Longhorn Celebrates 40 Years Of Cooking For The Northwest

Hey, pardnur. Bet’cha didn’t realize the ol’ Longhorn Barbecue has been in business for some 40 years now.

It hasn’t stuck around so long by being hip and trendy, either. The success of the family-owned business reinforces the old cliche, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Over the decades, few things have changed at what is possibly Spokane’s oldest restaurant.

Even the menu reads virtually the same. (Then and now: “It weren’t called Sir Loin for nuthin’.”) Of course, the prices have gone up. On a vintage early ‘60s menu, a “mighty big” T-bone went for $4.50, a big bowl of Texas red chili was just 45 cents and a gigantic barbecue dinner sold for $3.25.

In the beginning, two brothers from Texas, Gene and Dave Lehnertz, sold their pit-barbecued meats at a mostly take-out joint at Second and Wall.

In 1958, the Longhorn West opened at its current location on the outskirts of Airway Heights. There are now four Longhorn Barbecue restaurants, including one in Sandpoint, the Longhorn Burger Stop on Highway 2 and another in the Spokane Valley.

The meats have always been slowcooked over a Texas-style pit fired by a combination of apple, cherry, alder and birch woods. But the now-famous sauce has evolved over the years.

“When we first started, I don’t think we ever made two batches the same,” said Duke Fette, a cousin, who started out as a dishwasher back in the ‘60s and is now the partner of Dave Lehnertz, 72.

“At first, it was a little zippy and people just weren’t used to that so we had to tone it down.”

The dark, slightly fruity sauce is basted on the meats as they cook and a side of it is served with the barbecue dinners. The popularity of that sauce spawned a huge wholesale operation, which annually produces tons of ribs and spicy German sausage that are shipped throughout the country.

Another constant at the Longhorn is the longstanding staff, many who’ve been like family to regular customers for years.

“It’s a real homey atmosphere,” said Dave Lehnertz Jr., the general manager of the Longhorn West. “Our customers like to see familiar faces and some of our employees have been with us for more than 30 years.”

To commemorate this important anniversary, the Longhorn is throwing a sort of yearlong party with different specials offered every month. During March, when you buy one barbecue dinner a second dinner is 40 percent off.

Sounds like a great excuse to strap on the old feedbag.

Restaurants honored

The Spokane Restaurant and Hospitality Association recently named The Onion Full Service Restaurant of the Year. Senor Froggy was awarded honors for Fast Food Restaurant of the Year.

The awards, voted on by members of the restaurant association, are based on customer service, food quality, cleanliness and community involvement.

Gourmet to go

Successful caterer Sheila Collins has thrown her toque into the take-out ring. Catered for You’s new store opened last week and will offer a variety of grilled panini sandwiches, salads, appetizers and desserts to start. More substantial entrees will be added in the future.

Among the inventive lineup of grilled Italian sandwiches is a coriander-crusted pork loin with Swiss cheese, pickled red cabbage and horseradish mayo; a BLT with crumbled bacon, spinach and roma tomatoes slathered with pesto mayonnaise; a grilled chicken with a Mediterranean-style eggplant spread; and a veggie panini stuffed with roasted peppers, eggplant, provolone cheese and kalamata olives.

The selection of appetizers will change regularly, sometimes including marinated fresh mozzarella, a layered cheese torta with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, along with hummus and bruschetta, a traditional Italian toasted bread with various toppings.

Desserts such as lemon cake and chocolate mocha torte are available by the slice.

Catered for You is open from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays at 1414 W. Third, near Spokandy.

Call 624-9686 for daily specials or advance orders.

Small bites

The Cannon St. Grill is hosting a multi-course wine dinner on March 23 featuring new releases from Waterbrook Winery.

Winemaker Eric Rindal will be available to answer questions during dinner. The price is $54.95, which includes tax and tip. Reservations are required. Call 456-8660 to save a spot.

The Chapala on Hamilton has been running prime rib specials on Wednesday night. That’s Chapala Mexican restaurant.

Jalapeno’s in Sandpoint has opened an Express location, specializing in to-go orders, although there is some seating. Jalapeno’s Express is located on First and Bridge in the old First Ave. Bistro, which was a service station once upon a time. Attached to the Express is the Beachmart Deli, specializing in sandwiches, salads and soups.

Adolfson’s Cafe Grand has closed. Customers calling for reservations heard this recording: “We would thank all of you, the great guests and customers who supported us, but we just didn’t get busy enough to make it in this town.”

If you don’t want to overdose on corned beef this St. Paddy’s Day, check out the chow at Birkebeiner Brewery. None of that cured meat will be served, but lamb stew, shepherd’s pie, bangers (sausage) and mash, along with a turnip and potato salad, are on the menu. That menu will be offered all weekend, including special hours on Sunday from 4 p.m. until closing.

, DataTimes

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