Restaurant Reviews

Ram Restaurant and Brewery

While perusing the menu at the Ram Restaurant and Brewery in Meridian, my dining partner turned to me and said, "What! No bighorn sheep burgers?"

"No. But there's an ale called Buttface."

"Did you just call me a buttface?"

"No. It's an amber ale!"

After all, it was early Sunday afternoon and we were trying to yell over a bombardment of NFL games in the bar. This means the suds were already flowing at the Ram.

Besides Buttface Amber Ale, Big Horn Brewing Co. also makes Total Disorder Porter, Idaho Blonde Lager, Big Horn Hefeweizen and Big Red IPA — handcrafted in Boise at the Broadway Avenue location.

A big screen television hangs behind the u-shaped bar. Meridian is spelled out in giant letters above the TV, just in case you forget what town you're in.

By the time our potato skins ($8.99) arrived, it was obvious the purple-clad Vikings fans next to us were catching a buzz.

We enjoyed the crispy wedges of russet potatoes, smothered with melted cheddar cheese, bacon and scallions. These skins were nothing fancy but they played well with the garlicky sour cream dipping sauce.

For entrees, we chose a Gorgonzola steak sandwich ($12.99) and Louisiana-style blackened king salmon ($15.99), a spice-rubbed and seared fillet positioned atop a flavorless lemon-butter sauce. The salmon, which was firm and fresh tasting, came with fluffy rice pilaf and perfectly cooked broccoli florets.

The steak sandwich was the kind you eat with a fork and knife. A pan-seared, peppercorn-studded sirloin came topped with melted Swiss, Gorgonzola crumbles and caramelized onions, between crunchy slices of toasted baguette. A pile of paprika-dusted French fries accompanied the sandwich.

After finishing our lunch, we grabbed a growler (large jug) of amber ale ($7.99) and went home to watch the Seahawks lose.

We came back a few nights later with some friends and sat in a spacious booth next to the partially open kitchen. Banners representing area high schools hang from the ceiling. The servers are young and friendly — not too long departed from these institutions.

We started with large Cuervo margaritas ($7.25) on the rocks (with salted rims) and an onion ring tower, a metal rod stacked with golden onion rings straight from the fryer. ($4.99 during happy hour, 4-6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Otherwise it's $6.99.) A rosette sauce akin to fry sauce was there for dipping.

We also tried a refreshingly crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce ($5.99) splattered with tarragon vinaigrette, chopped tomatoes, Gorgonzola crumbles and candied pecans.

Tuesday night is all-you-can-eat fish and chips ($11.99) night at the Ram, meaning you'll get plate after plate of amber ale-battered cod fillets with semi-skinless fries, served with dill-spiked tartar sauce. Coleslaw would've been a nice addition. We appreciated the bottle of malt vinegar — many places in the valley don't offer this necessity.

The next day, a buffalo chicken sandwich ($8.99) was big enough for dinner and lunch for one of my dining partners. A fat chicken breast was grilled and placed in a crunchy kaiser roll with melted pepperjack, lettuce and tomato, all doused with Red Hot sauce. A mound of french fries came with this delicious sandwich.

Wish I could say the same about the Kobe beef burger ($13.78), which was dry and overcooked, smothered with melted cheddar and a cloyingly sweet bourbon barbecue sauce. This burger, built on a hearty wheat roll with lettuce, red onion and tomato, had too many problems for carrying such a big price tag.

Overall, the Ram's upscale pub fare pairs well with its handcrafted beers. The restaurant offers another decent dining option in the 'burbs.

James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@earthlink.net. Listen to him at 7 a.m. Saturdays on "Weekend Idaho" on KBOI AM-670.

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