for the Oregon, Idaho, and Montana region for a large national corporation. When he left that position and became partners with Anthony, his roster of clients followed him away from the corporation.

Scott’s first month at Nichols Computer saw revenue double. That’s not just a good sign. That’s a great sign. How could things get any better for these two computer mages running a wicked awesome computer business from the Silver Lake Mall?

It couldn’t. It couldn’t get any better.

Oh, but it did.

Location, Location, Location

Shortly after Anthony and Scott joined forces, Nichols Computer moved out of the mall and into a strip mall. The first month in that new location, once again, their monthly earnings doubled.

A lot goes into how well Nichols Computer has done. Location is a major factor, according to Scott. “People don’t want to lug their computer through the mall. Convenience is big for clients, but so is visibility,” he explains.
A strip mall provides that extra visibility, and definitely it’s a big help to park your car next to the entrance.
A number of factors go into making this phenomenal business so phenomenal, and one of them is that both partners are passionate about the work. They not only repair hardware but they also build custom/water-cooled PC gaming systems. For those in the know about PC gaming, this sort of system is the brass ring—getting yourself one takes you into a new realm.

They’re not only very in love with their work. As a team they represent a complementary pairing. Anthony’s passion is Mac-only hardware. Despite how ideal Mac hardware is, they do run into problems. Booking with Anthony means not having to haul your computer into a Mac store, which let’s be honest, isn’t always in a spot with easy access. Additionally he excels at communicating with Gen X and older clients, speaking their language with ease.

While Anthony loves the Mac angle, Scott is passionate about building custom gaming systems, handling software work, and other general custom builds.

This division of labor due to what they’re naturally interested in means that they can turn client work around in about 7 days (one of the quickest in the area). Additionally, Nichols Computer loves helping small businesses set up network systems, run internet wiring, and install security cameras.

If you thought this inspiring origin story of a well-loved local computer business couldn’t get any better, wait for it …

… They just hired four Idahoans and they’re now working with the Idaho Department of Labor to hire paid interns. How’s that for a local business demonstrating what they value as a part of the local community? Pretty dreamy, if we do say so ourselves.

Webfoot Coating for the Win

Best Concrete Contractor | Statewide Winner and Best of Treasure Valley

Webfoot Concrete I live in a very urban area that’s surrounded by xeriscaped townhomes. My two children, both under 11, lack an ideal place to explore and play. Though I like to pretend it’s similar to living in some cool place like Brooklyn, the fact is that it’s not.

We’ve adapted to the absence of a yard or big playground by cleverly turning our garage into a play area. We have pickleball stuff, tons of scooters, skateboards, and balls. We’ve even erected a rope swing—strung from the rafters—and built a stool to launch the swing from.

This two-car garage is the most popular haunt in the ‘hood. Our kids and their friends play in that space nearly every day.

Coated Garage Floors FTW

If it was possible to change the vibe in your garage with as little as $4,ooo, would you do it? This is, of course, a very hypothetical estimate, but after talking with Gavin Hepp of Webfoot Concrete Coatings, I’ve never wanted to throw $4K at a contractor more.

The garage is one of those permanently dirty places. It’s just never really clean. One reason for this is the porous surface of concrete. No matter how much I sweep, there’s always going to be a layer of dirt that’s just there, eternally existing on the floor and easily tracked into the house.

Customer-Focused Service
Webfoot Concrete
Webfoot Concrete is the brainchild of Gavin Hepp and his partner, Travis Ulrich, who’ve been best friends since they were babies.

In college they started Webfoot Painting. As the two pivoted out of college, they naturally fell into growing their business and eventually added concrete coatings to their repertoire.

As with many new endeavors, that business was filled with trial and error. They began with epoxy, which is a popular method for coating and sealing concrete. The two weren’t pleased with how it performed. Epoxy has a long cure time. In fact, it’s kind of always curing, which also means that it’s thinning and getting more brittle over time.

In a few years epoxy chips and cracks. At that point it must either be restored or redone. Because it didn’t hold up as long as Webfoot liked, they looked for another answer.

Enter polyurea. What’s so great about this compound is how fast it cures, how durable it is, and how long it lasts. It doesn’t hurt that it’s so customizable, and it looks gorgeous and classy when it’s done.

At that point, Webfoot Concrete Coatings really took off.

The rest is history. And by history I mean 20 years of experience, making Webfoot Concrete Coatings the highest-rated coatings company in the country, and for good reason. They turn garages into clean, organized spaces (they’ve added garage cabinets to their services). Not to mention their concrete-coating process takes them one day to complete. This goes for any decent-condition concrete surface they coat, including outdoor walkways, patios, pool decks, and even driveways.

Once the job is done, your satisfaction with your garage simply skyrockets. Gavin observes that there’s an almost indescribable feeling attached to the change in the room after having the floor coated and sealed. He explains that it’s something you can’t fully appreciate till you’ve gotten it done. It’s both gorgeous and cozy, and incredibly pleasant to come home to.

Of their amazing reviews and customer satisfaction, Gavin says, “It really boils down to taking care of our people, like company culture, that allows us to win on so many fronts. We’re very organized to make sure we’re delivering excellent service to our customers.”
Webfoot Concrete
One look at their 300+ company reviews and I simply can’t argue that point. Now, down to business. How soon till I can get my quote?

Never Underestimate the Power of a Dream

Best Mongolian Restaurant | Statewide Winner and Best of Treasure Valley

Duy Tran The year is 2009. A young man from Vietnam finds himself—in seeking work anywhere he can get it in Boise—washing dishes and scrubbing floors and toilets in #1 Mongolian BBQ.

He’s overqualified to do any of this work—a landscape photographer, webmaster, and graphic designer by training, he left a business that he owned in Vietnam to come to the United States and strive for a dream he saw but had no road map to follow.
No map? No problem.

We love a good Cinderella story around here. It’s the American dream distilled into its most basic components—a person not of noble or elite birth rises to the top through hard work, good values, and their own ingenuity.

Today we look at the result of those values: a beautiful location rich in elegance and exquisite details. This a restaurant visit that’s about experience and sensory fulfillment as much as anything else. To look at what this top restaurant is today, well, it’s difficult to believe the humble roots from which it grew. For this inspirational story and its outcome, we have the dedication of Duy Tran to thank.

From Dream to Reality

Back in 2009, #1 Mongolian BBQ was the restaurant that took Duy in when he came to Idaho on a wing and prayer. He had no concept then of what he would do; he simply never gave up. As a dishwasher and eventual chef at the restaurant, he did the work he had to do. He didn’t love it. Often he found himself questioning what he was doing and the wisdom of his choices. His wife and child were still back in Vietnam, waiting to join him in the United States. He sent what he earned back home and visited as often as he could.

From his position in the kitchen and as one of the grunt employees in #1 Mongolian BBQ, Duy observed and knew why the place wasn’t doing as well as it could be. When the owner at the time announced that the restaurant would have to close, an idea hatched. Duy had very little money and very little credit. He knew what he had to do, he just had to find the means to do it.

Duy borrowed money from friends and family, he obtained very small bank loans, and he bought the restaurant. People questioned his wisdom, but he plowed ahead, believing in himself. “I trusted myself. I poured myself into it. And I did everything on my own. I rebuilt,” Duy says.

From the time he became the owner of #1 Mongolian BBQ, Duy spent every day from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016 fixing the restaurant up. He needed to make it work.

We know that when a restaurant struggles, it’s a top-down problem. Duy has always made his goals and desires for his restaurant a team effort, sharing his vision with his team. He believes that they can and will work together to achieve that. Right away he created both short-term and long-term goals.
It worked: at the end of 2016, his restaurant started to get better reviews (one area that had contributed to the demise of #1 Mongolian BBQ’s first incarnation).

Changing Tide #1 Mongolian BBQ Team

It was a trickle at first.Then, after 2016, Duy challenged his team again with a goal that seemed obtainable but was still shooting for the moon: get #1 Mongolian into the top ten for Boise. As Duy demonstrates, a challenge is just what he needs to succeed. It was a long shot, wasn’t it?

Well, we can’t argue with these results: at the end of 2017 they were in the top seven for best barbecue joints in Idaho. From 2018 to now, they have ranked within the top three best barbecue joints in Boise.

Duy is careful to point out the honor he places on winning Idaho’s Best for 2022. He says this is because it represents the admiration and respect of his customers.

This makes sense: his efforts and those of his family shine through, and customers see it! Everyone knows the satisfaction of being seen and understood. Duy is honored by this.

We’re honored as well, Duy!

Same Work, Different Mindset

As the owner of #1 Mongolian BBQ, Duy does everything, from pinch-hitting in the kitchen to attending to guests, and still sometimes cleaning up and doing the dishes. Once upon a time he did that stuff because it was the only thing he could do, back when he first came to Boise.

But now, he finds joy in it because the restaurant is his—a dream come true, one that Duy shares with his family, his friends, and his guests.

#1 Mongolian BBQ deserves its name. The honor, Duy, is all ours.