Falcon Tavern 

In keeping with Dave Krick's winning philosophy of good beer and working man's gourmet, his brother Dale recently opened The Falcon Tavern, another hot spot on the 8th and Idaho strip. But unlike its starched uncle Red Feather, big brother Bittercreek Alehouse or distant cousin Reef, this cozy spot is somewhere the guys from Cheers would go for burgers and brew.

After hearing praises sung of the cornmeal battered onion rings and the grilled chorizo and mozzarella sandwich, the boy and I decided to dip a toe in the Tavern's lunchtime waters. We seated ourselves at a table and admired the cool, upscale pub atmosphere created by thick blinds and dark, polished wood. The boy desperately wanted a Guinness (on tap) but decided 11 a.m. was maybe not the best time to indulge. So our friendly waitress brought us water with lemon slices while we looked over the surprisingly extensive menu. I was expecting a few variations on the classic burger and maybe a Cobb salad, but the selection includes six innovative mixtures of greens and goodies, six mouth-watering appetizers, three specials, nine gourmet burgers, two desserts, an entire page of sandwiches and a list of side dishes including sweet and sour coleslaw.

As usual, I was stumped. Would I fill my gurgling tummy with a steak sandwich of Kobe loin, smoked pepper mayo, lettuce, tomato and Italian onion or a marinated Portobello with fire grilled jumbo mushrooms and chiles, Vermont sharp cheddar, crisp lettuce, tomato and smoky mayo on a warm French roll? Neither! I couldn't resist our waitress's suggestion of the hot pressed sandwich Cubano of rum marinated pork butt (yes, pork butt), smoked ham, dill pickle, provolone cheese and chile-spiked mayo on grilled bread. On the side, I went for the onion rings, which have already garnered enough fame and intrigue to win the coveted Best of Boise seal (thanks to some love from the starch-obsessed editorial staff). The boy ordered an "All-American" burger, or a quarter-pound, all-beef patty, aged cheddar, purple onion, lettuce, beefsteak tomato and smoky bacon on a toasted roll (the verdict is still out as to whether the "French" roll qualifies as "All-American").

The first bite of pork butt (I can't resist) was so hot I couldn't really judge the flavor, but the texture was nice. The ham was thick and juicy and contrasted well with the dryer pork and crisp bread. My second bite provided a cross-section of seasoned meat, tangy pickle and enough cheese to make a pizza. The boy was excited about the cheese-gasm, but I spent a lot of time pulling strands from my face and catching overflow in my lap. And though the mayo was advertised as "chile-spiked," it added only a bland creaminess. Suggestions? Less cheese, more seasoning. The onion rings were just as advertised--thick slices of red onion battered with chile-dusted cornmeal and served with a buttermilk/horseradish dipping sauce. They were a welcome change from the usual fried bread-crumb variety, and the dipping sauce was delicious.

The boy's choice was one of those takes on a classic that makes you chmile (a.k.a. chew/smile). The meat was rich and smoky and the toppings were fresh and flavorful, especially the bacon and tomato. The fries were a nice blend of crisp and soft (my favorite) with a tasty sprinkling of grated Parmesan. We helped each other finish and decided that next time, I'll ask for light cheese and two pints of Guinness.

--Erin Ryan will eat anything if it's covered in chocolate.

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