A Riverfront Reawakening

Ling and Louie's Opens in a Riverfront Landmark Redesigned by Rex Chandler

Article by Ashley Loeb

Photography by Ashley Loeb

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

Thanks to the hard work and collaboration of distinguished local business owners including Rex Chandler of Chandler’s Steakhouse and David Johnson of the Riverside Hotel and Meridian's Ling and Louie’s, an extraordinary transformation has been underway at a landmark location tucked along the Boise River Greenbelt. Rex Chandler’s vision for this historic building has become a revived space ready to welcome guests to the second Idaho location of Ling and Louie’s restaurant. 

With nearly half a century of experience, Rex Chandler is truly a gem of the Boise community and taking a private tour with him was a captivating moment. Coming full circle, Rex worked as a young busboy at the original Charthouse in the 1960’s in Newport Beach. Now, in the twilight of a fulfilling and successful career in the restaurant industry, he’s spearheaded the revival of a historic building in Garden City that originated as a Charthouse in 1976. Next to the Oregon Trail Boise River crossing, this location predates the Boise River Greenbelt, and opened two years after Rex became owner of his first restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1974. 

The phenomenal restoration of this mid-century modern design would make Joseph Lancor, original architect and student of Frank Lloyd Wright, proud. Rex Chandler was entrusted by long-time friend and owner of Riverside Hotel David Johnson, who also owns the first existing Ling and Louie’s franchise in Meridian. Five years in the making, with a goal to construct a restaurant that would stand the test of time, Rex’s design was thoughtful and purposeful. He enjoyed having the freedom to not worry about scraping pennies together and being able to bring back a more clean and natural design to a beautiful historic building. 

Rex admitted he was not a fan of some of the “covering-up” of the design that was done during over the last several years. Paying homage to the original design, Rex shared that he wanted to “take it back to the clean, natural lines - the organic. This is a mid-century design that we’ve revitalized. It’s been a total ground-up restoration. The only thing that remained is really the concrete wall and beams of the roof/ceiling” to maintain the shape of the original design.

As we concluded the tour, Rex showed off his adorable grandchildren as he searched for images of a gigantic fireplace that was an undertaking to remove but really opened up the space inside the restaurant.  He also spoke the words that were evident from the beginning of the tour, “I love what I do. I love designing and building.”

In addition to the restoration of the building, more connections were built with the community as the property has merged with Riverside Hotel and the owners of neighboring Telaya Winery,  Earl and Carrie Sullivan, with the creation of a white wine blend to serve exclusively at this new establishment. In addition to bringing local businesses together, prior employees were also given the opportunity to uphold the backbone of the restaurant. Six integral employees from Joe’s Crab Shack have been training for this moment for over a year, including Chris Moore, the general manager, who has seen this building through since it was the Charthouse, which closed in 2003 to make way for the Crab Shack, a more affordable family dining restaurant under the same Landry’s ownership. Amongst many other integral members of the team, Caleb Padgett, the regional manager, has also been preparing for opening day for over year and was eager to see this space welcome guests again.

Returning to Ling and Louie’s for an evening dining adventure, I was welcomed by eager-to-please staff amongst the vibrant energy of the music and lively chatter that filled dining and lounge areas. My eyes were drawn up to the triangular vaulted ceiling, accented with natural woods and shiplap. Hues of red and botanical accents complemented and warmed the space inside while views of greenery and the riverfront, through the wall length windows, further brought the feeling of the outdoors inside.  Rex was in his element, greeting and conversing with tables of guests in his fedora, island style button-up and warm smile. 

An attentive yet fun and humorous server really made the night, along with tropical fruit and floral-accented cocktails, steaming-hot Asian-inspired dishes and sushi with a kick from the planter-converted sushi bar!  As intended, the food was approachable, flavorful, Asian cuisine with American-flair. The Jeweled Beef spilling from a Chinese takeout box and the Orange Chicken atop a bed of crispy spinach were the fan favorites, but the cherry on top was the banana spring roll dessert which tasted like a banana-filled churro complimented with vanilla ice cream. A photo opportunity at the vine-covered backdrop near the entrance was the perfect way to commemorate the night and complete an experience in a space that remains a historic landmark and will surely hold a special place in the hearts of local Boiseans for years to come. 

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