Firehouse Pub & Grill 

Why the wing? It's so much work for such a small pay-off. Plus, there is no way to eat a sauce-covered chicken wing delicately, so they don't make for the best first-date food. And plus, tearing meat off the bone is not everyone's cup of protein. Ugh.

However, hot wings have become a way for chefs to show their mettle--communities large and small hold festivals in honor of the app--and hot wings are a staple in pubs across the United States. Meridian's Firehouse Pub & Grill is high in the ranks of wing-slingers, which is not necessarily a draw for those in the "what's the big deal with the wing?" camp, like me. Until those naysayers taste a Firehouse wing.

Cavernous inside, Firehouse has high stools and tables that rival the number of taps at the bar and on a recent weeknight, most of the seats were occupied. It didn't appear to be a special occasion, so it's a safe bet that the place is usually busy.

A basic pub menu reveals burgers, wraps, a couple of salads and sandwiches. It's easy to do a burger well, so the real test lies in the more complicated dishes.

Wings are available in a choice of sauces, from not-hot to burn-your-face-off: honey teriyaki, barbecue, spicy barbecue, hot and sweet, garlic Parmesan, lemon pepper garlic, mild buffalo sauce, hot and flaming hot. The garlic parm sounded sublime, but when our server explained that the spice doesn't only come from the garlic, we played it safe with the honey teriyaki. We sat on the mid-sized patio that overlooks a lovely pond and a tranquil waterfall, and dug into fish and tots ($8.50), a Reuben and tots ($7.50) and a basket of 10 wings drenched in sauce (ten with one flavor, $8.75; 20 with two flavors, $15.75; 40 with four flavors, $28.75).

Two huge battered and fried tilapia filets were barely contained by the little red plastic basket they came in, their deep-brown color suggesting a few too many minutes in the fryer. But the bright white, flaky fish and thick-but-not-pasty coating indicated the perfect amount of cooking time, something the semi-soggy tater tots would have benefited from. The lack of malt vinegar to accompany the fish was disappointing and a side of balsamic was a really poor substitution on our part, but slathers of tartar sauce appeased our need to dip. The dark rye of the Reuben was too dry and too soft to hold the kraut and dressing, however, with the bread set aside, the tender pink pastrami stood strong on its own.

But oh, the wings. For me, sweet without heat. Crispy enough to seem battered. Fried to a mahogany color. Glistening with honey. Chicken falling from the bone. Dipped in a dill-infused ranch and tangy homemade bleu cheese. Fingers greasy and sticky. Lips the same. Delish.

The Firehouse might be a long drive--way out Franklin Road in Meridian--but for pond-side wing eating, the pay-off is worth it.

--Amy Atkins is a big chicken when it comes to bone-in meat.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Firehouse Pub & Grill.

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