Unflattering though the term may be, I admit I am what many locals refer to as a "Mully Rat." That is, I can often be found perched on a bar stool at the Mulligan's in downtown Boise, drinking cheap beer and chatting with the bartender or one of my fellow Mully Rat friends. It's a low-key and cozy bar, and I like that the always friendly owner, Alicia Wagoner, is often there playing pool and spending time with the regulars. If the owner endorses her own bar and I can get Pabst in a bottle, that's good enough for me.
Last year, Wagoner announced she was opening a Mulligan's in Meridian to a lot of mixed opinions from the staff. Being the creature of habit that I am, I was apprehensive about heading into the personally uncharted waters of Meridian. So, with my equally downtown-loyal boyfriend in tow, we set out to test the mettle of Mulligan's in Meridian.
As are most things in Meridian, the restaurant/bar is sandwiched between fast food joints, but it immediately stands out, painted in bold black with red trim. The "No smoking before 9 p.m." sign caught my boyfriend's attention, who woefully jammed his cigarettes back in his pocket.
We walked in and, both of us overwhelmed by how different it was from the Mulligan's we're used to, made a beeline for the nearest table—a lovely polished wood plank embossed with fancy script that reads, "Mulligan's." The walls are decked out in diamond-plate aluminum and the ceilings are tall and cavernous with attractive wooden crossbeams running the length of the long, open space. Along the back of the bar is a line of televisions, and the night we were there they were all playing Monday Night Football. Seeing football on every TV isn't much different from the downtown location, but instead of Iron Maiden blasting through the speakers, the game was being attentively watched and listened to by the small group of diners.
Our server, also bartending that night, was prompt and friendly. We ordered two Pabsts, which sadly only come in draft form in Meridian but were the same reasonable price ($2.75 a pint). Soon she was back with two menus and our beers, without asking if we'd like to open a tab. This made it apparent that the true difference between the two locations is that downtown's is a bar/restaurant and Meridian's is a restaurant/bar. The difference was also apparent in the quality of the food.
I ordered a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with fries ($7.50), and my date ordered the buffalo chicken ranch wrap with fries ($7). The prices and menus are the same at both places, but the food itself was more consistent with the menu than what I'm used to.
My sandwich came with a side of au jus, which I often have to ask for when downtown, and it had plenty of peppers and onions, also something that's been below par when I've eaten at Mulligan's downtown. My boyfriend said the buffalo bites were satisfyingly crispy. And, although most people probably prefer the hand-cut steak fries that downtown proudly offers, I was thrilled to see a pile of skinny, greasy, crunchy fries on my plate. They were salty and excellent.
My date summed the place up nicely when he said, "If I were driving by or had just moved to town and saw it I'd think, 'Hey, that looks like a nice place to hang out.'" The Mulligan's in Meridian is inviting in a much cleaner, brighter way than the gritty, well-worn sweater feel of the downtown location.
On the way home, we stopped at Mulligan's downtown for a nightcap. As we each sipped a Guinness ($4), we agreed that if we ever found ourselves out that way again, we would definitely go to Mulligan's in Meridian.
—Anna Demetriades loves the smell of french fries and cigarettes in the morning.