August 29, 2010 in Idaho Voices

Wallace restaurant can’t withstand Big Burn crowds

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Fast facts

What: Jameson Restaurant and Saloon

Where: 304 Sixth St., Wallace

Contact: (208) 556-6000

Maggie the Ghost needs to get busy throwing plates and shattering coffee cups. Legend has it that a woman named Maggie checked into Wallace’s Jameson Inn decades ago and never really checked out.

Apparently, she waited patiently in her room for months and months for her rich suitor to return from a trip back East, and he never did and though she finally gave up and left the hotel in life, in death she has returned to wait it out for eternity. I can’t blame Maggie for being in a rotten mood, but unfortunately her bad vibes seem to have put a curse on the service level and quality of food in the old inn’s restaurant.

We decided to meander over to Wallace for lunch, but it wasn’t until we pulled into town we realized we had arrived during some kind of street festival with a patch of craft and food booths and a stage show featuring a young boy playing screeching electric blues on his guitar. We picked the Jameson at random, and when we got settled into our table we figured out via a table topper that we’d come during not only the annual Huckleberry Festival, but also on the exact day of the 100th anniversary of the 1910 Fire, which burned through 10 national forests and is still the largest wildfire in U.S. history.

Apparently, the Jameson was the place to commemorate the disaster, as the restaurant was bubbling with people, some even wrapped in conversation about the subject. The Jameson dining room is thick with spectral energy, and staff and customers have reported for years of hearing disembodied voices partying it up in what once was one of the rowdiest saloons in the west. The bar itself is awe inspiring, a massive mirror-filled wooden arch which reaches 10 feet to nearly the top of the lofty ceiling.

We settled into our menus and immediately spotted something called the “1910 Fire Burger,” which included jalapenos, pepper-jack cheese and barbecue sauce. A fiery mouth was the perfect way to commemorate the occasion we thought, so both of us decided to go for it. Things started off well enough, with the waitress arriving moments later with our Bloody Marys, not the best we’d ever had, but strong enough to do the trick and complete with an asparagus spear and a tiny baby onion.

Our luck started to go a bit pear-shaped when, nearly fifteen minutes later, a different waitress arrived and said “Sorry, we’re all out of hamburger. We’re getting more but it’s going to be a while before we can do anything with it since it’ll be frozen.” How long is “a while,” we asked, only to be told “I don’t know, honey, just a while, OK?”

Rather than wait it out, we disappointedly opted to have another look at the menu. Obviously, frozen burgers were out, and barring the beyond-our-budget dinner selections, the other options were quite minimal. We were thinking about ordering nachos from the appetizer menu, but that plan was derailed when we heard the waitress tell a nearby table, “Sorry, we’re out of those too.” Rats, foiled again.

With visions of juicy burgers still dancing in our heads, nothing much else on the menu really grabbed us. I opted to try their Reuben, a recent fetish of mine, and my lunch partner ordered a club sandwich on rye. We ordered another round of Bloody Marys and our server returned with something entirely different from our first drink, with no garnish, no Worchestershire, no Tabasco, and a vague hint of tomato juice. It was so strong with cheap well vodka we were barely able to hack it, and this is coming from a couple of seasoned professionals.

Our lunches finally arrived a long 35 minutes later. We noticed right away that the waitress must have neglected to mention that they were also out of rye bread, for my Reuben was served on some kind of cracked wheat and so was my friend’s club, despite the fact he had specifically ordered rye. I peeled open my sandwich to realize they must also be out of Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing, and what I was left with was a few fried scraps of dry roast beef (not pastrami), a smidge of sauerkraut that looked like it was formerly dehydrated, and a half-teaspoon of mayo globbed right in the center of it all.

It was dry and nearly inedible, and the accompanying onion rings were semi-cooked, limp and dripping with room temperature cooking oil. My lunch partner nearly gagged as he bit into his Club sandwich and globs of warm mayo gushed out from between thick chunks of canned, reconstituted turkey. The saving grace was his potato salad, which almost seemed homemade, and wasn’t exactly fantastic, but at least gave us something to nibble on, since everything else on our plates was beyond consumption.

We could have raised a fuss and asked for our food to be erased from our bill, but at that point we just wanted to flee the scene. We paid and left in fast fashion, leaving it up to Maggie the Ghost to wreak her havoc at the Jameson and hopefully scare some sense into the staff and make them improve their tragic situation.

Contact correspondent Patrick Jacobs by e-mail at orangetv@yahoo.com. Previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. For more restaurant and nightlife reviews, music commentary and random thoughts and photos, visit his blog at getoutnorthidaho.com.

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