The distance between Mulligan's on Boise's Main Street and its suburban version on Meridian's Main Street is more than physical. In Boise, the Mulligan's crowd takes drinking and music seriously. Were the management to institute a dress code, among the requirements might be accessories with chains, multiple tattoos and a T-shirt proclaiming a penchant for punk. Eleven miles west and slightly south—but miles away—the Mulligan's crowd in Meridian tends not to make lifestyle statements in solidarity through fashion.
The digs follow suit. In Boise, Mulligan's takes up residence in a crumbling building deemed haunted by some of its staff. Out yonder, the place is appropriately suburban sleek. Exposed beams prop up the soaring ceilings. Awkwardly proportioned banquets painted black, blond wooden tables and bare floors refuse to absorb a decibel of sound, sending the din of TVs and chatter bouncing off the high red walls and shiny metal, cross-hatch wainscoting. Outside a modest patio allows for a plein air meal, albeit with a vista of fast food restaurant drive-thrus and the constant buzz of busy roads.
On a post-worship football Sunday afternoon, the sports pub is appropriately empty given its respectable address in a town better known for its family centrism. Or maybe the lunch rush was simply long over, since prior to 9 p.m. (when the joint goes into 21-and-over lockdown), it's hospitable enough for the entire family, kids and all.
Depending on one's mood, the menu is either a relief in its banality or an easily overcome disappointment. None of the offerings are immediate standouts but all are predictably what a crowd hankering for wings and burgers expects to find: appetizers, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, wraps and burgers. The good news about the ordinary choices therein is that you know what you're getting into without much surprise. The bad news is that all that ordinary can make the decision process difficult.
In execution, the grub is easily on par with that of others in the sports pub class. Hits are misses are hits. For example, the outside of a BLT ($6.75) is pleasantly flat-top toasted rather than dried out in an appliance, but the sandwich's not-quite-melted-but-not-fridge-fresh slice of cheese is visually disconcerting with its veneer of oil and doesn't do anything for the sandwich in the way of flavor. Chunks of boneless fried chicken ($6.25) tossed in the house's wing sauce are a hit, peppery up front with a lingering heat on the finish. However, it's the presentation of the hot wing bites that undermines the dish's ultimate success, as a diner cuts through a bite into the torn, greasy paper separating food from plastic basket. Everything to arrive from the fryer is littered with stray french fries, which isn't necessarily a miss as much as it is an innocuous carelessness—like the crumb-caked booth cracks and the view of an un-gloved, un-aproned cook through an open window into the kitchen.
Tie up a few of those errant ends (or simply dispense with the critic's eye and play a game of pool or a round of darts) and Mulligan's in Meridian is what you'd expect from an aerial view: a singular oasis of local flavor bobbing in the rough waters of its big-box neighbors.
—Rachael Daigle is on a strict diet of spinach. Like Popeye.