My first journey to The Busted Shovel was a no-go. My mother was in town, and I conned her into making the jaunt over to Meridian for dinner. We walked in to find a few customers enjoying a beer. Unfortunately, it was 8:30 on a Tuesday night, and the kitchen was closed. Bummer. Before walking back out, I looked around. The shuffleboard, pool tables and a mechanical massage chair in the corner piqued my interest.
My return trip was more of a success. My brother Tony and I ducked in at happy hour on a Friday afternoon. The place was packed with construction workers, bikers and business types. We sat down at a table in the middle of the chatter and noticed the menu had a fairly standard array of "greasy spoon" goodness with a few notables, including fried mini burritos. There was also a full bar with a good selection of well-priced domestics and boutique beers.
Tony kept his order straight up: chicken strips, tots and a lemonade. I decided to branch out with mini burritos, a chili-garlic chicken sandwich and a cold brew.
Our waitress--Josalyn--was on top of her game. Though she had a lot of tables to wait on, she did it with efficiency and a smile. Tony's lemonade never went empty, and we never ran low on anything.
The enticing mini burritos were served piping hot with a side of salsa and chilled sour cream. As a sucker for food implicated in causing early-stage atherosclerosis, I was very happy. Josalyn came back and chatted a bit. She pointed around the place. "That guy is one of the owners ... those guys are regulars ... so is that group standing by the bar." Having regulars is a good sign for any restaurant or bar.
The chicken strips and sandwich arrived, and we dug in. Tony was happy with his strips. They were, as were the mini burritos, fresh out of the fryer. My sandwich was an enjoyable, different kind of beast. Upon first bite, my cheeks flushed and my eyes watered. The sandwich had a kick. There was a strong hint of Tobasco, and when I pulled back the bun to see what else was going on, I saw about 20 little green jalapeno slices smiling up at me. Luckily, there was also a dripping abundance of mayo-garlic dressing to mellow things out a little. I put the bun back, sniffled a bit and kept on. When things got too hot, I grabbed a few tots to ease the fire.
"This fry sauce is good," Tony said with the expertise of someone who has eaten his fair share of fries and tots. "It doesn't have too much mayo."
After finishing up, I journeyed over to the massage chair in the corner. I sat down, and a waitress came over and showed me how to work it. She put it on a setting that initially took me by surprise--and then forced me to relax. In my food-coma state, I nearly fell asleep. As my back, neck and legs were getting the full treatment, I glanced around the room and noticed people laughing, patting one another on the back and, in general, having a great time.
When I dragged myself out of the chair and back to our table 10 minutes later, I noticed the bill was under 20 bucks--a great deal.
In short, the Busted Shovel is a wonderful place to meet up with friends and enjoy a burger and a brewski. They use a time-tested equation to provide a fun place to enjoy friends, food and drink.
--Ryan Peck has a love-hate relationship with all things hot.