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A&E >  Food

You’ll find garlic surplus at The West Wing

Lorie Hutson, Lorieh@Spokesman.Com, (509) 459-5446

Raci Erdem always wanted to ruin a restaurant.

That is, the Turkish-born Erdem says he always wanted to open a restaurant with a dining room that could transport diners to the ancient ruins of his homeland.

“I was able to do that dream,” he says, surveying the new West Wing of the White House from the bar recently.

Erdem and his crew transformed the former corrugated steel interior into an inviting, warm space with faux time-worn columns.

The menu at this Spokane sister restaurant features the garlic-laden goodness of the original White House Grill in Post Falls, blending Italian, Greek and Turkish food traditions. For those who have never dined at the White House Grill, unapologetic use of garlic is the signature of many dishes. Erdem and crew often wear shirts that say, “I Stink.”

As they’ve settled in over the past few months, Erdem says he was surprised to find how many of his longtime customers have been driving the stretch of Interstate 90 from Spokane for 14 years.

He hopes the new location keeps them closer to home and frees up tables at the White House for Liberty Lake and North Idaho customers. Erdem also owns the Oval Office, a bistro with Northwest-inspired fare, located down the street from the White House.

Tight parking has often been a complaint of businesses in the South Regal complex where the West Wing opened, but Erdem has solved that problem by leasing spaces in the nearby lot across 44th Avenue near China Garden and Ace Hardware.

They do not take reservations, but when the place is packed Erdem and crew encourage diners to have a drink at one of the nearby restaurants while they wait. He hopes it will make the West Wing a good neighbor.

The menu is almost identical to the White House. Sandwiches are $8.95 and come with seasoned fries.

Dinner entrees range in price from $11.95 for the chicken fettuccine or the renkli, with tri-colored peppers, capers and roasted garlic tossed with pesto sauce and penne, to $17.95 for the Turkish plate, including spicy marinated lamb served over fried eggplant with tzatziki.

Popular dishes such as the grilled sea bass, Post Falls risotto and the spring bowl, which features marinated chicken sautéed with vegetables and garbanzo beans, are often nightly specials.

The West Wing is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Reach the restaurant at (509) 443-1660.

It’s getting wild around here

Wild Dawgs owners Serena Belsby and Esteban Vallejo would really rather have customers talking about their pineapple sauce, the chimichurri they whip up each day or one of the other innovative toppings they add to the dogs on their menu.

Instead, the logo and sign for their new gourmet hot dog restaurant, 102 N. Howard St., has drawn the attention and ire of many people.

Some have threatened to sue because they think it is indecent. The building’s owner has asked the business to take it down.

Put up the same week a dangerous bomb was discovered along the parade route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, Belsby says she felt like the Wild Dawgs sign got more attention than the backpack bomb.

“It’s sad that more people were concerned about our sign than the bomb,” Belsby says. “There’s no middle ground, that’s for sure. People either love it, or they hate it.”

Vallejo designed the pop art-style logo. Belsby says they knew the lettering would look like a woman’s breasts, but they didn’t intend to offend anyone.

“Breasts are a beautiful part of being a woman,” she says.

Belsby says they’ll wait to make a decision about removing the sign. They were considering turning it so only those inside the restaurant could see it.

In the meantime, shirts and sweatshirts with the logo were flying out the door.

Vallejo, an architect, did the work to expand the former hot dog counter into a small restaurant. Belsby, a screenwriter, is a Spokane native who recently moved back to the area.

The dogs and sausages are smothered with an unusual array of toppings, including crushed potato chips – a traditional topping in Vallejo’s native Colombia.

The I Love Spokane dog is a popular choice, which includes an all-beef dog topped with cream cheese, bacon, grilled onions and mushrooms, pineapple sauce and chips ($6.50). It’s Not You, It’s Me is a more traditional offering, with onions, relish, ketchup, mustard and chips ($6.50).

Wild Dawgs also offers chicken and turkey sausages. The Funky Mama is topped with spicy mango, jalapeno, grilled onions, tomato bits and pineapple sauce ($6.95). The Good Mama features sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, grilled onions, tomato bits and pineapple sauce.

They have a handful of Washington beers on draft, bottled beers, wine by the glass or bottle and soda to drink.

Wild Dawgs is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and midnight until 3 a.m. Friday; and noon to 7 p.m. and midnight to 3 a.m. Saturday. The shop is closed on Sunday.

Reach Wild Dawgs at (509) 795-8228.

New executive chef at Spencer’s

Jeromy Farnsworth is the new executive chef at Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops.

Farnsworth says he was one of the first employees hired when the restaurant opened more than 13 years ago. At the time, he was a culinary student at Spokane Community College.

He was one of the employees who helped perfect the grilling technique in the double-decker, 1,800-degree infrared broiler at Spencer’s.

“It’s an art form to cook on that thing,” he says.

Farnsworth served as sous chef under Jonathan Holden for the past three years. Holden recently left to become the executive chef at Savory.

Although most of the menu is set by Spencer’s corporate parent, Hilton, Farnsworth says he has some flexibility with restaurant specials. He’s brought back a few popular menu items that were removed when the menu was revamped about three years ago, including halibut Parmesan topped with beurre blanc,and strawberry shortcake featuring ice cream, strawberry sauce and whipped cream atop house-made biscuits.

Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops is at 322 N. Spokane Falls Court. Reach the restaurant at (509) 744-2372.

Coffee Social becomes Chairs Coffee

When Coffee Social, 113 W. Indiana Ave., closed its doors before the holidays, regular customers were left without their morning java fix. Others were left without a meeting place.

Chris Nichols says the group he helped create, Equality Spokane, were surprised to find their regular haunt had closed. Instead of finding another place to gather, they did what any entrepreneurial young person might do: they got the landlord’s contact information off the eviction notice on the door and starting making phone calls.

Within a few weeks, Nichols and partner Mitch Moczulski had the keys to the shop.

Nichols and Moczulski took about two and a half weeks to spiff up the place, including new paint for the walls and chairs to replace the uncomfortable ones left behind. While they were gathering an eclectic mix of new seating someone suggested they name the place Chairs. It stuck. They call it Chairs Coffee, a place to sit and socialize.

They hope to preserve the relaxed and welcoming space that Coffee Social provided, Nichols says. “We really liked the atmosphere,” he says.

Chairs Coffee is serving coffee from local roasters Roast House Coffee. Guests can pick their roast: light, dark or white.

They offer a small assortment of sandwiches ($5.99), salads ($3.99) and soups ($2.45/$3.99) daily. There are baked goods from Cake, the bakery at Chaps, and friend Esther Thomason is making the cupcakes sold at the bakery, including vanilla, chocolate, red velvet and a gluten-free carrot cake. Love Cupcakes by Esther are also available at the Monterey Café in downtown Spokane. Thomason has been baking for about three years and is just getting her wholesale business rolling.

Chairs Coffee is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Reach the shop at (509) 340-8787.

Chilling at The Chill Spot

Frozen yogurt might not be the first thing on your mind during a chilly week, but Rick Purcell is warming things up at The Chill Spot with panini, too.

This relaxed little joint, 2706 N. Monroe St., also offers two soups daily. The signature panini ($5.25) are served on either sourdough or wheat bread and include options such as a Tremendous Turkey, with provolone and sun-dried tomato pesto or a margherita, with fresh mozzarella, basil, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomato pesto. Or, build your own grilled sandwich for a base price of $5.25.

Purcell, who worked in real estate before opening the frozen yogurt shop, also offers Cravens Coffee and espresso, free WiFi and live music some weekend evenings. The Spokane Songwriters Association members meet there to play and practice, as well.

The Chill Spot keeps 8 different frozen yogurt flavors on tap, including one sugar-free option and one sorbet. The changing flavors are updated on the “Chill Spot” page on Facebook.

The yogurt is sold for $.39 per ounce for yogurt and toppings.

The shop is open 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Purcell says they hope to extend those hours starting in the spring and have plans to open for morning espresso service through their drive-through window, as well.

They take calls or faxed orders for those in a rush. The Chill Spot can be reached at (509) 290-6689, fax (509) 290-6342.

HaHa’s Grill reopens

HaHa’s Grill House is serving up Korean favorites again.

Owner John Ha says it took longer than expected to fix the water damage after a recent broken pipe at the restaurant, but they’re back in business, with Korean entrees along with sandwiches, soups, salad and a few fusion dishes.

HaHa’s Grill House is at 2710 E. Garland St. A previous story in this section about the restaurant’s water damage included the wrong address.

There’s more information on the restaurant’s Facebook page, or call (509) 483-1399.

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