Hold the shtick

by Lawrence Aylward
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Bacon restaurant
John Berryhill's Bacon: Breakfast, Bistro and Bloody Marys is a restaurant concept with staying power.

John Berryhill didn’t open his bacon-themed restaurant four years ago in downtown Boise, Idaho, as a gimmick.

“There’s nothing we’re doing that’s shtick,” says Berryhill, the owner and chef of Bacon: Breakfast, Bistro and Bloody Marys. “I don’t want to do it that way.”

Berryhill’s restaurant is upscale but affordable. It features bacon varieties sold by the slice in addition to breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and sides featuring bacon.

“We want to be as edgy as we can, but we want [our products] to sell,” Berryhill says.

Bacon: Breakfast, Bistro and Bloody Marys actually got its start in 1995. That’s when Berryhill cooked his first strip of Berryhill Bacon, which features a chile-sugar dry rub. The bacon gained a following at Berryhill’s other restaurant, Berryhill & Co.’s, a fine but casual dining restaurant also in downtown Boise.

“Over the years, people always liked it,” Berryhill says. “So when we were deciding on a concept for a breakfast-lunch place, it just seemed natural.”

Tray of bacon at John Berryhill's Bacon restaurant
Bacon: Breakfast, Bistro and Bloody Marys sells a bacon varieties by the slice. (Photo: John Berryhill Restaurants)

Berryhill devised the recipe, which sports a slightly hot and spicy taste to go with the sweetness that comes from the sugar that’s caramelized during the cooking process. It’s the most popular flavored bacon on the menu.

But it’s not the only one. The restaurant also offers spicy hot-, herb-, maple-rosemary-, candied- and chocolate-flavored bacon. For nonmeat eaters, the restaurant serves vegetarian bacon made from fermented soybeans.

The chocolate bacon isn’t as far out as one might think, but the key is to not overdo it, Berryhill says. For instance, his restaurant’s version isn’t 50-50 on the bacon and the chocolate, which Berryhill says would be too much chocolate. The bacon is just drizzled with chocolate.

Signature items on the menu include the Kurobuta Bacon Mac, penne pasta baked with Kurobuta bacon and four cheeses. The dish received a top food award from Food and Wine magazine a few years ago.

Two popular menu items are the Scrambled Burrito, featuring cheesy steamed eggs, salsa fresca, roasted potatoes and Berryhill bacon wrapped in a flour tortilla; and the Turkey and Berryhill Bacon Sandwich, featuring roasted turkey, Berryhill bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato and pesto mayo on a sourdough baguette.

Berryhill is careful not to be too progressive with his restaurant’s bacon offerings. He points out that Idaho is a very conservative state and one of the reddest states in the union. But Berryhill doesn’t want to be too conventional with the restaurant’s offerings, either. He says he didn’t open the restaurant to take advantage of the bacon furor of the past several years.

Bacon bloody mary
Berryhill wants to be unconventional yet comfortable to patrons.

“But we lucked out with our timing,” he admits.

Berryhill prefers pork bellies with “a good cap on them.” But he doesn’t require any particular marbling like he would from something like wagyu beef.

Consistency is the key, Berryhill notes. He wants the right amount of fat for taste, but not too much fat. Berryhill also takes into consideration what impact that smoking will have on the product.

“The longer you smoke it, the more flavor you’re going to add, but the more fat you will lose,” he says.

It took about a year for the restaurant to find its footing, Berryhill says, but he’s confident it will have staying power.

“We had to figure out what was working within the concept,” he says. “We want to make sure this is something that will last and not just be a fad.”

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