Words & Deeds

Remember those Merritt’s meals after the bars closed at 2 a.m.? End of an era

Merritt’s Country Cafe has been an all-night staple on State Street in Boise for decades.
Merritt’s Country Cafe has been an all-night staple on State Street in Boise for decades. Statesman file

Back when partying all night felt reasonable, friends and I made the occasional taxi journey to Merritt’s Cafe at 6630 W. State St.

After Boise’s bars closed at 2 a.m., it was hard to beat the family-owned, 24-hour diner.

Not anymore. If you drive by Merritt’s today, you’ll see new hours beneath the battered “Merritt’s Country Cafe” sign: 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The changes went into effect mid-summer.

Boise insomniacs have counted on Merritt’s to be open all night on weekends since the mid-1970s — even on weeknights for part of that run.

Nothing hit the spot after hours like a billion-calorie Super Ranch scramble with cheese. Cigarette smoke drifted through the restaurant, mingling with coffee steam. The jukebox cranked Patsy Cline and AC/DC. Between mouthfuls of butter-slathered scones, we’d exaggerate whatever chaos we’d witnessed — or caused — Downtown that night.

Then Boise changed. We outgrew our 20s. The city passed a no-smoking ordinance. (Thank gawd.)

Announcing its new hours on Facebook recently, Merritt’s reminisced about hungry crowds that used to flock from bars such as Gentle Ben’s, The Big Pine, Hi-Ho Club and Shorty’s Saloon. Those have been long gone for years.

“We would like to offer a thank you for those of you that have still been coming in on those shifts and express our sadness and apologies that we will no longer be open 24 hours! We have so many great memories of the fun-loving people that would bring the party with them every night after the bars closed! Thank you so much for the many years of good times you brought to our little café!”

In 2017, the business decision is understandable. Still, it’s hard to let go of fond, wee-hours traditions — as hazy as some of our classic Merritt’s memories might be.

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