This space is usually reserved for dining out. But a couple of Spokane delivery services are making it much easier to enjoy meals from area restaurants in the comfort of your own home.
Restaurant delivery services have been coming on strong the past couple of years. Chalk it up to all those former fast-trackers running out of gas and wanting nothing more than to veg out in front of the TV after work.
After a few false starts - delivery companies that went out of business faster than you could eat a Big Mac and large fries - Spokane has two solid sources for delivered meals. To test the reliability of the two, I closed up the kitchen at home for a couple of nights and put them through their paces.
First, I tried calling on Valentine’s Day. Bad move.
Not only were restaurants swamped with starry-eyed lovers on Valentine’s Day, the delivery services were backed up with a two-hour wait.
So, the next night I tried again, ordering Italian from Waiters on Wheels, Spokane’s newest delivery service. This outfit is part of a chain based in San Francisco and has more than 30 franchises on the West Coast.
Waiters on Wheels has 14 restaurants from which to choose your meal. They are Chic-A-Ria, Finnerty’s, Mattie’s, O’Doherty’s, O’Murphy’s, Panhandler Pies, Tony Roma’s, Luigi’s, New Harbour, Szechuan, Azteca, Papagayo’s, Azar’s Cafe and The Otter.
It helps if you have one of its booklets, which contains menus from all those eateries. To order, you call Waiters on Wheels and it then places the order with the restaurant. (You can also order over the Internet, but why not just pick up the phone? Especially if you have a special request.)
One of the biggest tests a delivery service must pass is how it comes through on special requests. If something’s amiss, it’s not simply a matter of sending it back to the kitchen for a quick fix. It could take some time to make it right. But manager Todd Freeland said Waiters will turn around and run back to the restaurant if an order is somehow screwed up.
I ordered the veggie lasagna without cheese. And it arrived without cheese less than an hour later. The salad was also made without cheese, which was a thoughtful touch.
The food was kept hot in insulated boxes, a kind of dressed-up cooler. Cold items are kept in a separate compartment.
The waiter who delivered the food was wearing traditional waiter garb - a tux with tails and a formal tie. Nice, but not really necessary.
The food wasn’t piping hot, but plenty warm. The salads were in fine shape and the sourdough bread was soft and chewy.
Waiters on Wheels charges $5 per restaurant, no matter how much food is ordered. It will run by the store and pick up a six-pack of pop or a gallon of milk for an extra dollar.
It delivers lunch from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. daily and dinner from 5 until 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays, from 4 until 10 p.m. Saturdays and from 4 until 9 p.m. Sundays. To order, call 325-3500.
The next night it was Mediterranean fare from Niko’s delivered by Entrees on Trays.
This Valley-based service has been around for about a year and has amassed an impressive number of restaurants throughout Spokane.
They are Chapala on 29th, Chapter 11, Conley’s, The Hungry Farmer, Luigi’s in the Valley, Longhorn Barbecue in the Valley, Las Chavelas, Makena’s, Marie Callendar’s in the Valley, both Niko’s locations, Oriental Delite, The Otter, Red Ruby, Riverview Thai, Rosso’s, Rodolfo’s, Savage House, Sea Galley, Sully’s and Tequila’s.
At Entrees on Trays, they ask that diners call the restaurant directly and place the order - “so if they’re slamming, they can tell you it’s going to be awhile,” said the person who answered the phone at the delivery service. They also advise that you order from a restaurant fairly close to your home.
I assume all participating restaurants have trained personnel to take orders over the phone. It went like clockwork at Niko’s.
And my order arrived less than 30 minutes later. And that was a Friday night. I was impressed.
The food was first-rate. The vegetarian curry had been wrapped in foil to prevent leakage and add extra insulation. The salad dressings came in their own containers so the spinach didn’t get soggy. Pita bread was wrapped separately. And the hummus with artichoke hearts was just right at room temperature.
The Entrees on Trays driver also donned a tux and carried the food into my dining room in an insulated box.
That service charges $1 per entree with a $3 minimum. It delivers daily from 5 until 9 p.m. To order, phone participating restaurants. For a menu packet, call 926-4748.
Developments du jour
There have been lots of changes on the ever-fluid restaurant scene. Among them:
Adolfson’s at the Glover Mansion has closed. Owners are concentrating their efforts on their new venture, Cafe Grand, located in the old Amore restaurant.
Everett Fees, chef at Patsy Clark’s for the past three years, is leaving to head the kitchen at a new German-style brewpub in Portland to be opened by the folks at Widmer. His longtime sous-chef, Michael Scroggie, will take over at Patsy’s, where they will soon be introducing the first new menu since the restaurant opened 12 years ago.
Tea An’tiques on Monroe is once again serving elegant repasts. Light lunches and afternoon tea are served Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The full afternoon tea, an elaborate affair with sandwiches and scones and desserts, is $10.50 and requires a reservation. Call 324-8472 to save a spot.
Gerard Bengle, the original hotshot chef at Beverly’s, has returned to the area. After a couple of years in Montana, Bengle is once again working for the Hagadone Corp. at the University Inn in Moscow. He said he has some interesting things planned for that establishment’s restaurants within the next six months.
Jimmy D’s in Coeur d’Alene has changed hands. The new owners, Chuck and Ann Thomas, plan to leave the menu - and the staff - intact for the time being. Their son, Chip, will be in charge of the kitchen. He had previously worked at the Brooklyn Seafood, Steak and Oyster House in Seattle. The Thomases also own Gatto’s Pizza in Cheney. Jimmy D’s former owner, Jim Duncan, plans to dedicate more time to the retail business at Jimmy D’s Wine Cellar.
And finally, after a long run, The Olive Garden has pulled the plug on the practice of singing “Happy Birthday” in Italian. The raucous rendition apparently drew lots of complaints from other diners who were trying to enjoy a quiet meal. Bah humbug.
Thai imported to Seattle …
Thumbing through the Seattle Times’ Friday entertainment section, I spied an ad that may be of interest to some Spokane diners.
It read: “From Spokane Finally Arrives at Woodmont Center, Thai Cafe … The best authentic Thai food.”
It seems that owner Val Chalardsoontorn (as his regulars know him, Val Chalard) decided to open a second restaurant on the wet side, leaving his relatives in charge of the kitchen here. I’ve heard reports that the food is still top drawer at the Sprague Avenue restaurant. And Chalardsoontorn is at the Spokane restaurant every Monday.
Of course, I wish them the best of luck with the new venture. But because there’s a Thai restaurant on almost every corner in Seattle, it might be easy to get lost among the competition.
But Chalardsoontorn isn’t concerned because, he said, “a lot of them is not that good.”