Bob Kessler, former owner of the Hope Market Cafe, has opened The Bistro at the Inn at Sand Creek in Sandpoint. The restaurant features a seasonal menu with an extensive regional wine menu, microbrews and spirits. Courtesy of Bob Kessler (Courtesy of Bob Kessler)
Bob Kessler, former owner of the Hope Market Cafe, has opened The Bistro at the Inn at Sand Creek in Sandpoint. The restaurant features a seasonal menu with an extensive regional wine menu, microbrews and spirits. Courtesy of Bob Kessler (Courtesy of Bob Kessler)

New bistro in Sandpoint has a distinctly local flavor

The former owner of the Hope Market Café is back with a new restaurant.

Bob Kessler opened The Bistro at the Inn at Sand Creek in Sandpoint earlier this year. Chefs Jason Clarke and Luke Mason build the seasonal menu around fresh vegetables and fruits, along with mostly regional meats and wild-caught fish.

“Our foods are sourced from sustainable, small, family-owned ranches, farms and fishing boats,” says Kessler.

During the growing season, they’ll be serving produce harvested from area gardens, including their own.

The bistro, 105 S. First Ave. in Sandpoint, is in the space that was formerly the Sand Creek Grill. It served as a wedding and special events venue until the new restaurant opened in February.

The restaurant’s early spring menu includes starters such as Kurobuta pork cheek tacos ($9) served with cilantro, queso fresco and salsa roja, and sautéed wild mushrooms ($12) with Humboldt fog cheese and toast points.

Entrees range from Rustichella d’Abruzzo pasta with roasted mushrooms, parsnips and housemade crème fraiche for $15 to grass-fed New York steak served with bleu cheese butter, creamy bacon potatoes and sautéed asparagus for $24.

The dessert menu includes profiteroles with espresso and vanilla bean ice cream, topped with warm chocolate sauce ($8), all made in-house. Another indulgence offered is goat cheese panna cotta, with huckleberry port reduction, Savannah Bee honey and fig compote ($8).

Along with the changing menu, chefs offer a weekly “blackboard” special and a soup of the day.

Kessler, who owns the restaurant with his wife Mila, says they’ve brought gourmet foods, specialized cheeses and the extensive array of regional wines they were known for at the Hope Market Café to the Bistro.

The quirky cafe, which Kessler has closed, was a surprising find in the small burg of Hope, on the northeastern edge of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Bistro also offers beer and recently received a liquor license. Kessler is planning to offer some single malt whiskeys and scotches, as well as limited cocktails.

Warmer weather means that dining on the terraced decks outside along the Sand Creek waterfront is coming soon. Boat access is available during the summer.

The restaurant is open 5 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. By the end of the month, The Bistro will add some late lunch offerings starting at 1 p.m. as well as a Sunday morning brunch menu.

The Bistro at the Inn at Sand Creek can be reached for information or reservations at (208) 265-2277.

Manna Restaurant opens in Quality Inn

Leonardo Felice promised his wife he’d never open another restaurant. He says God had other plans for him.

Felice first opened the short-lived Carribean Plaza in 1992. He followed it the next year with Leonardo’s Bistro in downtown Spokane, but didn’t have much luck.

“We shouldn’t say we won’t do this because the Lord is the one that decides what you’re going to do,” he says.

“I told my wife I wouldn’t do a restaurant anymore, no matter if it’s going to be free. I said, ‘If they give it to me I won’t take it.’ But I didn’t open this one, the Lord opened this one.”

Manna Restaurant, inside the Quality Inn, 110 E. Fourth Ave., is named for the food God showered on the hungry in the biblical book of Exodus.

Though Felice gave up restaurants after Leonardo’s Bistro, he didn’t quit cooking. His food has been a fixture at the Spokane County Interstate Fair and festivals such as ArtFest and Pig Out in the Park for the past 15 years.

He’s known for his congri, a vegetarian dish with saffron rice, homemade black beans and signature salsa. His grilled salmon Caesar salads and wraps also draw lines.

Some of those signature dishes are on Manna’s menu, along with other family-style comfort food favorites. The restaurant offers a continental breakfast that is free for hotel guests and $8.95 for others.

Lunch is served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes congri ($8.95), Caribbean chicken sandwich ($9.95), a half-pound burger with fries ($10.95) and homemade black bean and chicken noodle soups ($2.50/cup, $3.75/bowl).

The dinner menu includes many of the lunch selections and an eclectic array of other dishes including burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, nachos and salads.

There’s a 10-ounce New York strip steak ($17.95), meatloaf ($14.95), grilled salmon ($14.95) and grilled pork shops with marsala wine sauce ($14.95). Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. daily.

Felice and his wife emigrated from Venezula to study at Gonzaga University 20 years ago. Carmen Felice is a college professor, teaching at Whitworth University.

Leonardo Felice says he takes the time to listen to customers. Many are staying at the Quality Inn because they have a loved one who is seriously ill at one of the nearby hospitals, or a family member has passed away.

“I am not a counselor or a pastor and so often I’m at a loss,” he says. “It is my privilege to listen. Our hope is that some measure of comfort is found in a hot, home-cooked meal prepared with care.”

He keeps his well-worn Bible nearby and offers to pray for people.

“It is a better reward than if we have a full house,” Felice says.

Manna Restaurant can be reached at (509) 838-6101, ext. 115.

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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