Byway Bites: Foodie Stops Along the Western Heritage Scenic Byway

To drive the Western Heritage Historic Byway is to experience “wild” Idaho. Museums, birds of prey, ancient sites, and mining towns along with the rugged outdoors invite travelers to create their own unique Idaho frontier adventure. The Birds of Prey National Conservation area is well worth a visit. It is the home to the largest population of nesting raptors in the world.

Another historical site is the Swan Falls Dam. This dam was the first powerhouse on the Snake River and is known as the birthplace of modern electricity – with the same standards used throughout the world today. As you descend into the Snake River Canyon, imagine a trip back in time as you witness the volcano path that created today’s Yellowstone Park and a field of hundred-ton boulders that were deposited by one of the largest floods in geologic history. And still visible today ready for you to discover, are thousand-year-old petroglyphs inscribed by early Native Americans.

Begin your route in Kuna with a visit to the Kuna Visitor’s Center which can provide orientation for all the byway attractions. And if you are interested in food and wine on this byway, Kuna is the place!

Indian Creek Winery

Visit one of the best wineries of the Northwest, a hidden gem with magnificent summertime gardens boasting hundreds of colorful dahlias, dancing butterflies and home-town charm. It’s a true shangri-la located only 30 minutes outside of Boise.

Family-owned and operated, Indian Creek Winery truly believes in that old saying “Work hard, play hard.” Bill and Mui Stowe have been working hard since 1982 to craft premium wines from the best grapes in the heart of Idaho’s Snake River Valley appellation. Second generation Tammy Stowe-McClure and husband, Mike, stepped on board in 2005 to help continue the success of this growing winery. All the hard work has been paying off – taking home gold medals from several wine competitions and receiving recognition as “Idaho Winery of the Year” in Wine Press Northwest’s spring ’08 edition.

Indian Creek produces a wide variety of wine, and most are available for sampling in the winery tasting room. Our most popular wines are the Pinot Noir, Star Garnet, Mountain Syringa, White Riesling and White Pinot along with their small-lot wines: Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Man’s Best Friend Malbec, Ragin’ Rapids Late Harvest Riesling, and our Ruby Dahlia Port.

Besides the tasting room, Indian Creek offers custom wine labeling, wine bars, a wedding and special event venue, group tours, and  a variety of events throughout the year. The wine club lets members take full advantage of special releases, wine discounts, and gift shop discounts.

El Gallo Giro

Culinary Specialist Patrick Rolfe visits with Enrique Contreras, owner of the famous El Gallo Giro restaurant in Kuna, where authentic Hispanic cuisine has been served for fifteen years…

Q: Enrique, tell me about your background a bit on how you got into the restaurant business.

A: I was born in Mexico where my father was a farmer in a village smaller than Kuna! My parents owned a Taqueria, which I worked at. But I had bigger dreams of opportunities in the restaurant business. My mentor, Lucio Prado first hired me as a dishwasher at his restaurant Acapulco’s in Boise. Within six months I was a server, and shortly thereafter when the chef quit I was offered the job of running the kitchen on the spot! Eventually I worked up to managing two of Lucio’s restaurants and then buying one. It has been a lot of hard work which I couldn’t have done by myself. I credit my wife Ana Pez for standing by me and finding ways to differentiate our restaurant. And our main success is derived from the warm embrace of the city of Kuna.

Q: What are some of your signature dishes?

A: We are very well known for our Camerones Borrachos, referred to as “drunken shrimp” (the shrimp is soaked in Tequila)! It is served in a traditional lava rock bowl which brings out the rich red color of the sauce. Also, our fresh table-side guacamole creates a fun atmosphere while a server whisks together a custom guacamole to each customer’s liking. But our famous street tacos are just like Mom used to make, so they are very popular. For me personally, I like to create specials using seafood. It is always a great platform for a chef to explore.

Q: Is there one dish you love but don’t like to make?

A: Yes, tamales! To make them right they take a lot of time. So we usually make them fresh for a special on Wednesday nights and of course for Christmas… that’s a tradition! We follow my mother’s recipe as she has made tamales all her life. This includes our scratch recipe for the masa from grinding the corn and then adding milk and cotija cheese. Most restaurants skimp by adding water and lard.

Q: What’s it like to be essentially one of the only restaurants on the Western Heritage Historical Byway?

A: The local community enjoys the richness of the byway year-round. This is a very tight community where everyone participates in supporting one another. But for our traveling customers, they tell me almost every time, “I’m stopping by the birds of prey”!

Patrick enjoyed some street tacos and table-side guacamole. It was fantastic! Upon leaving, he spoke briefly to Crystal, the manager who radiates with pride about working for Enrique.

“I want to emphasize Enrique’s commitment to El Gallo Giro because it goes far beyond words. Enrique is involved in every aspect that happens on a day-to-day basis. He also shows commitment to the customers by going around to each table to make sure that the customers’ experience is only the best. People often ask when we will expand and branch off, but Enrique is only one person and a chain of restaurants wouldn’t be the same without Enrique being there. He has a special way of making all the customers feel like family.”

Western Heritage Historic Byway

Location: Beginning at exit 44 off Interstate 84, follow Idaho 69 southbound for 8 miles to East Avalon Ave. in Kuna. Turn south on Swan Falls Road and continue 21 miles to the dam. Follow signs to Celebration Park, then head north to Ferry Rd. From Ferry Road go south on Idaho 45 to the Snake River.

Length: 47 miles. Allow 1.5 hours for travel.

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