Boise’s Beloved Foodshop Bleubird Leaves the Roost
The last light from a winter sunset cast through the tall windows of Bleubird, the popular downtown Boise sandwich shop, and co-owner Sarah Kelly offered tips on cooking duck breast.
“You’re not using enough fat,” she said.
For the record, there was no duck breast on the Bleubird menu neatly drawn in chalk near the cash register, but duck confit will be served at Petite 4, the French bistro-inspired restaurant Sarah and her husband, David “DK” Kelly, expect to open in April 2018. As the sun was setting on Bleubird—it closed permanently Jan. 26—the Kellys sat down to discuss their new venture that would give them fresh culinary and business horizons.
Bleubird opened in September 2012 and quickly became a beloved downtown lunch spot, regularly serving 250 customers per day. For more than five years, it was a staple on local Best-Of lists, and appeared in publications from Conde Nast Traveler to Travel+Leisure that praised it as a hidden gem about the time Boise started receiving national recognition for its high quality of life.
The shop was a runaway success, but the high-volume lunch joint was never the Kellys’ first choice for starting a restaurant. After moving from Vail, Co. to Boise, the Kellys wanted to open a bistro. Bleubird, Sarah said, was “what we could do with the budget we had to try to create something unique.”
The money was good, but the work was exhausting. DK said a day didn’t go by when someone wasn’t waiting at the door at 11am when Bleubird opened, and there was a line at the register until 4pm when it closed.
“We can’t do this forever,” he added. “This gets me up from bed in the morning and puts me down at night. This is my life.”
By the end of 2015, DK and Sarah had stashed away enough money to start looking for space they could lease where they would open the bistro they dreamed about before Bleubird. But it wasn’t a nook in the trendy downtown core that eventually caught their eye, it was a 1,500-square-foot building available for purchase in the Bench neighborhood—almost exactly one mile from Bleubird. They finalized the purchase in March 2016, and have been renovating ever since, using their own money to prepare the kitchen and initiating a crowdfunding campaign to make other improvements. The move made financial sense: Owning, they said, was preferable to leasing; and they have since come to an agreement with Ashley Chapman of Sable Baking, who will rent their Petite 4 kitchen in the mornings when staff isn’t there.
Petite 4 will be the dark side of the Bleubird moon, departing from its predecessor in terms of hours, pace and menu, but will retain some of the playful feel of the downtown sandwich shop, starting with its name: “Petite 4” is as much a reference to the small French confection as it is to the small size of the bistro and its physical address, 4 Latah St.
Between 5pm and closing five nights a week, the Kellys expect to seat approximately 70 people per evening for herb-forward dishes and sides like the aforementioned duck confit, cassoulet, charcuterie, shallots, roasted vegetables, mussels, chorizo croquettes and latkes. Dinner entrée items will cost $9–$20, and a dinner for two, including entrées, appetizers and drinks, is expected to cost $25–$40 per person, comparable to restaurants downtown. There will also be a Sunday (and possibly Saturday) fixed-price brunch buffet that will rotate in global or seasonally themed menu items and pastries monthly.
Petite 4 will purchase some ingredients from the same sources as Bleubird, but the Kellys are still working with distributors to source others. The restaurant won’t have a liquor license, but there will be wine and mixed beverages available.
The interior design of the small space will borrow from Sarah’s own eclectic style, blending the mid-century modern feel of the 1957 building with French-style upholstery and other touches. Half the floor space will be dedicated to the kitchen, which the owners promised will be “one of the most open in the Treasure Valley,” and in close proximity to the diners. Most of the seating will be available by reservation, but there will be open seating for 14 at the bar.
The desired effect is to weave cooking, dining and style into a single experience—to make eating there as friendly as eating at Bleubird, but with a greater feeling of intimacy.
“You’re really in the kitchen with us,” Sarah said.