Back in the days when I was still a smoker (cough, cough), I used to delight in lighting up after a good meal. The Busted Shovel provided plenty of second-hand smoke throughout the entirety of my dining experience to remind me of those old days, now long gone. Every table in the joint had a smoker at it. Smokers sat at the bar, smokers played pool. So at any given point of my dinner, someone (more accurately, several someones) had his or her nicotine going on. My date and I were a bit surprised by this discovery, as we both thought smoking was not permitted in places that serve food in the great state of Idaho. We found out after our meal that the Busted Shovel is seeking re-classification from a restaurant to a bar, according to a Busted Shovel manager, and a sign out front advertises that no one under 21 is admitted.
Our eyes teared up throughout our meal, and we drove home with the windows down to air ourselves out. As I kissed my son good night he asked me, "Mommy, have you been setting off fireworks?"
Of course, smoking or non-smoking has little influence over food, right? Perhaps.
The Busted Shovel definitely has a bar atmosphere going on, so we decided to order hot wings ($6) and beers to start. I was very pleased to find eight beers on tap and ordered a pint of Pyramid Snow Cap Ale. My date had a seasonal Sam Adams.
The wings? The heat was good; the spice just right. Not wimpy, but not requiring a fire extinguisher. The outer skin was nice and crispy, but the meat was dry and overcooked.
The menu boasted that the "Busted Shovel Reuben" ($6.95) is the "signature sandwich," so of course we had to try it, and ordered salad as our side. We also ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fries ($6.50).
The reuben was OK--the rye bread was nicely toasted and crisp, and the corned beef was lean and very thinly sliced. It was good, but probably not the best reuben I've had in town. The salad was average and not worth getting too excited about.
I was grateful to the waitress for steering me away from the mushroom burger when I asked if the mushrooms were fresh grilled or out of a can. The bacon cheeseburger I ordered was not as good as the reuben. The patty was very thin and so perfectly round-shaped that it made me suspect it was of the frozen-packaged-burger variety. All in all, it wasn't a to-die-for burger that makes your mouth water. The fries were decent, though, and I appreciated that they were crispy without being greasy.
The stand-out positive of the place was our waitress. She was fast, friendly and helpful, and we tipped her well to show our appreciation for her enthusiasm and professionalism.
On the drive out to Meridian, we were hopeful that we would discover a new diamond in the rough, a hip secret place we could look forward to frequenting. A place whose burgers would instill in us an overwhelming desire to return.
Overall, our dining experience wasn't miserable, but neither my date nor I felt it was worth repeating. This could be directly related to my grumbling over my dry-cleaning bill, or possibly it was the canned mushroom thing. Whatever it was, our Busted Shovel experience was, well, a bit of a bust.
--Rachel Abrahamson doesn't think the words "canned" and "vegetables" should ever be in the same sentence.