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A&E >  Food

Soulful Soups adds a little Spirits

Lunchtime favorite now offers evening fare

Julles Messmann and R.J. Portmann are the new owners of Soulful Soups and Spirits. It has reopened with the same soup menu and beer bread during the day. But after dark, the soup joint is transformed into Spirits Lounge. (Colin Mulvany)
Julles Messmann and R.J. Portmann are the new owners of Soulful Soups and Spirits. It has reopened with the same soup menu and beer bread during the day. But after dark, the soup joint is transformed into Spirits Lounge. (Colin Mulvany)

The warming soups, salads and beer bread are back. But after business hours, the new Soulful Soups shakes off its daytime demeanor and dims the lights to become Spirits Lounge.

New owners R.J. Portmann and Julles Messmann, along with partner Jason Vedadi, have reopened the downtown eatery with the familiar menu and recipes from previous owner Makayla Hamilton. They trained with Hamilton for about three weeks to ensure they could perfect the offerings that made Soulful Soups a popular downtown lunch joint.

“We’re taking a lot of pride in making sure that everything is pretty much exactly the way it was,” Portmann said.

That is, until after 5 p.m., when the same space at 117 N. Howard St. becomes Spirits Lounge. The soups are tucked away and servers begin offering a different menu.

“Everything is gourmet small bites food and it is available a la carte, so you can order as much or as little as you want depending on the size of your appetite,” Portmann said.

Portmann and Messmann collaborated with chef Allen Skelton, formerly of Latah Bistro, to create the eclectic, international fare. Portmann says it features food inspired by places where they have lived or visited.

Among the popular bites at their recent soft opening were Port Braised Mini Pork Sandwiches ($3). The pork is served with blueberry reduction and melted cheddar on toasted croissant bread. Char Sui Boa ($3) are Chinese buns filled with Korean-style marinated pork served with a soy, honey and pineapple reduction for dipping.

There are also Shrimp Won Ton Dippers ($1 for five), Mashed Potato Croquettes ($1), Spanikopita ($2), Buffalo Chicken Sliders ($3) and salads, including Cranberry Walnut Salad ($4) and a Smoked Paprika Caesar ($4).

Portmann and Messmann have done Spokane-area marketing and promotions for the Blue Spark and Jimmyz, and are better known as R.J. and Julles. While Soulful Soups was being remodeled, they worked at the Blue Spark.

Soulful Soups is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily before it transforms into Spirits. The kitchen is open for eats until 11 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends. Beer, wine and spirits are available during all business hours.

For more information, call the restaurant at (509) 459-1190.

Speaking of Soup

The menu at Domini Sandwiches has changed for the first time since Tom and Joe Domini’s father, Al, opened the shop at 703 W. Sprague Ave. in 1963.

No, they’re not offering tomatoes, lettuce or anything else green that might ruin their signature sandwiches: Soups are now part of the daily offerings.

The Domini brothers are buying the soups from Harry’s Fresh Soups in Portland, and say that meets their high standards for freshness. “It’s just like homemade,” Tom Domini said.

Domini’s built its reputation on sandwiches stacked high with thick, just-sliced meats and cheeses on freshly baked bread. They’re all served with popcorn.

The brothers say they decided to add the soups after years and years of customer requests.

The soups, introduced in November, are posted on an outside reader board each day. There’s no set schedule for the offerings yet.

Chicken noodle, clam chowder, chicken tortilla, corn chowder and tomato gorgonzola are in the rotation. The cups are $3.25 for a small soup and $4.50 for a large. A soup and sandwich special is slated to be added to the menu as well.

The Dominis have made one important customer happy. Their mom, Lena, is a fan of the tomato gorgonzola soup.

“She’s really hard to please and she loves it,” Joe Domini said.

Reach Domini Sandwiches at (509) 747-2324.

Natural Start Bakery changing

Gib Sharpe, a partner in Natural Start Bakery, has taken over the business from partner Marc Gauthier.

“We’ve separated ways. He’s pursuing other things and I’m going to continue with this place,” Sharpe said.

The bakery initially focused on intensely local food offerings, with many menu items grown on Gauthier and Alyssa Krafft’s farm near Cheney.

The bakery and espresso business, 1718 N. Hamilton St., is now offering baked goods from Taste Café and Rocket Bakery. Sandwiches and quiche from Rocket are available for midday fare. Soup will be added in a few weeks.

They’ll continue serving Doma Coffee and the drive-through espresso is still available. So is free wireless Internet.

Sharpe said remodeling upstairs has opened up the second level and made it a little more comfortable for study groups. The space can be reserved for groups at no charge.

He’s planning a name change and expanded hours in the new year. He also plans to apply for a beer and wine license.

Right now, he’s busy with another project. “We’re having a baby in the next few weeks, so we just trying to take things step by step,” he said.

Natural Start is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Cuban comes to Spokane Valley

The area’s first Cuban restaurant is open in Spokane Valley.

Blue Island Restaurant, 8122 E. Sprague Ave., is in the space that formerly housed the Plantation Restaurant. It was also home to Mexican restaurant La Leyenda for a time.

Cuban political refugee Rolando Diaz and his wife Doralquis “Doris” Labrada moved to Spokane in 2005, he told a Spokesman-Review correspondent. He was the owner of a sandwich bistro in Cuba until he was forced to close in 2002 because of his political activism, he said.

The Blue Island Restaurant lunch menu offers a variety of appetizers and dishes such as pork fried creole ($11.95), ropa vieja ($11.95), Cuban grilled sandwiches ($6.50 to $10.25), croquettes and roulettes and congri – rice with beans and pork, seasoned with garlic and onion.

The dinner menu includes Cuban roast pork ($12.95), lamb brochette ($12.25), chicken breast in fricassee ($10.99), scallops with pineapples ($16.95) and Cuban roast beef ($15.99). The full menus are online at

Reach the restaurant at (509) 926-6921. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m.

Lazy Bones closes

Lazy Bones Barbecue has closed.

The restaurant was opened this summer by John Fletcher at 4334 S. Regal St., a spot briefly home to Wheat Montana.

Fletcher and his sister, Jane Edwards, previously opened Picabu Bistro, 901 W. 14th Ave. Edwards bought Fletcher’s share of that restaurant so he could try something new.

The Dish appears monthly in the Food section. Send news releases, tips and suggestions 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

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