Restaurants around these parts don’t require jackets.
But just because they don’t have to adhere to formal dress codes doesn’t mean diners here have to settle for less-than-optimal experiences.
Part of the beauty of the Inland Northwest is its casual elegance, and that extends to its restaurants. Even its finer dining establishments feel sophisticated but not stuffy, refined yet relaxed.
Local fine dining usually doesn’t mean white tablecloths.
It means well-made, thoughtful fare and attention to detail – from extensive wine lists and craft cocktails to exceptional service and carefully sourced and prepared ingredients – as well as price points that might be higher than your average dinner.
These are the best places in and around Spokane to get higher-end meals that are totally worth it.
Inland Pacific Kitchen
Transparency, creativity and quality over quantity are the focuses at this newer establishment, opened at the tail end of 2016 in the old Washington Cracker Co. building. It’s a sophisticated and intimate space, done in gray, black and white, with exposed brick walls, high ceilings and an open kitchen. Experimentation is a value. There’s a new menu every month or so, and it’s generally centered around a certain theme or story. IPK gives Jeremy Hansen, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Kate, a place to play. They designed the concept for the freedom to show off and share the chef’s culinary skills, creativity, passion and sense of humor. (The current menu features “duck boob.”) Many ingredients are locally sourced, and dishes – made from scratch – are sometimes plated with tweezers. Sit at the omakase counter to watch chefs work, and plan to order multiple menu items. Plates are small, intriguing and meant for sharing. Earlier menus carried a Japanese influence. Now, Hansen is focusing on the healing powers of spices, such as turmeric, saffron and paprika. Before or after dinner, be sure to visit Hogwash Whiskey Den, also owned by the Hansens and tucked into the basement, for quality whiskey-forward craft cocktails. 304 W. Pacific Ave. (509) 464-6541. ipkspokane.com
Sante Restaurant and Charcuterie
The Hansens’ first Spokane establishment, opened in 2008, serves elevated Inland Pacific Northwest fare prepared with traditional French culinary techniques as well as an emphasis on seasonality and sustainability. Some 90 percent of the ingredients come from local and regional farms and food producers, which are listed on the menu. Often, they’re organic. The kitchen adheres to strict scratch-made and whole-animal butchery practices. This is, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page, a “no can openers, no microwaves, no deep fryers, no short cuts” kind of place. The dining room – elegant, uncluttered, with high ceilings – feels both open and airy as well as romantic and intimate. Start with a quality craft cocktail in the Butcher Bar, and share the charcuterie platter, a house specialty, before the main meal. Dinner includes a complimentary, ever-changing amuse bouche. Don’t skip dessert, overseen by pastry chef Lynette Plfueger, whose extraordinary eye for perfection gained her a nomination in 2013 for the People’s Best New Pastry Chef from Food & Wine magazine. In warm weather, consider sitting outside; the restaurant’s sidewalk seating, reminiscent of a Paris cafe, overlooks downtown’s main drag. 404 W. Main Ave. (509) 315-4613. santespokane.com
You just might want to move in after a visit to Clover, a cozy restaurant tucked into a turn-of-the-century Craftsman-style bungalow near the Gonzaga University campus. Start with an award-winning craft cocktail at the first-floor bar before moving onto the main menu of upscale, scratch-made Inland Northwest cuisine. The seasonal menu spotlights local and regional ingredients, finessed by executive chef Travis Dickinson. Appetizers include the popular charred octopus with Spanish chorizo, roasted red peppers, chili aioli and balsamic reduction. Look, also, for the signature spaetzle and cheese; the dumplings in this decadent dish are made in house along with the rich, creamy cheese blend. The 12-ounce rib-eye is aged in house and served with truffle butter, charred leek puree and tri-color, herb-roasted potatoes. Opened in 2012, Clover is the passion project of Scott McCandless, who – along with wife Liz – owns nearly 40 Subway and Papa Murphy’s franchises. During warm weather, opt to dine outdoors on the intimate and charming patio, punctuated by umbrellas and strings of lights. 913 E. Sharp Ave. (509) 487-2937. cloverspokane.com
This gem of a restaurant, hidden on the edge of a residential neighborhood on Spokane’s South Hill, is not to be overlooked. Decor is modern, French-inspired, country chic. The menu is seasonal. Dishes are scratch-made. Ingredients are local and regional; some come from as close as the garden out back. The curried cauliflower is one of the signature dishes of executive chef Joe Morris, who accents the mild, roasted vegetable with a golden raisin coulis. Mains include a filet, salmon and scallops – as well as a pork chop from CasaCano Farms. The burger is excellent. So is the wine selection. The dining room is light-filled. And the bar area is cozy. But this time of year, the shaded patio is sought-after. Patio seating extends to two sides of the restaurant. Pair it with wood-fired pizza – pear and pancetta, perhaps? – for a more casual night out. And be sure to save room for dessert; pastry chef Taylor Siok masterfully crafts decadent creations out of butter and chocolate. He makes the French macarons and sorbet in house, and they are not to be missed. Linger over the Luna experience by buying a loaf of its bread to go. 5620 S. Perry St. (509) 448-2383. lunaspokane.com
Wild Sage American Bistro
Reservations are recommended at this downtown Spokane staple, which bills itself as “comfortable fine dining” – and lives up to that claim. The specialty is local, seasonal, scratch-made Inland Northwest cuisine: chicken fettuccini with morels, trout with a salad of ancient grains, five-spice duck breast, regionally raised Kobe beef. Start with a craft cocktail and the popular smoked salmon wontons. Try not to fill up on the complimentary – and completely wonderful – mini popovers with honey-lavender butter. Consider the upscale yet hearty beast of a burger made with a half-pound of that aforementioned Kobe beef and a house-made pickle on a house-made onion bun. And plan on a slice of the signature Soon-to-Be Famous Coconut Cream Layer Cake; the Genoise layers are interspersed with mascarpone-coconut cream filling and plated with tropical and tangy lilikoi sauce. The newly opened loft area increases the square-footage and offers a view of the original, downstairs dining room. 916 W. Second Ave. (509) 456-7575. wildsagebistro.com
Fleur de Sel
This refined hilltop restaurant offers classic French cuisine overlooking a golf course. The chef’s family comes from Italy’s Piedmont region, but he and his wife are French. Their fare is upscale French bistro with northern Italian influences. Laurent and Patricia Zirotti met at hotel management school on the French Riviera and worked in the hospitality industry in France before moving to Montana in 1998. Ten years later, they opened Fleur de Sel. Starters include escargots in puff pastry, charred baby octopus and foie gras panna cotta. Entrees include roasted quail, chicken and truffles, lamb chops with herbes de Provence, confit de canard and steak frites. For dessert, opt for the decadent chocolate tart with caramel sauce and fleur de sel or French macarons. 4365 E. Iverness Drive in Post Falls. (208) 777-7600. fleur-de-sel.weebly.com.
The first restaurant to locate in the young but now vibrant Kendall Yards development, Central Food offers spectacular views with its dinners, best enjoyed in summer on the patio overlooking the Centennial Trail, Spokane River and downtown skyline. The menu – an eclectic new American mix with Inland Northwest and Asian influences – features local and seasonable ingredients. Start with a cheese plate or mushroom mousse with bacon, a poached egg and toast soldiers. Look for pan-seared Idaho trout, pork loin with Brussels sprouts hash, an array of pasta dishes and salads, such as the Caesar salad made with lacinato kale. The burger features a half-pound of freshly ground chuck and brisket with white cheddar, house-made bacon and tomato jam, bibb lettuce and pickles on a brioche bun. Do yourself a favor and buy bread to go. The naturally leavened loaves at this restaurant are among the best in town. 1335 W. Summit Parkway. (509) 315-8036. eatcentralfood.com
Hay J’s Bistro
Never mind the location – in a gas-station strip mall in Liberty Lake – this little gem of a restaurant is a treasure hidden in plain sight. The bistro – named in honor of the chef’s two children, Haley and Jackson – lies behind an unassuming exterior. Inside, it’s a different story. And word has gotten out in the 11 years since Hay J’s opened; dinner reservations are recommended. Expect an extensive wine list and innovative contemporary fare. Begin with a three-cheese plate with honey and onion confiture or clams steamed with white wine, capers, tomato and basil. There’s a tapas plate, too, and buratta with pesto, honey and crostini. Ahi tuna tartare is another popular appetizer. Salads are superb – the seafood Cobb is a favorite – and there are plenty of add-ons: blackened chicken, ahi or tender tips or grilled salmon, chicken or prawns. Mains include Parmesan-encrusted halibut, wild salmon, ahi tuna and rack of lamb. 21706 E. Mission Ave., Liberty Lake (509) 926-2310 hayjsbistro.com
The dignified dining room of this downtown steakhouse is modern and sophisticated and done in warm tones with plenty of wood and stone accents. Expect table linens and cushy chairs as well as bench seating and, for larger groups, booths. And make a reservation, especially if you want to sit upstairs. The refined space is reminiscent of steakhouses you might find in New York City. On the menu: high-quality steaks and seafood. There’s an impressive wine list, too. Plan to pay extra for sauces, steak toppings and side dishes (and consider the rich and creamy Cougar Gold mac-and-cheese). Downstairs in the lounge area, the feel is a little more casual. A professional piano player adds to the ambiance every night of the week beginning at 6 p.m. or, Sundays, at 5 p.m. 165 S. Post St. (509) 474-9888. churchillssteakhouse.com.
This one-time steakhouse has expanded its reach and menu, losing its white table cloths but maintaining high-quality Inland Northwest fare, including the steaks for which it was originally known. In the stately, dimly lighted dining room, customers can get lost in deep, private booths or opt for two-tops in the more open seating area. The wine list is extensive. Start with oysters Rockefeller or on the half shell, seared sea scallops or a Dungeness crab cake. Hearty, elegant mains include veal osso buco, Chilean sea bass, lobster tail, wild salmon and an array of steaks. Plan to pay more for sauces, steak toppings and sides. Plan, also, to linger. The lounge, set around a contemporary fire feature in the hotel foyer, offers another way to prolong your stay. So does the lodging upstairs. Northern Quest Resort and Casino, 100 N. Hayford Road in Airway Heights. (509) 481-6020. masselows.com.
This longtime downtown eatery once specialized in only upscale, local and seasonal vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and meat-free dishes remain a specialty here. In fact, they’re prepared on their own separate work surface and grill. However, the restaurant has since expanded its reach. Look for a menu for omnivores as well as vegetarian menu with vegan options. Start with house-smoked trout bruschetta, steamed clams with pork belly, ahi tuna poke, ginger-jalapeno crab cakes or chickpea falafels. There’s also an array of gourmet salads to choose from. Mains include Moroccan chickpea tagine, eggplant Parmesan, ginger-fried tofu, pan-seared duck breast, grilled pork tenderloin, organic chicken and steak with Brussels sprouts and herbed mashed potatoes. The dining room offers high ceilings, dim lighting and exposed brick walls. From May through September, opt to sit at one of the tables set up in the adjacent lovely little alleyway, set off with wrought iron gates and illuminated with romantic strings of lights. 214 N. Howard St. (509) 747-2004. mizuna.com
Located along the main thoroughfare in Spokane’s Audubon district, this contemporary upscale eatery focuses on seasonal, local offerings and enjoys a strong neighborhood following. Start with the restaurant’s signature green garbanzo hummus – the chickpeas come from the Palouse – with grilled pita, feta and red chili oil. Or, opt for the steamed clams with chorizo and roasted fennel, sesame-encrusted ahi tuna, or an array of soups and salads, such as roasted red beets with arugula, Gorgonzola and almond brittle, or grilled chicken panzanella with fresh mozzarella, butter lettuce and tomato. Mains include osso buco, a bone-in pork chop, steaks, cioppino, salmon and pasta dishes. Sit on the sunny but secluded patio in summer. 3315 W. Northwest Blvd. (509) 323 1600. downrivergrillspokane.com
Some 5 miles south of downtown Spokane, just off U.S. 195, in the same shopping area as Yoke’s Fresh Market, this cozy eatery operates under a highly approachable philosophy: “Our food is fancy, but you don’t have to be.” The menu features items prepared with traditional techniques and contemporary twists. Start with flatbread topped with a slice of Cambozola cheese or Brussels sprouts with pine nuts, golden raisins and Parmesan. Mains include wild mushroom ravioli with smoked bacon cream, roasted chicken with Cambozola fondue, hanger steak with Gorgonzola mashed potatoes and sweet chili pork tenderloin with grilled peach. There’s a generous wine list, too, and a covered patio overlooking the parking lot with ample free parking. 4241 S. Cheney-Spokane Road, Suite C. (509) 838-8338. latahbistro.com
The Grand Restaurant and Lounge
Located right off the lobby at the Davenport Grand, the hotel’s signature restaurant features a mix of favorites from owner Walt Worthy and executive chef Ian Wingate. His signature dish is classic, Hawaiian-style ahi tuna poke elevated with avocado-wasabi mousse, soy-lime-chili sauce, macadamia nuts, sweet onion, radishes and cucumber. Wingate grew up in Hawaii, attended culinary school in California and has worked in Spokane for two decades; his influences are “very Pacific rim.” Look for coconut prawns, orange-spiced tofu stir-fry with Asian vegetables and grilled chicken with sweet Hawaiian plum sauce along with Inland Northwest staples of grilled wild salmon and Cougar Gold Gratiné. There’s evidence of Worthy’s Georgia upbringing, too – steak, salt-crusted prime rib, barbecue – along with indulgent desserts. Valet parking is complimentary with a $25-minimum dining purchase. 333 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. (509) 598-4200. davenporthotelcollection.com
Max at Mirabeau
This contemporary hotel restaurant offers ample modern menu items, including classics with innovative Inland Northwest twists, such as oysters on the half shell with huckleberry granita, rib-eye steak with huckleberry-herb butter, and a Washington apple salad with Cougar Gold cheese. The house salad is dressed with a huckleberry-balsamic vinaigrette. Look, also, for cashew-encrusted Idaho trout and grilled salmon with huckleberries. Other dishes employ traditional French techniques and Asian-inspired influences. 1100 N. Sullivan Road, Spokane Valley. (509) 922-6252. maxatmirabeau.com
Milford’s Fish House
Vintage charm awaits diners at this steadfast seafood establishment, a fixture on the corner of North Monroe Street and West Broadway Avenue for nearly 40 years. The dining areas are done in brass and brick with old-school lighting fixtures, a textured ceiling and, in the main dining area, built-in wood booth seating – all of which work together to give the place the feel of an early 20th-century eatery. Expect white tablecloths. Seafood is the specialty, and the menu changes depending on seasonality and availability. Soup or salad comes with entrees. Begin with Manhattan-style grilled salmon chowder or the refreshing watermelon-tomato salad with cucumber slices and ginger mignonette. The signature Cajun-style “Lisa” saute features a melange of clams, prawns, salmon and more. Other menu items might include salmon, cod, catfish, clams, tuna cakes and lobster tail. Check the website for the most up-to-date offerings. 719 N. Monroe St. (509) 326-7251. milfordsfishhouse.com
Clink’s is a stalwart in Spokane’s dining scene. For more than 40 years, this restaurant – perched alongside the Spokane River in the historic Flour Mill building – has treated guests to spectacular views of rushing water, Riverfront Park and the downtown skyline. Opened for Expo ’74, the steak and seafood house specializes in surf-and-turf combos and hearty American fare. Over the years, its creme brulee has developed a cult following. So has its famous-around-these-parts Broadway pea salad and rock salt roasted prime rib. Summers, opt for a seat on the patio for a closer view of the river. 621 W. Mallon St. (509) 328-5965. clinkerdagger.com
This destination restaurant, perched on the seventh-floor of the Coeur d’Alene Resort, offers exceptional lake views, a comprehensive wine list and modern American fare. Watch the sun set over Lake Coeur d’Alene and the resort’s marina, savoring summer and the spectacular surroundings as well as your meal. 115 S. Second St., Coeur d’Alene. (208) 763-3950. beverlyscda.com