Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 28° Partly Cloudy
A&E >  Entertainment

Wine Cellar, Moon Time Enrich Lake City’s Allure

I’ve got a crush on Coeur d’Alene. The spiffy downtown shops, the shimmering lake, that buoyant boardwalk are especially enticing this time of year.

Sometimes, I dream of moving there. Right after I win the lottery and buy that pickup that’s taller than my garage.

If I did relocate, I would definitely become a regular fixture at The Wine Cellar and The Moon Time.

In a city that prizes its watery views, it seems odd to be attracted to a spot below street level. But The Wine Cellar exudes a cool charm, with its rough rock wall interior and its dim, romantic lighting. It’s intimate, without feeling claustrophobic.

Jim Duncan is the man behind the bar. A long-time restaurateur, the Wyoming native opened his first venue in the Lake City in 1978. Trivia buffs might recall his Soups, Etc.

After a few years of running that casual eatery, he got the traveling bug and worked his way around kitchens in Alaska, St. Croix, Austin, Texas and Carmel, Calif.

He returned to CdA in 1988 to open Jimmy D’s, which became one of the city’s most popular spots. (He sold that a couple of years ago to Chip Thomas and his parents.)

The Wine Cellar had opened in 1992 to serve as a place for diners to chill while they waited for a table at Jimmy D’s, across the street. Not even Duncan suspected it would be such a success.

Here’s what makes it such a neat little package: live entertainment, friendly service, cozy surroundings, an interesting menu and fine wine.

Of course, its name would suggest nothing less in the fermented juice department, but still, The Cellar has one of the most thoughtfully chosen, food-friendly selections of wine in the area. There are 235 choices. And the prices are refreshingly reasonable.

Sure, there are first-growth French Bordeaux for beaucoup bucks on the menu, but many bottles go for less than $20. (A couple of examples listed on the fresh sheet were the knockout ‘94 Arigiolas Costera, a smooth, ripe red, and the ‘95 Falesco Vitiano, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sangiovese. Both were $17, or $4.50 a glass.)

These lovely wines are wonderful with the rustic bistro-type meals on the menu.

Duncan traveled to the Tuscany region of Italy earlier this summer, and diners are all the richer for his experience.

After returning, he introduced three-course dinners lifted straight out of a Italian trattoria.

No need to break out the Berlitz, either. I’ll walk you through the lingo. Your primi course consists of everyone’s favorite comfort food.

You have a choice of five pasta dishes which include various shaped noodles covered with different sauces. The linguine is topped with either red or white clam sauce. Radittore comes with a creamy, roasted garlic sauce. I tried the fettucine with a buttery mushroom sauce. Nestled in a bowl, it was light enough to leave me hungry for the secondi, the main course.

The entrees beg to be labeled peasant food, but that description works only if peasants eat exceedingly well.

The osso bucco, lamb shanks braised in a rich red wine sauce, was fork-tender and intensely flavored. A grilled chicken with artichokes was nicely prepared, moist and well-seasoned. And the garlic mashed potatoes on the side were fragrant.

I was pleasantly surprised to see rabbit - coniglio - on the menu. (I realize some are squeamish about eating bunny, but it tastes like chicken, only with a richer flavor.)

This dish featured generous chunks of tender meat in a robust, velvety sauce. Maybe this is a stretch, but it reminded me of the best beef stroganoff I’ve ever eaten.

A creamy, dreamy soft polenta on the side gave it an Italian twist. The only thing lacking on this plate was something green. A few beans, some asparagus, even a sprinkle of fresh parsley would have been nice.

The last course was the most European of all. You can munch either a green salad, a selection of cheese or one of the house-made desserts.

I couldn’t resist the All-American apple crisp, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Now, here’s the kicker: this huge feast was a mere $12.95! I paid that for a lone appetizer at a fancy new restaurant in Seattle recently. (Don’t get me started.)

Next time, I might explore The Cellar’s regular menu, which traipses all over the globe from its Asian-style beef kabobs, Spanish paella, Southwestern chicken adobo to the homegrown Idaho trout baked with citrus butter.

Throughout this enchanting evening, I enjoyed the talented musicians but noticed the volume seemed to creep up the later it got. If you want to talk, not shout, request a table in the adjoining dining room.

Lunch is a spur-of-the-moment affair with a board listing the daily specials. Choices might include cioppino, seafood linguine, grilled chicken over a black bean and corn salsa or a Tex-Mex pork verde.

Diners can always count on a variety of deli salads and pizzas at noon, along with breads and pastries baked by Peggy Auen.

Kids are welcome in The Wine Cellar, as long as they’re with their parents.

The Moon Time

From The Wine Cellar, head east on Sherman and you’ll run into The Moon Time, a pub for the ‘90s. It’s bright and cheery with sunny yellow walls, antique tables and wood floors. Thriving flowerpots greet diners at the entrance and a savory menu encourages patrons to linger over a pint inside.

There are 19 beers on tap, largely Northwest micros, which are rotated regularly by one of the owners, Jeff Meagher. Two spigots are always reserved for beers poured on nitrogen, including Guinness and Hale’s Porter, a recent addition. Using nitrogen instead of the standard carbon dioxide makes for less effervescent, creamier beers.

The creative menu - cooked up by partners John Grollmus and Brad Fosseen - is a perfect fit for those cold brews.

It starts with some interesting salads. The panzenella, which is a mix of French bread and pita tossed with tomatoes, fresh basil, feta and capers, is a must for crouton fans. Great flavor, interesting contrast of textures, I would improve on it only by lightly toasting the bread and making the salads to order so the bread cubes don’t get too mushy.

The romaine salad is tossed with crunchy apples and walnuts and dressed in a semi-hot, bracingly sweet honey-chipotle pepper vinaigrette.

All salads can be ordered as a first course for $3.50 or as an entree for $6.25. I’ve found that you can easily split a starter portion between two if you’re both having an entree.

The other offerings include some of the tastiest sandwiches I’ve ever sunk my chompers into. Of course, with all sorts of savory ingredients crammed in between two pieces of bread, you can expect a sauce-running-down-your-wrist mess.

Try the grilled lamb sandwich - slices of leg of lamb, marinated and then fired on the grill. The french roll is smeared with a garlicky tzaski, giving it a Greek accent.

Other hand-held meals include a big, juicy burger topped with carmelized onions, a veggie burger made with anasazi beans, a Caribbean pork sandwich basted with an orange-ginger sauce and a pastrami served with house-made sauerkraut that’s cooked in hard cider.

Specialities - more substantial entrees - include a super spicy gumbo stuffed with chicken, fiery sausage and shrimp in a thick, roux-darkened sauce, a chicken burrito and a couple of pasta dishes.

The linguine con vongole was an outstanding rendition of that Italian classic. It’s pasta tossed with garlic, red pepper flakes and clams cooked just right in a white wine-butter sauce. Simple, yes, but enormously satisfying.

A weekly fresh sheet gives Fosseen the chance to have some fun in the kitchen and offerings might include pasta with a creamy, roasted garlic sauce and topped with toasted walnuts, Thai clams with black bean dipping sauce, a lamb and plum stew or a cobb salad sandwich.

I was impressed with a blackened tofu roll-up ($6.50) off the special sheet. First of all, I liked that the server - a hip dude-type - recommended it, saying he didn’t even like tofu, but this was really good.

And it was. Sauteed sweet peppers and a sour cream-lime sauce balanced the heat from the cayenne-covered tofu. It was a nice jumble of flavors wrapped in a flour tortilla.

One thing I thought the waiter probably should have mentioned when I chose the potato salad as a side to the tofu wrap was that it contained bacon. Oh, it was good, don’t get me wrong. (Red potatoes with skins still on and bits of bacon mixed with a light dressing made it different than the usual mayo-drenched spud salad.) But when you’re ordering a meatless dish, a heads-up on the pork-spiked potato salad would be nice.

The Moon Time does a brisk lunch business, so it’s worth noting that in addition to all the great brew, they make a dandy lemonade. And my glass was refilled a couple of times.

At night, the place has the feel of a neighborhood joint. Though I never heard anyone greeted with “Norm”-like gusto, regulars are treated well. (One friend who lives in Coeur d’Alene and puts in occasional appearances at The Moon Time has been treated to a beer or two as a way of saying thanks for her continued support.)

The place just has good vibe - except for one nagging little thing. It’s a pub, sure, so smoking is permitted. Setting aside a few tables in the corner for non-smokers might offer some relief, though.

My only other disappointment was that The Moon Time does not serve dessert. I’m not a sweet freak, but having the option is nice. Even if it’s just a cookie.

Our server dude kindly gave us a candy bar he had stashed behind the counter. It did the trick.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: The Wine Cellar Address/phone: 313 Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene/(208) 664-WINE Days/hours: Lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, Mon.-Sat., 4:30-11 p.m. or midnight Meals: Italian/Northwest Prices: (Dinner) $7.95-$12.95 Smoking: non-smoking section Reservations: yes, for parties of 6, or more Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V Personal checks: yes

The Moon Time Address/phone: 1602 Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene/(208) 677-2331 Days/hours: Dining, Sun.-Thur., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. until 11 p.m. Late-night menu served until closing. Meals: Sandwiches, salads, pasta Prices: $5.95-$8.95 Smoking: no non-smoking section Reservations: only for parties of 8, or more Credit cards: MC, V Personal checks: yes

This sidebar appeared with the story: The Wine Cellar Address/phone: 313 Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene/(208) 664-WINE Days/hours: Lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, Mon.-Sat., 4:30-11 p.m. or midnight Meals: Italian/Northwest Prices: (Dinner) $7.95-$12.95 Smoking: non-smoking section Reservations: yes, for parties of 6, or more Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V Personal checks: yes

The Moon Time Address/phone: 1602 Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene/(208) 677-2331 Days/hours: Dining, Sun.-Thur., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. until 11 p.m. Late-night menu served until closing. Meals: Sandwiches, salads, pasta Prices: $5.95-$8.95 Smoking: no non-smoking section Reservations: only for parties of 8, or more Credit cards: MC, V Personal checks: yes

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.