Recently, a letter showed up in my mailbox charging: “All Leslie Kelly knows is fancy cooking and gourmet prices.”
Them’s fighting words, Ordinary Joe. (That was how the author signed his tome.)
I’m an equal opportunity eater, relishing food of all stripes. The problem is that I haven’t really had a forum for writing about cheap eats. Until now.
In 1998, this space will regularly be devoted to spotlighting some of the area’s best deals on meals.
It’s especially fitting that Dave’s Bar and Grill be featured in this inaugural “Under $8” column. A buddy has been bugging me forever to try this inexpensive hangout, but it didn’t seem to fit as a regular review.
Dave’s - on Sprague in the Valley - is a real neighborhood joint. The front entry is unappetizing, really, right next door to Paradise XXX Video. There’s nothing fancy about the dining room, which is decorated with a collection of towering softball trophies and dark wood paneling. But it’s clean and cozy.
A couple of signs offer some insight into the atmosphere. One banner reads: “Dave’s Adult Daycare Center.” Another says: “Cigarettes available.” Many of the customers smoke, but they must have a good smoke-eating system because I didn’t smell it during my visits.
Park in the back and bring a big appetite. At Dave’s, the portions are huge and the food’s too good not to clean your plate.
The menu is up on the wall, near the closet-size kitchen. Offerings include old-fashioned favorites such as pork chops, burgers, steaks, fish and chips, a Reuben sandwich and burgers. Appetizers include such bar staples as hot wings and gizzards. Most items are under $5, with the spendiest entree - a 20-ounce T-bone - ringing in at $12.50.
The daily specials are downright cheap: chicken-fried steak for $3.95 on Monday nights, prime rib for $5.95 on Wednesdays, a $5.95 ribeye on Sundays and discount T-bones on Tuesdays.
At lunch, I sunk my teeth into an 8-ounce sirloin ($5.95) that was cooked just a hair beyond the medium rare it was ordered. But the steak had a great, meaty flavor and it was juicy. It was served with an iceberg lettuce salad (the Thousand Island was rich and creamy, not gluey and artificial tasting like so many versions) and a big pile of excellent, lightly crisp steak fries.
If you want to jazz up your meat, there are a couple of different kinds of steak sauce on the table.
I also enjoyed a burger, a hand-formed patty that was cooked correctly and tasty. The accompanying crunchy lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles and onions were simple, but fresh and all you really need on a burger.
The stack of meat on the deli sandwich I sampled - a corned beef on rye - was lean and flavorful, but the bread wasn’t sturdy enough to hold it all together.
Breakfast is also impressive - in terms of quality and quantity. I invited one of my chowhound colleagues to join me one morning and he couldn’t stop talking about the $2.99 German sausage and eggs. “Look at all this food,” he said.
I was stuffed after working through a expertly turned out Denver omelette. It was filled with chopped onions, green peppers and smoky chunks of ham, but I didn’t expect the cheese. It wasn’t mentioned on the menu and I could have skipped it.
Most breakfasts come with Dave’s home fries, nicely seasoned chunks of potatoes fried crispy on one side. You have the option of ordering the taters with country gravy - creamy stuff studded with sausage.
Coffee is just 50 cents, but you get what you pay for. It’s pretty weak. They do serve espresso drinks, though I didn’t see anyone sipping a latte.
Dave’s has the comfortable feel of a clubhouse with a very loyal membership. I heard more than one customer say “see you tomorrow” to the waitress.
But this club didn’t feel exclusive. On both occasions, our servers couldn’t have been nicer. Or more efficient. Our orders came out of the kitchen quickly and were delivered piping hot, even though the waitress was taking care of 10 other tables.
Dave’s Bar and Grill is located at 12124 E. Sprague. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Leslie Kelly can be contacted via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or regular mail to Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: A new column Under $8 is a new Weekend feature that will highlight restaurants serving meals for $8 and less.