Ram Restaurant & Brewery (Meridian)

I honestly cannot think of a single adult I know who hasn't visited one of the two Treasure Valley Ram locations.  Personally, I've never been to the one in Boise, but I have made it to the Meridian branch at Pine and Eagle Roads on several occasions.  In fact, it's where I met the woman who would go on to become my ex-girlfriend and current roommate.  Yeah, my life is kind of interesting sometimes.  The point is that she is one of my closest friends and kind of a foodie in her own right, which is why she accompanies me so often when I go out to eat.  Regardless, we hadn't been to the Ram together in quite some time before she suggested it for lunch yesterday.  It wasn't quite what I had been thinking, but when she sets her mind on a place it's nigh-impossible to dissuade her.  Besides, it would provide me with another chance to satisfy the ridiculously picky burger craving I've been having for the last couple of months...

A spoiler?  Perhaps...

Fortune was already smiling on us when we pulled into the parking lot.  Both of the roommate's children were with us, and a sign out front proclaimed that kids eat for $1 on Saturday with the purchase of an adult entrée.  We were seated almost immediately and assigned my favorite kind of waitress:  genuinely friendly but not annoyingly so.  My roommate had been craving a particular sandwich, the Turkey Havarti Melt, so she walked in knowing what she was going to order.  We were able to pry the kids away from their crayons and activity sheets long enough to determine that the tween wanted a chicken quesadilla and a Dr. Pepper, the toddler wanted a cheeseburger and a root beer, and both wanted fries.

You would think this was simple enough, but I had no idea what I wanted other than the fact that it was a burger.  Did I want to stick with something simple like the Bacon Cheddar since I've had so much trouble satisfying my craving for a good burger lately, or did I want to try something more ambitious like the Hillbilly with its blend of gorgonzola crumbles and blue cheese-infused mayo?  The One Pounder appealed to me for a few moments due to its classic toppings and the fact a burger that big might be more difficult to overcook, which is a problem I've been running into fairly often lately.  I also briefly flirted with the idea of trying their Black Angus Prime Beef cheeseburger with smoked cheddar.  I kept bouncing back and forth between these options (getting momentarily distracted by the Moody Blue Penne pasta dish, of all things) before finally settling on a promotional burger shown on the front of the menu: the Bacon, Bacon, Bacon.  I ordered my burger medium...not medium rare, not medium well, just medium...and hoped with everything I had that the kitchen would understand.  Both of the grown-ups at the table being fans of the Ram's Big Horn Blonde ale, we each ordered one; a regular for her and a large for me.  The regular is a pint.  I'm not exactly sure what unit of measurement the large is.

Just for perspective's sake, that is a standard-sized bar coaster under that monstrosity...

While we waited for our meals, I enjoyed the "total disclosure" aspect of the restaurant, which is to say that you can basically see into the kitchen from the dining room.  Frankly, I kind of dig watching my food being prepared.  Not quite as thrilling in this case as watching a Japanese chef working a hibachi, but it still made me feel a little closer to the process.

Since no appetizers were ordered, it wasn't long before our food arrived.  I took no pictures of the kids' meals because, well, I just didn't.  The quesadilla was cut into little triangles and stacked neatly next to a pile of fries, and the tween seemed to dig it.  The toddler's cheeseburger meal did surprise me though, mainly in terms of size.  The sandwich was bigger than a standard adult-sized hamburger at a lot of fast food places.

The Turkey Havarti Melt, sans tomato...

My roommate, knowing that I would soon be lost in my cheeseburger, quickly insisted that I try her sandwich.  The most important thing I can tell you is that the name of the sandwich doesn't do it justice, since it doesn't highlight the smoked bacon or garlic mayo.  A very, VERY good sandwich, and a reminder that I need more havarti cheese in my life.  I really dug the fact that they grilled the turkey on its own rather than just throwing it in the sandwich and grilling the bread.  If you like turkey sandwiches, this one is definitely worthwhile.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bacon, Bacon, Bacon cheeseburger...

Ms. Golden Rule, despite her insistence on only eating well-done meat, knew of the problems I've been having getting a burger cooked medium lately, and was immediately concerned with how dark and crusty the outside of the burger looked.  Hoping that it was just a very good sear, I sliced the sandwich in half with the big knife our waitress so graciously provided, and was overjoyed to see juicy, reddish-pink meat within.

One again, please take note: this is how a medium burger is SUPPOSED to look...

To be honest, I had ordered the Bacon, Bacon, Bacon almost against my own will, in a bizarre way.  I was craving a basic cheeseburger, maybe a little bacon on top, but I simply couldn't resist the call of a hamburger patty made with hickory smoked bacon, topped with chicken-fried bacon, garnished with lettuce, tomato and cheddar on a kaiser bun that has been smeared with chipotle-bacon mayo.  Did I mention that you can add extra bacon for only ninety-nine cents more?  I declined, as I did still want to taste a burger in all of this, but I needn't have worried.  The meat was a juicy and flavorful as it had looked, and the mayo was awesome, creating a constant but tolerable heat on the back of my tongue.  The chicken-fried bacon was even better than I was expecting it to be.  Even though the end result was a somewhat unusual burger, it satisfied my craving better than a lot of other burgers have lately.  I was already speculating on which burger I'll order the next time while I was only halfway through the one I was eating.  Oh, lest I forget, I also opted to get sweet potato fries on the side for an extra forty-nine cents.  I love sweet potato fries and try them pretty much every place I find them, and these are some of the better ones I've had.  The other grown-up at our table, who had been talking all the way to the restaurant about how good their regular fries are, even remarked that perhaps she should have traded up as well.

When the waitress came back around to ask if we wanted any dessert, the roommate informed her that we would be splitting an order of bread pudding.  She's been saying forever that she can't believe I've never tried the stuff, and has always insisted that the Ram's version is very good, if somewhat non-traditional.  I hadn't been consulted on this, but to be honest I wasn't exactly surprised.  The children, meanwhile, would make due with the ice cream that comes with the kid's meals.

Colossal Sizzling Bread Pudding

The Colossal Sizzling Bread Pudding certainly lived up to its name.  The portion was huge, and served on a hot skillet with Dreyer's vanilla ice cream melting on top of it.  Asking for permission first, our waitress poured a generous measure of caramel all over the stuff which coasted the ice cream, dripped down the bread and formed an angrily bubbling pool on the surface of the skillet.  I can think of no better way to describe the final product, a custardy, dense pastry-style affair with strong cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla flavors, than to ask you to imagine French toast made with an entire loaf of unsliced bread which has been left soaking in the egg mixture overnight.  It was almost overwhelming in density, richness and just plain strong flavors, but not quite.  Even split between two people who enjoyed it, there was quite a bit left over.

After settling up the bill and tip, our waitress gave each of the children a helium balloon from a bunch near the front desk.  The toddler actually slept while holding the string of her balloon last night, if you can believe that.  To be honest, I'd long thought of the Ram as nothing more than a brewpub with some decent appetizers, but if you go a little earlier in the day it's not a bad place to take the family for a meal either.

Food:  B+
Value:  B-
Service:  A
Atmosphere:  B-
Final Grade:  B

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