Don't let The Griddle's sign fool you. Though it boasts a cast-iron skillet and the folksy phrase "Good Cookin'," the joint is most definitely not a greasy diner dive. Opened in 1948 in Winnemucca, Nev., then purchased by Mike and Betty Aboud in 1960, The Griddle has spent the last half-century perfecting Betty's original recipes. In 2005, after son David purchased the company, The Griddle expanded into Idaho, opening a location in Meridian first and then one in Eagle.
Though this history isn't the first thing on your mind as you carve off a couple squares of crunchy, fluffy waffle and let an avalanche of butter and hot syrup cascade onto the plate before swirling the bite in the sweet sticky mess, it's the backbone of The Griddle experience. Everything from the corned beef hash ($9.99), which is cooked and cubed on-site from scratch, to the butter, which is churned and clarified in-house, is done with care and an attention to detail unmistakably born from tradition.
After visiting the expansive Griddle location in Meridian for brunch, and scarfing down a plate of flaky and not-too-greasy Crabcakes Benedict ($11.29) with asparagus and grated hashbrowns and a cup of freshly ground Dawson Taylor coffee, I decided to check out The Griddle's dinner chops at the Eagle location. Surrounded by the martini-fueled, TGIF revelry of Mai Thai and Bardenay, The Griddle's blazing lights and mostly empty booths seemed a touch out of place. The atmosphere inside, a smallish open space with mellow yellow walls and wood flourishes, was welcoming, though notably surreal.
Scanning the short menu--all $9.99, including soup or salad--I spotted something surprising: mushroom barley "meatloaf." Intrigued by the inclusion of a vegetarian dish, I opted for the loaf and a side salad, while my dining companion went with the almond-crusted trout and curried butternut squash soup. The rich orange soup, adorned with a swirl of creme fraiche, was made heartier by the addition of chicken stock, while the simple house salad was transformed by a creamy, yet astonishingly fresh lemony dressing. Both complemented the warm, homemade multi-grain bread. The trout, dredged on both sides in almonds, was crisp and well-seasoned, although the over-breading took away the fish's expected pink heartiness.
What the trout lacked in meatiness, the mushroom barley meatloaf, oddly, made up for. With a browned, crusty exterior and chewy, nutty interior, the dish was filling, without trying to mimic the texture or flavor of meatloaf. The loaf let the accompanying sinfully rich mushroom gravy do most of the flavoring work. The sides of mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini formed a sigh-eliciting comfort-food trifecta. Though this dish is the best vegetarian meal I've had in Boise, it would be incorrect to trumpet The Griddle as a new veggie spot. The dish, like everything I sampled on the restaurant's menus, is there solely based on the merit of the recipe. And it's all good cookin'.
--Tara Morgan scarfs down veggie meatloaf like a bat out of hell.