Sure, you can chow down at the many food booths at the Festival at Sandpoint. Or, bring your own picnic to munch under the summer sky. But, if possible, festivalgoers should indulge in a feast at least once at one of the local restaurants.
Sandpoint probably has the region’s highest ratio of restaurants per capita. In other words, for discriminating palates, Sandpoint is hog heaven.
Here’s a quick rundown on some of the top talent:
Gregory’s remains at the top of my list with its innovative menu and reasonable prices. Some highlights from the summer menu include a giant porterhouse steak, chicken stuffed with mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes baked in a lemon-cream sauce, a Thai stir-fry on soba noodles and an entree-sized salad featuring broiled prawns and fresh papaya served on wild greens with a dijon-poppy seed raspberry vinaigrette.
Nightly seafood specials might include such exotic offerings as Hawaiian ono or some obscure oysters, including delicate bivalves from Eagle Creek in Canada, Dungeness Bay, Fanny Bay, Hama Hama and Malpeque oysters from Alaska.
Gregory’s, open daily for lunch and dinner, is located at 207 Cedar St. For reservations, phone (208) 265-2004.
French fare with a Northwest spin is the specialty at Bradley’s. Chef Robert Bradley has a way with sauces and deserves points for taking classic dishes and adding his own touches. His salad Nicoise, for instance, uses halibut instead of the standard tuna. His take on the traditional roasted chicken is to smoke the bird and serve it with melon salsa.
This year, Bradley’s will offer custom picnic baskets - complete with cutlery, dishes and linen napkins - that can be ordered by phone and then picked up at the restaurant’s booth at the festival site. Several menus, which include wine, have been set. One basket for two contains a bottle of ‘93 Waterbrook Chardonnay, a fruit-and-cheese platter, shrimp louie and creme brulee. Or, diners can pre-order from Bradley’s menu.
Bradley’s is located at 202 N. Second Ave. It’s open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday, for dinner only on Sunday and for lunch only on Tuesday. The restaurant is closed Mondays. Phone (208) 265-0128 to place orders or to make reservations.
The Cupboard has a strong local following for its fresh, satisfying dishes. Some of the restaurant’s most popular meals include the chicken marsala saute, a savory spinach pasty and a sampling of the unusual salads, including bulgur-based tabbouleh and a pasta salad with a tahini dressing. Fresh seafood specials might include tuna, snapper and halibut. A tempting salmon preparation features a filet seasoned with a black-bean paste and covered with a tomato salsa and baked. A new veggie burrito is filled with mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, green beans and three kinds of cheese.
Dinners are served with homemade soup or salad and fresh bread baked on the premises.
The Cupboard serves dinner from 3:30 until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s located at 116 N. Second Ave. For reservations, call (208) 263-9012.
Eichardt’s is paradise for suds lovers. There’s a huge lineup of microbrews on tap including such obscure selections as Fish Tale Ale from Olympia and the Mercator Double Boc from Full Sail.
The menu is simple, but everything is prepared fresh to order by chef David Beshunsky, who last worked at a five-star restaurant in Vail, Colo. His lineup includes a Southwest chicken sandwich served with an ortega chile and jack cheese, a grilled veggie sandwich with roasted eggplant, red peppers and zucchini topped with feta and served on sourdough bread and a tri-colored cheese tortellini with a lemon-caper-fresh tomato beurre blanc. In addition to the regular menu, there are four or five daily specials, including seafood on the weekends.
Eichardt’s is open daily for lunch and dinner. It’s located at 201 Cedar St. They don’t take reservations, but to check on the specials, you could call (208) 263-4005.
For a bite on the run, check out the Devo burrito cart in front of the Panida Theater. In addition to stuffing tortillas with black beans and cheese, there’s a choice of several types of chili, including chile Colorado, and a veggie version with potatoes and yam.
Or, check out the pizza at Vecchio’s in the Cedar Street Mall. The pizzas are made in a wood-burning stone oven so they take little time to bake.
Some restaurants are offering 10 percent discounts on meals to festival-goers when they show their ticket stubs, as well as offering a shuttle service between downtown eateries and the festival site. Ask for details when making reservations.
Rest area cookies don’t count
Aside from the Valley Cafe in Ellensburg, the trip from Spokane to Seattle on I-90 is a vast culinary wasteland.
A promising oasis recently appeared in Ritzville, though.
A pair of Seattle transplants are in the process of renovating the Ritzville Hotel, which was built in 1896. The couple, who owned an espresso joint in downtown Seattle, have opened a small cafe in the hotel and serve Northwest microbrews and some intriguing pub grub.
The short, but sweet, menu includes homemade soups, salads and deli sandwiches such as a smoked turkey salad and a hot Italian with prosciutto. The menu will expand to include burgers, seafood and pasta dishes by late fall.
The Ritzville Hotel cafe and pub is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. It’s located at 220 West Main.
Some far-flung fan mail for Bogey’s Billards and Bistro recently arrived on my desk from San Leandro, Calif.
Marie Correa wrote to say what a treat it was to happen upon such a fun place to eat while passing through Coeur d’Alene. She said the food at Bogey’s was “superb” and the service was friendly.
She boasted that her budding restaurant critic credentials amounted to “coming from California and good nouvelle cuisine.”
I’ll pause here for a moment of silence in lieu of making the standard California-bashing joke.
OK, that felt good.
Bogey’s is located at 216 Coeur d’Alene Ave.
Pizza Oasis has discontinued its lunch service. It still delivers gourmet pizzas and deli sandwiches in the evening hours.
Waiters on Wheels has added Cucina! Cucina!, Cafe Roma and C.I. Shenanigan’s to its home delivery lineup. Call 325-3500 for the complete offerings.
A new Chinese restaurant has opened on Sprague, between Kmart and Eagle Hardware. The Dragon Garden, 4824 E. Sprague, specializes in Mandarin, Szechuan and Cantonese dishes. Chow mein and such. The menu has a large selection of combination plates, which start at $4.25 for lunch. Dinner combination plates range from $6.50 to $9. Call 533-9001 for takeout orders.