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Jun 24, 2010 08:11 AM

Spokane and 'environs' - Seeking recommendations

Spokane has had some bad press here. I have reviewed most and not found a lot of places (how shall we say?) I am romping madly to try. Also we will be touring the area (Canada and US sides) say about a 200 mile radius from Spokane. Casting the net a bit wider any country eateries either side of the border? Things I particularly like (that I suspect might be there to be found) are Basque, local produce, and anything not just a pale attempt of the real McCoy (Jewish Deli in Spokane? I think not.). Not necessary anything fancy, just with a certain style and taste to their food. If the proprietor is manic about the stuff he/she puts out, so much the better.

I am always of the optimistic opinion that generally bad reports just mean Hounds are not looking for the right 'strong suit' in any given place or plain not trying hard enough. :-)

I will report back post trip, of course.

Thanks in advance!!!!!!!!!!!!


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  1. I return to Spokane at least once a year to check in on mother-in-law.
    I have a good friedn who is also a Chowhounder who lives in downtown Spokane, and I rely on her for Spokane dining updates.
    She recently went to a new restaurant, Ethiopian, Queen Of Sheba.
    Looking forward to your report, bishop.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ritabwh

      Wish had gotten this in time to try it. Thanks! Spokane was pretty difficult to find anywhere. Hence lack of report. Maybe next time better luck. I was hoping for basque if truth be told.

      1. re: ritabwh

        For your next trip, try a brand new place that I really like so far, Italia Trattoria (where Cafe Marron used to be across from the Elk). The women who run it used to work at Luna. Great brunch and lunch (what I've had so far), dinner looks just as promising. Lovely, small space with garage doors that open up to create a patio during nice weather.

        Cafe Marron
        144 S Cannon St, Spokane, WA 99201

      2. I’ve posted my Spokane recommendations for Spokane on Chowhound before, here is a slightly updated list.

        Please note that these ratings are good for Spokane area only, Spokane is a culinary wasteland – BUT it IS getting better. Just because I rate something 5 stars here, does not mean it is a 5 star NYC restaurant.

        The ratings are also only about the food and service. There is no fine dining in Spokane, so do not equate these ratings with ambiance. Gordy’s (5 stars) is very casual, Fat Daddy’s (4 stars) is a pizza joint, DeLeons (4 Stars) is a deli inside of a market, etc. etc. etc.

        Also Spokane suffers from what I call restaurant Spokanitis. This is the condition that causes a restaurant to serve a dish absolutely fantastic today and terrible the next. Many of the restaurants in Spokane suffer from some extreme consistency problems, so your dining experiences may vary.

        5 Star Restaurants (We have dined at these a minimum of 5 times and have had very-good to excellent meals each time and they have been highly consistent.) These are in order.

        Mizuna – (Downtown) You could easily pick this restaurant up and place it into NYC, San Francisco, Tokyo, etc and it would be right at home. Currently this is the best in Spokane and the one that we take visiting guest to the most.
        Gordy's Sichuan– (South Hill) The “only” good Chinese food in town and one of the better Chinese restaurants anywhere. No greasy, syrupy mall food here, the food is more upscale, authentic, so if you don’t really know Sichuan some of the flavors may seem a little different than you are used too. also, spicy can mean spicy.
        Vin Rouge – (South Hill) A converted fast food joint that serves very good bistro food. We have always walk away very pleased with the food, both lunch and dinner have been great. However, there are some people who seem to dislike Vin Rouge, it could be the ambiance that sets them off since there is only so much you can do with a fast food joint.
        Sante Restaurant and Charcuterie (Downtown) - Think a slice of Europe in Spokane and you have this place. They cure their own meats, buy everything locally and as much organic supplies as possible. They and are open for brunch and lunch Tues-sun and dinner Thur – sat.

        Spencer’s for Steaks – (Downtown) This is a top-end steakhouse in Spokane!!!!! Think Ruth Chris, expensive, but if steaks are your thing this is it. The Wolf Lodge, near CDA has the local following Spencer’s has better meat and is a more refined dining atmosphere. (It’s only on the bottom of the list because Steak joints don’t do much for me, but if you like steak and have a fat wallet this is THE place in Spokane.

        4 Star Restaurants – Alphabetical order.

        Ambrosia (Valley) – A simple neighborhood bistro in a strip mall, the food is fresh and innovative, service excellent, good wine-list and decent cheese plates and ports, used to be in the 5 star category but food has not been as innovative. It is still very good and I recommend it, but maybe the opening of their new restaurant has divided the chef’s attention.
        Café Marron (Browns Addition, west of downtown) – Four stars for Dinner ONLY, lunches are disappointment (2 stars for those) and not recommended.
        DeLeons (North & Downtown) – The north location is a deli inside of a Mexican market, not the best ambiance but they offers the most authentic Mexican food in Spokane. (I have not tried the downtown location but others who have had said it is the same as the north-side, except it is more of a sit-down restaurant.
        El Gallo Giro (Valley) – Probably the best sit-down Mexican restaurant in Spokane, a gawdy green building that could fit easily in TJ, Ensenada, or Cabo, but the food is good – for Spokane.
        Europa (Downtown) - Nice atmosphere, great for a late night drink and bite to eat, or for a nice dinner/lunch, it’s concept is around the European/American style of dining so don’t expect extremely fast service, they aren’t slow, just different then what most Americans are used to.
        Fat Daddy’s (North) - very casual pizza and Italian place, the best pizza in Spokane, yes it beats David’s (which is good) and easily, Barfaddittos (sacrilege to Spokanenites but it’s true).
        Hay J’s (Valley) – Unpretentious bistro situated besides a gas station, it has been hit and miss but mostly hits.
        Italian Kitchen (Downtown) - This is best Italian in Spokane, but would only rate 3 stars max any where else.
        Latah Bistro (South side) - A nice neighborhood bistro that some feel is an upscale bistro. There prices are certainly upscale (read expensive) but the food is very good. If it was a better value it might be able to creep into the 5 star area until then it is a solid 4+ stars.
        Mr. Don’s (North) – A small Mexican restaurant serving some of the better and more authentic Mexican food in Spokane
        Moxie (Downtown) - A solid 4 star venue, the chef has matured over the years, service can be a little lacking – the food is innovative, but there can still be some items that need a little work, slightly expensive for what you get.
        Picabu Neighborhood Bistro (South Hill) - Very casual, good value bistro in a strip mall. Smaller menu, but the food is always intriguing and different. Great Value.
        Pueblo Amigo (North) – El Gallo Giro and Mr.Don’s has better sit down Mexican but they are close behind them for decent Northern style Mexican food in Spokane.
        Rock City Grill (Downtown) - located at the River Park Square, we have always had a good dining experience at this casual eatery. If you are in the Mall or have just seen a movie there it is the best dining option available, imho.
        Rocky Rococo (Downtown) - I don’t know why I have given this pizza joint 4 stars, except I just seem to like it. Great place to take kids or grandkids, beer is cheap and pizza parties there are economical. Located downtown in a nice historic building, most people really like their deep dish pizza, I prefer thinner crusts but I must admit it’s pretty good, albeit greasy.
        Tacos Tumbras (Valley) – An ex-fast food restaurant, order at the counter and they bring you your order. Food is very good and authentic, giving Deleon’s a strong run for the money, plus they are very economical.
        Taste of India (North) – To my amazement very authentic and very good Punjabi style Indian food, if you want Indian this is the best in Spokane.
        Thai Bamboo (Multiple locations) – A chain that is unexpectedly good and dependable.
        Thai on First (Downtown) - Thai on first is the most consistent and the BEST Thai in Spokane, give them a try and then try other places and you will see. Very good and authentic.
        The Elk (Browns Addition, west of downtown) – nothing fancy just good bar style food.
        Tomato Street (North & CDA) - great for family fun, loud Italian style atmosphere, kids get to write on the tables. Lunch specials are a good value, food is American / Italian but this is a better alternative then the national chain, that’s why it gets 4 stars.
        Two Seven Public House (South Hill) - Same owners and similar concept as the elk.

        3 Stars

        Azteca (multiple locations) – a local Mexican chain that tries very hard, food is from average to above average. Taco Tuesday’s rule for best value as almost any college kid will tell you.
        Anthony’s (Downtown) - Great view of the falls, mediocre food, they used to be a seafood house, but I’ve heard that they are offering much more steaks. Go there for the view during daylight hours, not the food.
        Clinkerdaggers (Downtown) - A Spokane institution with a very nice view of the falls, the food is edible but very expensive – you are paying for the view, think Space Needle restaurant.
        Cyrus O’Leary’s (Downtown) - A complete TGIF Knockoff, food is not as good as TGIF but close and it’s convenient to most activities downtown – a semi-Spokane icon.
        Lindaman’s (South Hill) - It’s a deli with prepared or microwaved items, you point - they zap. To me it s way too overpriced for what you get, but edible and many locals love it.
        Scratch (Downtown) - Been there twice but most items were good to very good, appetizers were overpriced but good, entrees were reasonable in price. A word of warning, don’t order the classic mojito though, after living off of real mojito’s in Miami many years ago they should be shot for what they served. Three stars because the last time we were there the food quality had slipped a bit.
        Steelhead Bar and Grille (Downtown) - Used to be 4 stars, but their food has dropped in quality and they seem to be focusing more on the bar scene. Cool bar and a nice place to stop for a nightcap after dinner at Mizuna’s next door.
        The Onion (Downtown & North) - Think of it as a local Red Robin’s , portions are on the large side, lots of fried food, big drinks, Red Robin is better but they come close.
        Twigs (Downtown, North & Sourth Hill) - The one on the north side is very LOUD when busy (they have no soundproofing), expect to yell out your order, they also epitomize spokaneitis. The south hill location has been the best I would avoid the north side and the mall location if you want to try them. They have a large local following as being the first large-scale hip restaurant and martini bar, don’t be surprised to hear lot’s of recommendations for them.

        Most Chains – would rate in the 3 star range, sure there are some exceptions that would rate lower in my mind, we can all think of those, but that gives you and idea of how I would rate places.

        2 stars and below

        Sorry I won’t list them here, you have seen my recommendations, if it is not on the list, maybe I haven’t tried it or maybe I have and it wasn’t that good. My goal is not to bash restaurants here (Read the other websites I recommend to get my full reviews), however keep reading, there are a few “popular places” that get many recommendations that deserve a word about them and yes there are some negative comments in this list.

        Restaurants that deserve special mentions for various reasons:

        Catacombs (Downtown) - This used to be a 4 star place, ambiance is great, an old coal storage area in a historic hotel. We would just like to go to it to enjoy a drink, late night pizza and the setting, very nicely done. However, just lately the food has been pathetic, I mean really bad, and quite a few people have noticed this and commented on it. I simply cannot recommend the food there anymore, however, a couple of people have said they have gotten their act together again.

        G.W. Hunters (Post Falls) – Huge local following with numerous animals trophies adorning their walls. They are in fact an overpriced 1970’s coffee shop style food establishment that they specialize in elk and venison meat. Food was right out of the 1970’s with prices from the year 2020. Denny’s servers better food at better prices, imho.

        Linnie’s Thai (Downtown & South Hill) - They have a limited menu with many Thai favorites missing????; however the biggest complaint that they suffer from extreme spokanitis. We have had the same dishes come out incredibly good and the next time it has tasted like garbage. I WISH they could get it together, if they did, they would be the BEST Thai in Spokane but until they do I cannot recommend taking a crapshoot on them.

        Luna's (South Hill) - Great Wine list, service was excellent, food was okay to poor (soup had rubbery crab in it, lamb had to be sent back three times and the cassoulette overpowered the flavors and the NY cheesecake was really a French style whipped cheesecake) like I said food was okay to poor AFTER working out the problems. However this is supposed to be one of Spokane’s finest restaurant, they try to act like it, they certainly charge top dollar but they were severely lacking in the food department. I later found out that they go through chefs like we change our underwear so this may be the reason for the poor food. Personally we never went back and don’t plan on it, for the amount of money we spent there ($200+ with 2 items taken off of the bill), I don’t think I should have to give them a cooking lesson.
        NOTE: Luna’s is considered by many in Spokane to be one of the best restaurants, maybe we went on a cursed night, but we still haven’t gotten the pocket-book courage to go back yet.

        Mama Mia’s (North) - OMG the worst overcooked pasta with a tinny tasting botulism sauce we have every tasted, even our friends kids would not eat it. The meatball tasted like sawdust, dry crumbly and horrible, all panada and very little meat. Just how can you screw up Spaghetti and Meatballs and make it inedible? Seriously boil water, cook pasta, pour ragu over it and presto you have a dish 100X’s better then what we served. On a positive note, the calzone we had was awesome with a very think cracker crust - yum.

        Nikko’s (Downtown) - Great wine list and many good selections by the glass, however, the Greek food has been very inconsistent (chronic Spokaneitis). They have upped the prices on their menu making them one of the MOST expensive restaurants in Spokane. They are close to the davenport hotel and I think they are relying on the fact that visitors with expense accounts will be dining there. I cannot fathom paying their prices for such a lack of inconsistency; however I would stop by for the wine bar.

        Steam Plant Grill (Downtown) - a brew-pub with food, they have a great bar, good beer, nice pool tables, and a “fantastic” historical setting. If you are visiting you might just want to stop in for the history and seeing an old steam plant. However, the food is below par and very expensive for what you get. Go there for a drink and to enjoy the history, shoot a game of pool, but stay away from the restaurant.

        Wild Sage (Downtown) - Our first visit was TERRIBLE (but KEEP reading), the manager actually told us that there was nothing wrong with the entree that we sent back, his words were very close to "the taste gets a little getting used to and most people do not like it the first time." Say WHAT, the apps were insipid with no flavor and we left very disappointed and hungry. The second visit, which we were dragged back in against extreme protests by some good friends who were paying, was probably the BEST meal we have had in Spokane (even better then Mizunas [gulp]), executed flawlessly with each dish being a ohhhh and a ahhhhh. You be the judge, this is one of the popular “in” places right now, so maybe we just got it all wrong on the first visit – but boy that food was horrific. If they replicate the second visit again and again this could easily move out of this category and into the 3star range. Sorry Wild Sage, we are still reeling from that first experience, we need more then a few meals that are fantastic to get you higher up on our list.

        White House (Post Falls) - Uhhhh huhhhh, if your motto is, the more garlic the better it tastes, than you will love this place. Forget about any nuances of food or al dente pasta, this is simply “garlicky slop on a plate” (quote from an eight year old). This type of food is definitely not for us, but they have a HUGE local following, again you might want to try them, but we were there with friends and all 8 of us gave it thumbs down. (Sidebar: This place is very popular and very busy so maybe they appeal to a certain type of palate. We had some friends who visited us, also in the restaurant business, her sister lives in CDA and they took them to the white house, our friends thought it was terrible her sister and husband think it is the best restaurant in the whole area – this is truly an either you love em or hate em restaurant.) PS they play really loud music with a fast tempo, not conducive to dining at all.
        NOTE: White house has one of the largest followings in the Spokane/CDA area, “most” people love this place and I am tempted to try it again. It could have just been a major fluke since the almost unanimous agreement is this place is good.


        Anything that pertains to be Chinese (except Gordy’s) stay away from, almost all Chinese food in this town is terrible, I mean really REALLY bad. Chinese fortune cookie says (read with Chinese accent) “The more neon a Chinese restaurant has around it, the more terrible the food is!) PS if anybody has any other suggestions for just edible Chinese – we would love to try them, currently we have eaten at over 15 Chinese style restaurants in Spokane 14 out of the 15 rated 1 or 2 stars max.)

        Mexican food is also a joke, although usually slightly more edible. I have mentioned a few Mexican places; we have tried most of the sit-down Mexican restaurants and have walked out very disappointed from most. I will tell one story though, if you want good sweet and sour chicken there is a Mexican place that’s Arroz con Pollo fooled 4 people into thinking it was sweet and sour chicken in a blind tasting – no I am not making this up. It’s scary up here – caveat emptor and good luck.

        CDA area places that we like

        Café DOMA – Breakfast and lunch spot, small cozy good food.
        Moontime & The Porch – Good pub style food, same owner as The Elk and 27 public house.
        Syringa – I’m not much into Sushi but this is the best place (according to all of my sushi loving friends) for Sushi in CDA.
        The Olympia – Old world style Greek food, pretty good value if you are craving greek.
        Wolf Lodge Steakhouse – Think cowboy steakhouse, jeans, boots and a hat type dining experience, but the steaks are good and cooked correctly, although I find them a tad bit salty. If you are planning on visiting CDA for the day and like steak this is a place you should try. Truly unique.

        I hope this helps

        Taste of India
        3110 N Division St, Spokane, WA 99207

        404 West Main, Spokane, WA 99201

        West 621 Mallon Street, Spokane, WA 99201

        Azteca Restaurant
        118 N Tower Ave, Centralia, WA 98531

        Tomato Street
        6220 N Division St, Spokane, WA 99208

        Fat Daddy's
        12424 N Division St, Spokane, WA 99218

        White House Cafe
        3602 Kern Way, Yakima, WA 98902

        El Gallo Giro
        706 W 1st Ave, Toppenish, WA 98948

        901 W 14th Ave, Spokane, WA 99204

        Vin Rouge
        3029 E 29th Ave, Spokane, WA 99223

        Italian Kitchen
        113 N Bernard St, Spokane, WA 99201

        Rock City Grill
        808 W Main Ave Ste 106, Spokane, WA 99201

        214 N Howard St, Spokane, WA 99201

        River Park Square
        808 W Riverside Ave, Spokane, WA 99201

        Two Seven Public House
        2727 S Mount Vernon St Ste 5, Spokane, WA 99223