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A&E >  Food

Best of 2018: What the Spokane restaurant scene served up

As the year winds down, let’s not reflect on the pounds we gained during the past 12 months. Instead, let’s recognize the restaurants that opened in 2018.

There have been a bunch of significant openings this year – from ice cream, coffee and doughnut shops to burger joints and bars – all adding to the Spokane region’s burgeoning food scene.

Locally owned, chef-driven eateries are elevating the area’s options. And, if next year is anything like this year, you’ll want to resolve to wear your stretchy pants more often. (Who else, for example, is excited for chef Tony Brown’s Eyvind and Hunt, slated to open early 2019?)

Meantime, here’s a round-up of the best restaurant openings from 2018 Food section coverage. These spots offer fine dining, fulfill a niche or neighborhood need, or are just all-around good eateries.

Park Lodge

Park Lodge sits across the street from Olmsted Park on the western end of the Kendall Yards development. Chef and owner Philip Stanton said he wanted a lodge-like ambiance at the restaurant, his first, which opened in spring and is inspired by its location along the Centennial Trail overlooking the Spokane River and Peaceful Valley. The space is bright and airy, with walls of windows letting in plenty of natural light and ceilings that stretch some 25 feet high. Floors are polished concrete. Wood beams are exposed. Colors are neutral – cream, tan and charcoal – with blond wood and custom-made maple tables and benches. Seating is a mix of booths and two- and four-tops as well as a community table that sits 12 just inside the front door. Above it hangs a custom light fixture fashioned from driftwood found in the Netherlands. At the heart of the operation is an apple wood-fired grill, visible from a row of booths located between the bar and semi-open kitchen. Stanton uses it to build flavor in his dishes, which he describes as locally inspired scratch-made comfort food with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian influences. He’s classically trained and spent time apprenticing in Paris, and French dishes and culinary techniques are evident in his offerings. Mainstays include elegantly plated Muscovy duck breast with treatments that change with the seasons, a seven-vegetable tagine with couscous and honey-mint yogurt, and a risotto with seasonal ingredients. 411 N. Nettleton St. (509) 340-9347. parklodgerestaurant.com.

Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue

This is not your average walk-up-counter, Stryofoam-to-go box kind of barbecue joint. Chef and owner Mike Jones opened his approachable but elegant Texas-style barbecue restaurant in early September, expanding his repertoire from the long-time vegetable-forward Mizuna to include slow-cooked, smoked meats a couple blocks down the street. It’s casual but refined, with black cloth napkins, white dishware and table service. The dining room is warm and inviting, done in red brick and wood. Plenty of natural light comes in from a pair of skylights overhead as well as a front wall of glass. There’s a lodge- or saloon-like feel, but the Western-style ambiance isn’t overdone. Brisket is an early top-seller. But Austin’s Live Fire Barbecue also specializes in wood-fired, spice-rubbed pork ribs, pork shoulder, pork belly and chicken. Jones had the kitchen built out to accommodate a large custom-made smoker with three pits with weighted lids. Sides include smoked Gouda mac and cheese, sweet potato fries or braised greens. Don’t skip dessert. Jones asked his mom for an old family recipe for pecan pie “that’s better than any pecan pie that I’ve ever had in any restaurant. It’s been passed down by her mom and her mom.” It’s $6.95 a slice. 421 W. Main Ave. (509) 290-5851.

Cochinito Taqueria

Travis Dickinson, the former executive chef at Clover, and Justin Curtis, the former front-of-the-house manager at Clover, teamed up to open a fast-casual but gourmet walk-up counter taco shop in downtown Spokane. The setting is fun and approachable, with a Day-of-the-Dead-style logo and murals. Tacos are served on 5-inch corn tortillas that are made in-house. Salsas and sauces – such as salsa verde, guacamole and a pumpkin seed salsa – are also made in-house. So are the tortilla chips, aguas frescas and horchata. Tacos include pork cheek carnitas, al pastor, lamb birria, carne asada, chicken, mushroom, chorizo, rockfish and (my favorite) octopus. Karina’s Bowl, named for Dickinson’s wife, features a choice of taco meat, beans, rice, guacamole, queso fresco, crema, pico de gallo and chips or tortillas. Margaritas are a specialty. So is the Watermelon Man, with tequila, lime, cider vinegar, watermelon, simple syrup and tajin, a chile-lime seasoning. 10 N. Post St. (509) 474-9618. cochinitotaqueria.com.

The Grain Shed

Shaun Thompson Duffy’s Culture Breads finally found a brick-and-mortar location, and it’s been a game-changer for Spokane’s bread scene. The shop, tucked in into a long-empty storefront in the South Perry District, celebrates local grain from field to glass and flour to loaf. Thompson Duffy makes bread the old-fashioned way: by hand, using ancient, landrace and heirloom grains that are stone-ground on site, then naturally leavened and wood-fired in a custom-built oven. Because of Spokane’s location along the northern edge of the Palouse, one of the nation’s top grain-growing regions, Thompson Duffy is also able to do something many bakers aren’t. He’s able to get all of his grain from within 100 miles of the spot where it’s milled and baked into bread. While some make a point to use some locally or regionally grown grain, it’s rare to find a shop that bakes solely with it. The fully renovated building also houses a nano-brewery that makes beers with locally grown and locally malted grain, some of which comes from farmer Don Scheuerman, co-founder of Palouse Heritage and one of the partners in the business. Also on the menu: sandwiches and wood-fired flatbreads and Viennoiserie, such as croissants and pains au chocolat. 1026 E. Newark Ave. (509) 241-3853. thegrainshed.coop.

Honey Eatery & Social Club

Adam Hegsted’s newest restaurant celebrates one of his favorite, local, natural ingredients. Honey isn’t found in every menu item at Honey Eatery & Social Club – but almost. The Scotch egg is served with honey mustard. The house burger comes with honey-bacon jam. The pulled pork sandwich features honey-vinegar sauce. The Honey Fried Chicken is topped with honey butter. The cedar-cooked Idaho trout includes a honey glaze. Breakfasts come with toast with honey. Anyway, you get the idea. Entrees are contemporary, fun and elevated comfort foods at approachable price points – something for which Hegsted is known. The eatery, located on the main floor, is open for breakfast, lunch and (very) early dinner. It offers an eclectic, boho-chic vibe. The ceiling is high and tan-painted pressed tin. Chairs are metal and colored orange, yellow, white and black. Stained glass evokes honeycomb. Murals on the walls feature flowers and a honey bee. The subterranean tapas bar and lounge, or social club, is open evenings. The focus here is craft cocktails and small plates. The ambiance is more intimate than upstairs, with low lighting and a low-slung ceiling, exposed red brick and dark, tufted armchairs. 317 Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene. (208) 930-1514. honeyeateryandsocialclub.com.

Umi Kitchen & Sushi Bar

Clean lines, concrete floors and a contemporary feel unite both floors of this Asian-inspired eatery in Kendall Yards. The menu is mostly Japanese with plenty of sushi options. But culinary influences include Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese as well as classic French and Italian. Along with rainbow, caterpillar, California and Spokane rolls, find tempura, noodle dishes, grilled and skewered meats and vegetables, chow mein, tempura and more. Dark-stained board-and-batten walls in the main dining room pay homage to the traditional Japanese method of wood preservation. Shou sugi ban preserves and finishes wood through the use of fire. Downstairs at Umi Den, a lounge with an emphasis on craft cocktails with Asian-inspired flavor profiles, the mood is modern and a little more masculine. Dark leather and other accents are balanced by natural light from oversized windows offering sweeping views of the Spokane River, Centennial Trail and downtown skyline. 1309 W. Summit Parkway. (509) 368-9372. umispokane.com.

Elliotts, an Urban Kitchen

This mom-and-pop neighborhood spot offers approachable, scratch-made fare made with classic techniques. Recent fresh sheet items include pan-seared duck breast, pulled pork ravioli with mole sauce, borscht, lemongrass herbed beef, carrot-ginger soup and apple bread pudding. Dishes are contemporary and eclectic American with some Asian, Spanish and Pacific Northwest influences. The menu is streamlined. Rotating house-made ravioli are a signature dish. So is the chicken and sticky rice served with potatoes and fresh green curry, made from a paste with ginger, garlic, coconut milk, cilantro and lime. The look is casual and minimalist. The long rectangular space is sparsely decorated. Corrugated metal lines the bar. Shelves are made from repurposed pallets. The floor is dark hardwood. The ceiling is black. Walls are neutral. Chairs and stools are red metal. A community table that seats 12 sits in the front window. The restaurant is the realization of a shared dream of a husband-and-wife team. Tony and Raelene Elliott live in the neighborhood within walking distance of their eatery and shop at the Emerson-Garfield Farmers Market during farmers market season. The $9 lunch specials are a great deal. 2209 N. Monroe St. (509) 866-0850.

Wine & Taps at Latah Bistro

This cozy and elegant pub is distinctly more casual than its sister establishment, Latah Bistro, known for fine neighborhood dining and an extensive wine list. Wine & Taps features five rotating taps, plus Stella Artois on draft. The feel is contemporary and casual with sophisticated yet rustic touches. The floor is polished concrete. Table tops are knotty hickory. So is the 21-foot bar top. Black-and-white vintage Western-themed images printed on metal adorn the walls. A banquette along one wall is covered with brushed velvet. Owner Susan Readel particularly likes the look of the high-backed bar stools, which remind her of “the look of an old Chevy.” She and her husband, Mike Readel, bought the restaurant and its companion latte stand, Latah Latte, in April. They are the second owners of those businesses, started in 2004 and 2005 respectively. And they were regulars at the restaurant before they bought it. There are two TVs in the space, which fills up fast when the Zags and Eagles play. The menu features elevated pub grub and shareables such as four wild Gulf prawns with citrus-vodka sauce for $15, a pint of bacon with whiskey-maple syrup dip for $13, skewered Old-English-braised brats with Walla Walla sweet onions for $10, and Cajun-spiced Mississippi sliders for $15. The $18.50 Royale with Cheese features Wagyu beef, Cambozola, garlic aioli, arugula and smoked bacon. It’s served with a side of chicharron-dusted cheddar mac and cheese. Look, also, for a $13 bowl of bison chili and the chance to build your own steak wraps for $18 with blackened hanger steak, adobo-lime yogurt sauce, radishes, cilantro, crushed corn nuts, lime wedges and lettuce cups. The Bucket of Love includes six gluten-free Mayan chocolate-ancho chile muffins dusted with powdered sugar for $10. Wine & Taps also offers a 4-and-a-half-foot-long charcuterie board for 20. It costs approximately $200, or market price. The pub asks for 24 hours’ notice for it as well as the 3 1/2-foot-long birthday board with Twinkies, animal cookies and vodka-soaked gummy bears. 4241 Cheney-Spokane Road. (509) 838-8338. latahbistro.com.

Ten/6

Clocks, teapots, sparkly chandeliers, gilded frames and white rabbits abound in this whimsical cafe with an Alice-in-Wonderland theme and New Orleans-inspired grub. Ten/6, a brunch spot in Midtown Coeur d’Alene, celebrates Cajun and Creole cookery – and all things Alice. The cafe takes its name from the label depicting the price of the hat the Hatter wears in 1865’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. Taylor Jane “TJ” Taylor owns the restaurant with her mom, Jill Davis. They’re both enamored with Alice, Disneyland, Disney movies, New Orleans, Cajun and Creole cooking, and brunch – and not necessarily in that order. They had dreamed for more than a decade of opening their own eatery where they could create their own Wonderland and help make the good times roll. Expect beignets, red beans and rice, French toast with banana-rum sauce and toasted pecans, and Jazz Kitchen Hash that features the holy trinity of celery, onions and green bell peppers, caramelized herbed breakfast potatoes, Andouille sausage, Tasso ham, pickled collard greens, two poached eggs and gumbo reduction. The Mad Platter lets guests build their own breakfast, choosing from a variety of meats and carbs, and eggs or yogurt. The Limp Brisket is a brisket sandwich with fried sweet onions, pickled jalapeño, Alabama white barbecue sauce and an over-easy egg. Look, also, for gumbo, the Prima Muffuletta sandwich and more. Walls are a deep purplish blue. Floors are polished concrete. Wainscoting is white. So is the oversized papier-mache March Hare head that anchors the dining room. Some pieces are antiques or family heirlooms. Grandma’s chandelier hangs in a front corner, for example. There are 11 chandeliers in all, including two in the restrooms. (Be sure to pay them a visit; the women’s is full of faux flowers, and the men’s is pirate-themed.) 726 N. Fourth St. (208) 930-0905. www.ten6cda.com.

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