Perhaps all the good café designs that resembled food were all taken when some restaurants started popping up with other odd shapes, an owl, a toad, a shoe, a chili bowl, an airplane, teepees, a flower pot, a sphinx, a piano, a blimp, a cream can, and a derby. That last one gives it away that this was a list just from California.
Idaho was not infested with restaurants that looked like food, nor was it immune. There were at least a couple. Many fondly remember the Chicken Inn, a drive in at 323 11th Avenue North. Offering Nampa’s first curb-side service, the Chicken Inn boasted “clear-finish woodwork and modernistic furnishings” inside with a stucco exterior. That exterior is what people remember. The roof was a chicken hunkered down as if sitting on a nest.
The giant chicken probably distinguished Nampa’s Chicken Inn from the other establishments named the Chicken Inn across the state. There was one in McCall, Jerome, Rupert, and Idaho Falls. Boise had a couple of them, at different times.
The advantage of having a restaurant shaped like a chicken was that you didn’t really have to go into detail about what was on the menu. If you wanted tofu, you went somewhere else.
Coeur d’Alene’s Fish Inn used the same strategy. When you walked into the mouth of that sucker (or trout, or whatever), you knew what you were there for. Built in 1932 it operated until the Fish, clearly out of water, burned in 1996.
Nampa’s Chicken Inn opened in February 1940. Joe and Mary Tycz built the place. Joe was born in Moravia in 1905 and moved to the US with his family when he was seven. He married Mary Salek in 1928. Living in South Dakota at the time, they planned to move to Corvallis, Oregon in 1933, but they stopped in Nampa to visit friends, and never left.
The Chicken Inn operated through the 40s and into the 50s though the date of its demise is uncertain. Joe Tycz, who was a member of the Czech community, was also a farmer who raised peaches and spuds. He is remembered for the Chicken Inn, but also for providing the first permanent community Christmas tree to the City of Nampa. Citizens had been cutting trees and decorating them for the season for years. In 1954, Tycz donated a 20-foot-tall living blue spruce for the annual celebrations. It was planted in City Hall Park and became a focal point of community Christmas celebrations for several years.