Ishtar Market & Restaurant
Sharing the same nondescript parking lot on Overland Road as the Country Club Reel Theatre sits a small Middle Eastern storefront, Ishtar Market and Restaurant. It’s the textbook definition of a hole in the wall. Reminiscent of a neighborhood corner store like Roosevelt Market, it’s stocked with everything from hummus to bleach. If you look deeper, you can also find pickled radishes, fresh samoon (a football shaped bread served in Iraq), a counter filled with desserts and an assortment of baklavas glistening with rose water and honey.
The market is self contained, but walk through a doorway off to the side and you’ve entered a cozy restaurant simple in its decor. And although its menu seems simple, there’s something to be said about generous portions of culturally authentic food.
Everything is cooked to order: The flatbread comes out warm to the touch, the hummus sprinkled with tangy sumac, the baba ganoush heavy with garlic, the falafel green with fresh herbs. There is also Shawarma chicken, a Levantine meat preparation using a roasting spit, either as a meal ($10) or as a sandwich ($5); and if you want to try a little bit of everything, there is the Ishtar Platter including a chicken and beef kebab, falafel and rice ($12). Not only is it delectable, but lovingly prepared food like this can also open your heart to a new culture.
Owner Asam Mujili moved from Jordan to Idaho in 2009 to pursue the American dream, on the recommendation of a friend who talked up Boise’s reputation as a safe place to raise a family. Visiting, Asam favored the weather and Boise’s city growth. He also noticed a lack of Middle Eastern foods.
It seems fitting the store’s name was inspired by one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. The original gate was said to be an entrance to the whole Middle Eastern civilization. Ishtar Market and Restaurant acts as one of Idaho’s best gateways into Middle Eastern food.