January 13, 2010 in Food

Adding some spice to the eatery scene

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

jesset@spokesman.com At El Que, you will find tequilas infused with special flavors. These may include, from left, sage and raisin, orange-mint and lemon and serrano pepper.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

There’s a new way to get a taco-truck fix: El Que.

Taco-truck food and infused tequilas are the foundation of the new joint, which co-owner John Grollmus describes as “50 percent food- and 50 percent cocktail-focused.”

El Que, pronounced “el kay,” is a play on the name of big sister restaurant The Elk Public House. It is tucked in behind its namesake in Browne’s Addition in a space formerly home to Cabin Coffee on Cannon Street, with room for 35 people.

Grollmus and partners own The Elk and The Two Seven Public House in Spokane, Moon Time in Coeur d’Alene and The Porch Public House in Hayden Lake.

Tacos and banana-leaf-wrapped tamales are menu mainstays. Tamales wrapped with banana leaves, rather than the more common corn husk tamales, get a different infusion of flavor.

El Que is also experimenting with its own hot sauces. There’s a daily sopa de tortilla, or tortilla soup.

Grollmus says the infused tequilas and cocktails made from those concoctions have been well-received by customers.

“We’ve tried it couple of times before, but we’ve been having really good luck with these,” he says.

Restaurant general manager Marshall Powell says they plan to keep a regular slate of infused tequilas on hand, including beet; pineapple, vanilla and brown sugar; orange and cinnamon; and pineapple habanero.

Beet? “It’s one of those things that people either love or they hate it,” Powell says.

Some of the infusions take much of the signature “bite” out of the tequila, while enhancing its flavor. Of course, they’re adding a different kind of bite with infusions that include habanero, poblano and other chilies, both fresh and roasted.

Getting the tequilas just right has taken some trial and error. Some have been too spicy. Powell says he’s afraid to take the lid off the tequila infusing with a ghost pepper right now; the handwritten label for the creation features a skull and crossbones.

El Que employees are experimenting with other flavors. Powell says servers get a fifth of tequila a week to use. There have been attempts with huckleberries, lemongrass, raisin, basil and cucumber, cilantro and lime, to name a few.

The mason jars with the experiments line some of the shelves at El Que. The tequilas take on the flavors of the ingredients stuffed inside, as well as some of the colors.

El Que is open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The kitchen closes an hour later than The Elk; that’s 11 p.m. most days and midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Grollmus says they’re still considering if and when the restaurant will open for lunch

El Que can be reached at (509) 624-5412.

Jimmy John’s opens

The rapidly expanding Midwest-based Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches has made its Eastern Washington debut.

Rick and Kathy Rocca opened a franchise in downtown Spokane just before the holidays. The sub shop is at 601 W. Main Ave., near Main and Wall, next door to Thomas Hammer and across the street from Madeleine’s.

Rocca says he and his wife first discovered the franchise and its sandwiches when they lived in Madison, Wis., for five years. They plan to open a second Jimmy John’s shop in the spring near Ruby and Mission.

Everything for Jimmy John’s sandwiches is prepared fresh every day, including house-baked breads and freshly sliced meats and vegetables.

“We are just obsessed with fresh,” Rocca says.

The franchise also touts quick service and decent prices. In Spokane, an 8-inch sub is $4.75. The giant club sandwiches are $5.75.

The most expensive sandwich on the menu – the J.J. Gargantuan, which includes genoa salami, sliced smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey and provolone topped with onions, mayo, lettuce, tomato and homemade Italian dressing – is $7.75.

The sandwich shop also offers a catering menu and delivery by bicycle courier in the downtown area. There is no minimum order for delivery.

Jimmy John’s opens daily at 10:30 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Call the restaurant at (509) 838-3278 (FAST).

Metro Café for sale

Andrew “Swanee” Swanson is moving; but he’d like to leave his downtown café in good hands.

The Metro Café, a fixture in the skywalk level at 501 W. Riverside Ave. for a quarter of a century, is for sale.

The cafe is known for its home-style entrees and soups, tossed salads and the daily roasted turkey, along with other carved meats such as roast beef, pork tenderloin, ham and meatloaf.

Swanson is working on a new restaurant in Shoreline, Wash., with the same builder who gave him the opportunity to open the Metro Café 25 years ago.

He says he’s not thrilled about giving up the Spokane lifestyle.

“I’m reluctant to go to Seattle. I’ve lived here my whole life,” he says.

The opportunity to work again with Inland Construction was too good to refuse. The new restaurant will be part of a complex of 450 townhouses in Shoreline, where Swanson and his family will also live. He’ll be able to walk around the corner to go to work.

“We’d like to start building that as soon as I walk out of here,” Swanson says.

He’s willing to train a new owner and has The Metro Café listed for sale on the Web site bizbuysell.com as well as Craigslist.

Swanson says he’ll miss the Spokane customers – many of whom are regulars who work nearby.

“They’re professionals and they treat you like a professional, too,” he says. “The customers are wonderful. They are not cranky shoppers.”

The Metro Café is open 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Reach the cafe at (509) 747-8250.

The Dish appears monthly in the Food section. Send news releases, tips and suggestions for restaurant items to Lorie Hutson, Features Department, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210. Call (509) 459-5446, fax to (509) 459-5098 or send an e-mail to lorieh@spokesman.com.


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