An Afternoon in McCall

Before we headed out from Cascade (more about that in my previous blog entry), the roommate and I decided to grab a soda at what is basically the town's "last chance" gas station, Howdy's Gas & Grub.  We didn't grab any food there but, believe me, we could have.

I've never tried a chicken gizzard before, but I figure a gas station isn't the place to start.  Perhaps I'm being uncharitable, as Howdy's has quite an impressive selection of grocery store deli type food.  Everything from breakfast sandwiches and burritos, burgers, individual cheese sticks and jalapeno poppers... a selection of non-breakfast burritos, chimichangas, potato wedges, chicken strips, egg rolls, pizza rolls, corn dogs...well, you get the idea.

There's also a counter where you can get hot fried chicken, pizza and deli sandwiches made to order, and all of this is in addition to the standard convenience store nachos and hot dogs.  It's actually a pretty impressive selection, as far as these things go.  Too bad the fountain soda was a little flat.

After passing through a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss-it areas, we arrived in McCall, where we were surprised to see a lot of places that were closed for spring break.  Maybe a lot of their work force is still school-aged?  I had asked the readers on my Facebook page and the members of my Facebook group what the good places to eat in McCall were, but so many of them being closed certainly narrowed the options.  We took some pictures of the girls playing at the park, and of the still very frozen Payette Lake, but all that swimming after breakfast had taken its toll, and the children began to clamor for lunch.  By that point, we had it down to three places that we just couldn't decide between, so with no further details we presented the types of cuisine available to the kids and let them make the final decision.

And that is how we ended up at Salmon River Brewery.  Yeah, I was kind of surprised too, but not unpleasantly so.  SRB is a cute, cozy little eatery located in a re-purposed train depot.  Apparently, their motto is "Beer is Good!"  You can tell because it says so on their website...

...and is burned into their tables

I felt it necessary to share this with you, you'll understand why in a moment.  Believe it or not, neither of the adults in our party ordered beer, though the younger child and myself opted for glasses of the Crater Lake root beer they have on tap.  Other than that, their entire soda selection is Blue Sky, which is pretty cool.  While we perused the menu, the kids were presented with chalkboards and chalk to scribble with, which is nice since they're used to a couple of games or pictures on a kids menu to work with.  And usually a cup of crayons that has maybe three our four colors total, and all of which have seen better days.  Anyway, the chalkboards led to this:

We didn't teach her that!  She learned it from the table!

Can I get away with one more random picture before we get to the food?  I just liked this wall sculpture quite a bit:

Oh, and you see that picture to the left?  The one over our table was cuter.


And I guess I might as well throw in one of the bar area, seeing as how it's a brewery and all...

Food talk coming next, I promise!

See all that sunlight pouring in?  There is absolutely nothing better than natural light for taking good food pics.  I'm not blaming all the dark restaurants I've eaten in for the substandard pictures I present occasionally, except I kind of am.  Anyway, the brewery does have a kids menu available, which is always a nice plus, and something that a lot of their contemporaries don't offer.  From that menu, the younger child chose the Crispy Chicken Tenders.  The tween had been lured to SRB with the promise of a hamburger, which oddly enough is not on the kids menu.  Since she's on the kids menu cusp anyway, being twelve now and all, we told her she might as well just order a burger from the regular menu.  She chose the standard Cheeseburger, albeit with no vegetables or condiments because, you know, kids.  My roommate picked the Cobb Salad with bleu cheese dressing, and a side of Beer Cheese Soup, since somebody else had ordered the last of the Soup of the Day (broccoli cheese) mere moments earlier.  As for me, I decided to buck tradition and show up those readers who tease me for all the burgers I write about by ordering something completely different: the SSBLAT.

Beer Cheese Soup

My roomie's Beer Cheese Soup was the first thing to arrive, and she was nice enough to let me sample it.  I've never had one exactly like it.  I'm used to cheese soups being pretty thick and creamy, but this was extremely thin.  That having been said, it was still very tasty, and didn't suffer from an overwhelming beer flavor, which I was afraid would be the case when I saw the consistency of the soup.  Nicely flavorful and not at all heavy, it was pretty much a perfect side dish.

Crispy Chicken Tenders

Our little artist's Crispy Chicken Tenders also defied my expectations, having a thin, panko-ish crust that was a LOT less greasy than what I'm used to.  Everyone at the table was curious and ended up trying a little bite, and I'm happy to report that even though the crust was thin enough to see through, it was still very crunchy and flavorful, and the chicken was nice and juicy beneath.  Also, kudos to SRB for giving the kids some fruit to go along with their starch.


The tween's cheeseburger, 1/4 lb of beef sourced from Panther Ranch in Donnelly, was also a big hit.  I'm pretty sure at one point she described it as the best cheeseburger she's ever had.  When it was gone, she said she missed it.  This from a girl who describes 80% of the food she's given as "okay".  Seriously, I took her for Himalayan food last night, and her comment was "It's food, you know.  It's okay."  So yeah, her enthusiasm is a pretty ringing endorsement.

Cobb Salad

The tween's mother is more reserved vocally, you can tell when she likes something because she just keeps her head down and enjoys it.  Occasionally she might make a small comment, but then she just goes back to work.  The biggest indication of just how much she liked something is how much she leaves behind, and she did some serious damage to her salad.  When she ran out of dressing, she just stole the ranch that came with the chicken strips, since it would have gone to waste otherwise anyway.  I think it's safe to say the salad was a hit, but I think it's pretty obvious that it's good just by looking at it, no?


Before I talk about my entrée, let me spend a moment on the most interesting fries I've had in some time.  Somewhere between potato wedges and waffle-cut, this was another item that was a pretty big hit with our table.  They were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and well-seasoned without being overly salty.  Considering how many mediocre or just plain bad fries I come across, this was a very welcome change of pace.  

Now about that wrap.  The menu lists the components as Smoked Salmon, Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, and citrus aioli wrapped in a basil flour tortilla.  Let's get the obvious out of the way: that doesn't look like a basil tortilla.  And it certainly didn't taste of basil either.  That having been said, everything else was perfect.  The smoked salmon was REALLY smoky, just the way I like it.  The bacon similarly had a lot of flavor, and was perfectly crispy.  The dark green lettuce was a very nice touch (I had feared it would be iceberg), there was avocado and tomato in every bite, and luckily the aioli was very judiciously used.  Considering how many places I've been to recently that served me bland, under-seasoned food, it made me very happy to have a meal where everything tasted good.  Perfectly happy?  Not quite.  I left regretting that I didn't order the thing I really wanted: the Black and Blue Elk Burger.  Damn my contrarian nature.  I'd like to say that I'll order it next time, but there are a lot of other restaurants to try, most of which I hope will actually be open the next time I'm in town.  Time will tell, I suppose...

Food:  Yummy, old-school pub grub.  Can't help but wonder about that tortilla, though.
Value:  Location is a factor here.  $12 for a cobb salad and $8 for a plain, 1/4 lb cheeseburger.  Still, when in Rome, I guess...
Service:  Our waiter was genuinely friendly and good-humored, which is nice because their ticket system was acting up and we had to keep sending him back for things that it forgot.  A drink refill would have been nice, especially when you're paying two bucks for a root beer.
Atmosphere:  About what you'd expect from an eatery like this.  My roommate in particular really dug the kind of laid-back, hippie-ish music they were playing.
Final Grade:  A-

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